A Study of the Vernacular Beach Cottage Typologies of Sullivan's Island, South Carolina and Documentary Drawings of the Nathaniel Barnwell House for the Historic American Building Survey

Amelia Morgan Millar, Clemson University


Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina is a coastal barrier island located to the northeast of Charleston Harbor. Utilized as a health retreat and vacation destination from the early 1810s to the 1930s by the wealthy of Charleston, the island now exists as a full-time residential community. The island’s residential structures consisted mainly of simple one to two story wood structures, many with substantial and distinctive porch designs. While there have been surveys completed of the location and histories of structures on the island, until now, there has not been a study of the particular architectural typologies or their prevalence on the island. Only % of the houses on the island today are historic, with % of those structures being altered significantly enough to have lost their historic integrity. Because of this , the first major part of this project is an analysis of the Sanborn fire insurance maps that exist for the island from 1893 to 1938. This section gives information on the prevalence of different forms during the historic period, as opposed to what only remains today. Using these maps, historic photos, and a photographic study from 1987, basic profiles and sketches of the major typologies were prepared and their historic prevalence discussed.

The location of these residences on Sullivan’s Island includes inherent risk of loss because of threats from weather and new construction development. For this reason, the second major part of the project includes documentary drawings of an excellent example of a Sullivan’s Island beach cottage typology. Drawings of this cottage located at 1023 Middle Street will then be submitted to the Historic American Building Survey to be available to the general public for reference and further research. These drawings are intended to be a permanent record of an important architectural style in the history of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.