Beaufort (/ˈbjuːfərt/ bew-fərt, a different pronunciation from that used by the city with the same name in North Carolina) is a city in and the county seat of Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. Chartered in 1711, it is the second-oldest city in South Carolina, behind Charleston. The city's population was 12,361 in the 2010 census. It is a primary city within the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Beaufort is located on Port Royal Island, in the heart of the Sea Islands and South Carolina Lowcountry. The city is renowned for its scenic location and for maintaining a historic character by preservation of its antebellum architecture. The city is also known for its military establishments, being located in close proximity to Parris Island and a U.S. naval hospital, in addition to being home of the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
The city has been featured in the New York Times, and named "Best Small Southern Town" by Southern Living, a "Top 25 Small City Arts Destination" by American Style, and a "Top 50 Adventure Town" by National Geographic Adventure.
|Beaufort, South Carolina|
Looking down Bay Street
Location of Beaufort, South Carolina
The Lowcountry region had been subject to numerous European explorations and failed attempts at colonization before the British founded the city in 1711. The city initially grew slowly, subject to numerous attacks from Native American tribes and threats of Spanish invasion. It flourished first as a center for shipbuilding and later, when the colony was established as a slave society, as the elite center for the Lowcountry planters through the Civil War.
Several months after hostilities began between the states, Beaufort was occupied by Union forces following the Battle of Port Royal. Due in part to its early occupation, the city attracted escaping slaves. The Union declared the slaves emancipated and initiated efforts at education and preparation for full independence. The Freedmen's Bureau worked with local blacks during Reconstruction.
After the war, the city relied on phosphate mining before a devastating hurricane in 1893 and a fire in 1907 brought extensive destruction and economic turmoil. Their effects slowed growth of the city for nearly half a century.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, the community became a destination for tourists. It also benefited by the growth of military installations in the area and related employment. Local groups have worked to preserve Beaufort's historic character and significant architecture.
In addition to the Beaufort Historic District, The Anchorage, William Barnwell House, Barnwell-Gough House, Beaufort National Cemetery,John A. Cuthbert House, Fort Lyttelton Site, Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse, Laurel Bay Plantation, Marshlands, Seacoast Packing Company, Seaside Plantation, Robert Smalls House, Tabby Manse, and John Mark Verdier House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Beaufort is located at (32.431853, -80.689515). The majority of the city is situated upon Port Royal Island, an interior Sea Island that the city shares with neighboring Port Royal and unincorporated portions of Beaufort County. The city has also annexed lands across the Beaufort River on Lady's Island.
The city is amid a marshy estuary, and according to the United States Census Bureau has a total area of 33.6 square miles (87.0 km2), of which 27.6 square miles (71.5 km2) is land and 6.0 square miles (15.5 km2), or 17.80%, is water.
The proximity of the city to other fast-growing areas including Hilton Head Island and Bluffton as well as good access to Savannah, Georgia, the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, and a future container port to be built on the Savannah River make the city a desirable choice for residential and business development opportunity.
Beaufort has several geographic areas of economic activity. The downtown area is the historical center of commerce and is now primarily focused towards visitors, tourists. Much of the day-to-day service businesses for locals has moved along the Boundary Street corridor, the Robert Smalls Parkway corridor, or towards Lady's Island. There are several areas with limited industrial uses that exist primarily in the northwestern sections of the city, close to the intersection of Boundary Street with Robert Smalls Parkway.
The largest economic sector in Beaufort is the military presence in and around the community. Having supplanted agriculture and aquaculture in the last decades of the 20th century, Beaufort's military bases employ thousands of jobs directly and indirectly related to base operations and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. As a result, economic downturns do not hit the community as hard as in other similarly sized communities.
Due in part to its attractive location and deep connections with history and culture, the tourism and hospitality industry is also a major economic sector. Nearly two million visitors a year come to Beaufort and the Sea Islands of northern Beaufort County, with spring and fall seasons being peak times. The primary attractions of these visitors include golf and beach vacations, history, water sports, and local arts and crafts. As a result, Beaufort is home to many accommodation options ranging from upscale bed-and-breakfasts in the downtown area to standard motels and inns along Boundary Street. There are several dozen dining establishments in the city that cater to locals and tourists alike.
Other sectors of note are agriculture/aquaculture, local government, and retail.
Beaufort is classified as a "city" according to the South Carolina Secretary of State. The city is governed by a five-member city council under the council-manager form of government. The current mayor is Billy Keyserling (term ends 2016). The other council members include Donnie Ann Beer (term ends 2014), Mike Sutton (term ends 2014), George O'Kelley (term ends 2016) and Mike McFee (term ends 2016). Council members serve on staggered four-year terms. The day-to-day operations are handled through a city manager and city staff. The city manager is Scott Dadson.
In October 2007, voters approved $15 million in bonds to finance two new municipal buildings at the intersection of Boundary Street and Ribaut Road to replace aging and cramped facilities. In 2008, a new police headquarters and courthouse was opened. A new city hall at the intersection of Boundary Street and Ribaut Road opened shortly thereafter. The City of Beaufort owns or leases additional facilities throughout the city and provides police, fire, parks, planning, and other governmental functions. Water, sewer, sanitation, recycling, and landscaping services are outsourced to local companies.
Recent trends have shown Beaufort to seek closer inter-governmental cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions, especially in community and regional planning. Beaufort and Port Royal appoint members to a joint planning commission to hear cases in both jurisdictions. Both municipalities have expressed interests in collaborating with Beaufort County on regional planning initiatives.