City Directories and History: Coffin Point Plantation, once a prosperous Sea Island plantation was also a center of activity during the Port Royal Experiment in the early years of the Civil War. Coffin Point is a two-story clapboard structure with raised basement. Although the exact date of construction is unknown, Coffin Point possesses characteristics of the Federal style of architecture and is believed to have been constructed ca. 1801. As is traditional of many early nineteenth century houses in the sea islands, the foundation of Coffin Point is of tabby. The home features semi-elliptical doorways and dormer windows, a hip roof with dentil cornice, hooded
chimneys, two cisterns in the basement, denticulated mantels, original pine floors, and a staircase with scroll pattern. The surroundings feature an avenue of oaks one-half mile long. The home overlooks St. Helena Sound. Ebenezer Coffin was born in Boston in 1763 and moved to South Carolina and settled at Coffin Point. His son Thomas Astor Coffin was in charge of the plantation until Union occupation of St. Helena in 1861. Prior to the Civil War Coffin Point was a well-known cotton plantation on the Carolina coast, having a reputation of being well managed and prosperous. In the early 1890s U.S. Senator James Donald Cameron, a Republican from Pennsylvania and Secretary of War during the Grant administration, bought Coffin Point. Listed in the National Register August 28, 1975. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
This house, built in 1892 to serve as a residence for the caretaker of the Coffin Point Plantation, is significant for its association with the plantation and as an example of the influence of the Queen Anne style in the architectural evolution of St. Helena Island. The residence is not an outstanding example of the style. The corner turret is the primary indication of its stylistic derivation. However, it is the only resource known at this time on St. Helena Island that reflects this style. James Donald Cameron owned Coffin Point Plantation and made it his winter retreat when this house was built for his caretaker. Cameron, a Pennsylvanian, was former Secretary of War under Ulysses S. Grant and served as United States Senator from 1877 to 1897. Listed in the National Register May 26, 1989.
“Coffin, Thomas Aston of “Coffin’s Point” plantation, Newport, R.I., and Charleston. Born Jan. 3, 1795 (S.C.); married May, 1829, Harriet Butler McPherson (1812-Dec., 1852) and Sarah Heyward Cruger (died June 15, 1879) ; died July 15, 1863. Education: Harvard College, A.B., 1815. Church: Episcopalian (doubtless, Vestryman, St. Helena’s Island). Public Service: Justice of the Peace. Other: Member, S.C. Historical Society. Slaves: 180 (St. Helena’s Parish, Beaufort District).”
The Last Foray, C. Gaston Davidson, SC Press – 1971
“The house at Coffin Point was built by Ebenezer Coffin ca. 1800. Ebenezer Coffin was a New Englander who married Mary Mathewes of Charleston. Their son, Thomas Aston Coffin (1795-1863), became one of the most successful planters of long staple sea island cotton. T. A. Coffin graduated from Harvard in 1815. Throughout his life he maintained homes on the Battery in Charleston and in Newport, Rhode Island, and the Coffin Point Plantation House.
This two-story frame house built in the Adam style is set high from the ground on a raised tabby basement. A one-story verandah extends across the front and rear, each side with six simple columns. The roof is a medium hip with a denticulated cornice trimming the roof line. Gabled dormer windows on the east and west sides repeat the semi-elliptical design found on the front facade. An avenue of live oaks one-half mile long provides the land entrance to the plantation house.
During the Civil War and the Port Royal Experiment, the Coffin Point house served as headquarters for St. Helena Island forces.”
Information from: Historic Resources of the Lowcountry, The Lowcountry Council of Government, Cynthia C. Jenkins, Preservation Planner – Published, 1979
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