The Garvin-Garvey House


The Garvin-Garvey House in Bluffton, South Carolina, was preserved with the help of CT House Histories.

CT House Histories’ research into the story behind the Garvin-Garvey House in Bluffton, South Carolina, was instrumental in preserving an important part of American history.

The circa 1870 house, situated on a bluff overlooking the May River, was built by Cyrus Garvey, a freedman whose family lived in and owned the property until 1961. The structure is believed to be the earliest known home built by a former slave. The cottage, located within the “Old Town” district of Bluffton, is an excellent example of Carolina Lowcountry vernacular architecture of the late-19th century. The building was constructed during the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War.


The Garvin-Garvey House before restoration, which was completed in 2017.

In 2001, the Beaufort County Land Trust acquired the house and property, and in 2004, Beaufort County and the Town of Bluffton entered into a partnership to share the responsibility of maintaining the Oyster Factory Park, which includes the Garvin-Garvey House. The house was completely renovated and was dedicated and opened to the public in summer 2017.

CT House Histories’ founder and principal researcher Melanie Beal Marks devoted more than a year of her time and expertise to bring the Cyrus Garvey family to life – tracking down vital records, deeds, census records, birth and death certificates and gravesites and conducting interviews with locals who were acquainted with the family as well as knowledgeable about Bluffton history.

Marks’ research culminated in the 94-page report entitled “The Journey of a Freedman’s Family,” co-written by her colleague, Patricia Hines.

CT House Histories’ Founder Receives Preservation Award


Melanie Beal Marks, founder and principal researcher of CT House Histories, receives a South Carolina Historic Preservation Award from Gov. Henry McMaster.

Melanie Beal Marks, founder and principal researcher of CT House Histories, received a 2017 South Carolina Historic Preservation Award from Gov. Henry McMaster for her work on researching and preserving the Garvin-Garvey House in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Sponsored by the Office of Governor, the South Carolina Archives and History Foundation, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, the award recognizes exceptional accomplishments in preservation, rehabilitation and interpretation of the architectural and cultural heritage of South Carolina.

She was nominated by Erin Schumacher, Bluffton’s historic preservation principal planner, with whom Marks worked closely to compile a report on the family of freedman Cyrus Garvey, who built his cottage in 1870 on a bluff overlooking the May River.


Melanie Beal Marks, left, founder and principal researcher of CT House Histories, with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Erin Schumacher, Town of Bluffton historic preservation principal planner, who nominated Marks.

In her nomination, Schumacher wrote, “We feel Melanie should be commended for her dedication to this project, generosity of her time and talent, and desire to share this important history with future generations. She is an example of an enduring steward of history and has contributed significantly to the field of preservation in the Town of Bluffton, Beaufort County, and for the State of South Carolina.”

For the full story on the award, read this article.



The Bluffton Sun reports on the South Carolina Historic Preservation Award.

Bluffton Today reports on the dedication of the Garvin-Garvey House.

The Garvin-Garvey House is dedicated in a special community ceremony.

A brief documentary shows the restoration effort of the Garvin-Garvey House.

“A House. A Home. A History.”

More information on the Garvin-Garvey House can be found on the Town of Bluffton’s website.