The Point neighborhood of historic downtown Beaufort was once known as Black’s Point. This neighborhood for many years was considered to be outside of the city boundaries even though its commercial and residential construction began in Beaufort’s early years. There are a few of these homes that have survived the years that still sit on The Point. The Thomas Hepworth House (circa 1717) and the William Johnson House (circa 1776) are absolutely splendid examples of the early days of The Point.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War a gentlemen named James Black owned and operated a prosperous ship building enterprise on The Point. He acquired the majority of the property from a man named Thomas Middleton. Most ship building businesses at the time were small and manned by journeymen and other carpenters that set up shop at different places along the coast. Black’s enterprise was very different. It was the only stable enterprise in the region. Some of the ships built by Black’s shipyard were the Ashley Cooper and the Georgetown. It is believed that his shipyard was located on the block around Pinckney, Federal and Hamilton streets and with the Beaufort River bordering the southern edge. The Lowcountry Live Oak was the choice of building materials in those times, and the South Carolina Lowcountry furnished ships for international trade.
The Revolution changed that for Beaufort.
Black died during the war and ship building slowed. When Black died in 1770 he owned the majority of The Point. His property and his shipyard likely sat on a tidal creek that ran through the area. All the property was divided among his heirs and broke into smaller tracks for development.
At the turn on the 19th century there stood a large number houses on the Point. The Chaplin House at 712 New Street, The Hex-Sams House at 207 Hancock Street, and the Elizebeth Barnwell Gough House at 705 Washington Street. Beaufort’s mayor at the time saw the development and urged the State Assembly to extend the city limits to include Black’s Point. In 1809 the South Carolina General Assembly approved for the city to include Black’s Point, and at that time the city planned out the area and named the streets. The new streets looked amazingly like the grid already in place for the town.
Later, it became a place where many of the plantation owners on Lady’s or St. Helena Islands built homes for the “social season,” moving closer to town around May and staying through about November, mostly to escape oppressive summer heat. During the occupation of Beaufort in the Civil War era, The Point was home to many Union hospitals. The famous Castle was used as the African American hospital.
Through the many years and wars, The Point has kept its charm and beauty. It is still home to some of the most beautiful houses in the south, and it holds the key to Beaufort’s majestic antebellum era.