Historic Structures

Rose Hill Plantation House, Bluffton South Carolina

Date added: June 8, 2016 Categories: South Carolina House Plantations & Farms Gothic Revival

Rose Hill Plantation House, located on a large undeveloped tract in the Rose Hill Plantation residential development in Beaufort County, is a large, two-story, frame, Gothic Revival residence. The house is believed to have been constructed for Dr. John Kirk and his wife Caroline ca. 1858-60. Rose Hill was not completed before the Civil War and remained unfinished until ca. 1946 when John and Florence Sturgeon purchased Rose Hill and renovated it for their private residence.

The plantation tract was known as Rose Hill at least as early as ca. 1828 when it was purchased by James Kirk, Dr. Kirk's uncle and, later, father-in law. The property, formerly part of Devil's Elbow Barony, was reputedly a wedding present to James Kirk's daughter Caroline when she married her cousin, John Kirk.

Dr. Kirk was a wealthy planter and physician. In 1860, at which time he probably resided at Rose Hill, he owned real estate valued at $50,000, personal property valued at $152,000, and 154 slaves. He had two children, Emily and William J., and employed the Reverend J. Robertson as their tutor. The Kirks apparently left Rose Hill for most of the war as indicated by letters written from Callawassie, Black Swamp, and Grahamville. Caroline Kirk died in Grahamville in 1864 and is buried at the Grahamville Cemetery. Dr. Kirk wrote his daughter Emily late in 1864 from Grahamville expressing his wish to return to Rose Hill where he would have food and "some prospect of saving (his) buildings," in spite of the danger of Sherman's advancing troops. In the last months of the war and the months that followed, Dr. Kirk and his son shuttled between Rose Hill and Emily's home in York. By January 1866, Dr. Kirk and Willie were once again at Rose Hill.

Family letters from the period 1866-1868 indicate that the Kirks were in dire economic straits. They did, however, retain possession of Rose Hill and although the house was largely unoccupied after Dr. Kirk's death in 1868, the property remained in the family until at least 1938. In 1946 John and Florence Sturgeon purchased Rose Hill and engaged prominent architect Willis Irvin to direct the completion and restoration of the house. When work began, scaffolding was still in place from the time of the original construction. Photographs from ca. 1920-30 and Irvin's working plans indicate that the renovation closely followed the original appearance of the house and all additions are in keeping with the original style. Early photos also indicate that most of the interior woodwork is original.