BAY STREET AND BEAUFORT IN THE 1920’S AS I REMEMBER IT, A Speech by Mr. James G. Thomas to the Beaufort Historical Society, July 25, 1985

So I’m still thinking about Agnes Mann and Old Beaufort, and I found this paper at the Beaufort County Library in the Beaufort District Collection. The part about the bathhouse ties us to the occupation of the house by the Union forces during The War, which later became the Sea Island Hotel.  We were guessing in a previous post that Agnes Mann, hotel keeper in 1880, might have been the hotel keeper at the Sea Island Hotel.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The home did not become a hotel until after World War I, and a Mrs. O’Dell ran it then.  Those of you with math skills and a good memory will know that Agnes Mann died in 1906.

The transcription follows the images, and would have appeared a lot sooner, except that a cat has popped the “P” key off the keyboard, and that slows me down considerably.

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A Speech by Mr. James G. Thomas to the Beaufort Historical Society

July 25, 1985

In 1920, the census for Beaufort City was 2, 831.  In 1930, the census was

2,776.  While Beaufort lost population during that decade, I still think it was exciting


At the time I went to school, occupying the eastern end of Bay Street, close

to the street, was the Beaufort Gazette office run by Niels Christensen, who was

our senator.  When I was very young, it burned to the ground, and I slept

through it all.  I thought my brothers were teasing me when they told me.  I

remember going to see the ashes, and the firemen were still there.  It was a large

fire.  Next to it the Waterhouse building was completely charred on the east.  They

had to replace the weather boarding.

Starting on the northern side of Bay Street, there was a house known as the

Verdier House, occupied by the Theus Family and owned by the Christensens.  In

those days, it seems as if the Christensens owned half of Beaufort.

Across New Street was Mrs. H. L. Waterhouse and her daughter Mary; then our

house, and next to us was Mr. J. R. Bellamy and his family, including her mother,

Mrs. McMillan, and sister, Mrs. McQueen.

Then across Carteret Street was the Christensen Hardware Company.  Then the

Christensen’s garage and a filling station operated by W. A. Murphy, who sold

Sinclair gas.  Next was Morrall’s Furniture Store and above were several offices.

Next was Alex Levin’s drygood store, which later was the first A&P store, later

Mrs. Katie Levin’s Beauty Parlor, and above this lived the Sam Levin family.

I think all of the children were born there including Junie Levin, the youngest.

Next was a building built as a drug store for Mr. Edwin Lomberg and Mr. Carter.

Later Mr. Sam Levin moved his printing business there and stayed there until

Mrs. Katie Levin moved her beauty parlor there about 1950.  Next was the Beaufort…


Another special occasion was the coming of the Amphrodite on June 15, 1926.

The Amphrodite was built on the hull of an old battleship, which was the sister

ship of the USS Maine, and had been used during the Spanish American War.  Beaufort

made a bit “to do” over this and had a big celebration with a banquet one night.

I remember my father attended this occasion with about 200 others from Beaufort.

It was anchored on the river out by Old Fort, which is now on the grounds of the

Naval Hospital.  This was a floating hotel and would swing with the tide.  Therefore,

the prevailing wind would pass it by and would make it very hot.  I remember right

after the banquet my father coming home and telling my mother that it would never

work in Beaufort.  And “sho’nuff”, it only lasted a couple of months; however, the

real reason it failed was because of the bank failing on July 10.  The Amphrodite

was truly a “ritzy” hotel with the waitresses and bell boys dressed in sailor

uniforms.  One had to go by boat to reach the Amphrodite from a dock at Old Fort

Another interesting thing to happen in Beaufort in the early 20s was the

story of my childhood neighbor, Mr. R. V. Bray.  Mr. Bray was very popular and an

Internal Revenue man insinuated that his mother-in-law was lying, and Mr Bray

proceeded to hit him.  As a result of this, he was arrested and sent to the Atlanta

Penetentiary for one year and a day.  The citizens were so incensed that they

elected Mr. Bray mayor while he was in prison; and when he was released, they met

him at the depot with a brass band and had a parade from the depot to his house.

I might add, that he made an excellent mayor and served for many years.  He was

mayor when the Palmetto trees were planted from the city limits to the National

Cemetery on Boundary Street.  They made a beautiful entrance then, but had to be

taken down in the last 30 years because of the traffic conditions.


The first swimming I remember was from the bathhouse in front of the Sea

Island Hotel.  In the bottom they had swat was known as “The Crib” which had a



[Transcription from microfilm of page 14 of Beaufort Historical Society Paper #63

Bay Street and Beaufort in the 1920’s As I Remember It by James G. Thomas.

Transcribed by Grace Morris Cordial, SC Resources Librarian, April 5, 2000]

floor and a fence around it for the ladies and children so no one could drown and

no sharks could bite.  On the second floor there were bathrooms, and on the third

floor was an open pavilion with a diving board for the men and large boys.  Then

the city built a dock to the sand bar in front of where Mr. Brantley Harvey lives,

also a bathhouse over the mudbar.  This proved to be very popular because at

hightide you could swim off the dock and the children and ladies would go at low

tide to the sandbar.  This lasted until 1926 when the city put in the sewer system which

emptied into the river.  The Health Department then forbid (sic) swimming at the

sandbar.  After the bridge opened, we would swim in theriver (sic) off Burkeyer’s (sic)

Beach which was 3 miles away, but the boys preferred Pigeon Point which had a

bathhouse and a high and low diving board and a dock.  Also,it (sic) was only one mile

and a half to walk.  But we would rather walk because of the diving boards than to hitch

a ride to Burkmeyer (sic) Beach.

The novels are a story un to (sic) themselves.


The 1920s came in with high economy, flourishing in Beaufort County, but be-

ginning July 10,1 926, and by the end of the decade, there were many empty stores

on Bay Street.  No businesses being built, and the economy was at a low ebb.  The

Stock Market crashed in 1929, but the Depression started in Beaufort in 1926.  We

had 3 destructive fires:  first the River View Hotel, Lengnick’s Store, and a 3

storied building owned by Claude Ammon.  Two years later, the buildings on the

western portionof (sic) the block on the northern side of Bay Street next to Charles,

which was occupied by The Beaufort Gazette, and others, were burned, and these were

not replaced until 1960 when Mr. Harvey built his barbershop.  The third bad fire

was on a Sunday morning when Schein’s Department Store burned and it was replaced

by the present building.  The old building extended onto the sidewalk like Hisch’s

does today.

At this time, my time has run out.  I have talked long enough.  Thank You.

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