Get a front-row view of this coastal South Carolina town with a walking tour.
It’s a sunny Saturday morning. Peter Stevenson is showing tourists his beloved Beaufort, South Carolina. Without even a glance,
he deftly negotiates his way around fireplugs and street signs. Pretty amazing when you consider that Peter does the whole
tour walking backward.
“In 10 years of walking backward, I’ve fallen three times,” says Peter, who operates The Spirit of Old Beaufort Tour Center and Gift Shop with his wife, Evelene. This movie set of a town seems like a perfect place for backtracking. Around every corner, in front of every landmark house, Peter weaves a story about Beaufort’s many brushes with history and Hollywood.
Showmanship makes the tour lively. Peter wears a wide-brimmed hat and 19th-century vintage clothing. He sings a rousing pre-Civil
War-era song before he tells about an elaborate masked ball held at one home. “In the 1850s, they loved to boat, to picnic,
and to have parties,” he explains. “Some of them lasted until 6 a.m.” By the time he finishes telling about it, you feel as
if you were there.
Peter carries a book of photographs to show landmarks such as the Union hospital where Harriet Tubman cared for wounded black soldiers during the Civil War. He also points out the house of Robert Smalls, a former slave who became a five-term U.S. Congressman. He sings about “the yellow peril of Beaufort” to the tune of the “Yellow Rose of Texas” to introduce the yellow structure of the Beaufort Arsenal, now the Beaufort Museum.
Many of the homes are familiar to movie fans. We stop to see the house used in The Big Chill and The Great Santini. We also have a look at a home where Pat Conroy lived when he wrote The Water Is Wide.
On this pleasant morning, Beaufort looks as inviting as a movie set. Along streets shaded by moss-draped live oaks, you can hear the sounds of horses’ hooves pulling carriages filled with tourists. Beside the small lawn known to generations of Beaufort residents as The Green, a baseball glove left behind by a child rests on top of a post, waiting for the game to start again.
When Peter Stevenson leads you backward into Beaufort, he puts on the best show in town.
The Spirit of Old Beaufort Tour Center and Gift Shop: 103 West Street Extension, Beaufort, SC 29902; (843) 525-0459 or www.thespiritofoldbeaufort.com.
"Take a Stroll In Beaufort" is from the June 2005 issue of Southern Living.