Restoring History



Dating to 1846, Baynard Mausoleum is the oldest standing structure on Hilton Head Island. Constructed by Hilton Head planter William Eddings Baynard, the mausoleum survived the Civil War, the development of the island and several hurricanes. Over the years, however, the building fell into disrepair — the stone ridge supporting the 2,500-pound bluestone slabs of its roof cracked in half, making it only a matter of time before the roof collapsed.

In March, restoration efforts got underway at a ground-breaking ceremony hosted by Heritage Library board members, Hilton Head Mayor David Bennet and Carol Gyllenhoff of St. Luke’s Church Mouse Thrift Shop, which is helping to fund the repairs. The Heritage Library also is planning a walking history park at the site, giving visitors a look at the island’s early residents.

The Baynard family was one of the first to settle on the island year-round, after William Baynard moved to the Lowcountry at age 19 to work on the plantation he inherited from his uncle, in what today is Spanish Wells.

“He did well, so in 1845 he bought 1,200 acres on the south end of the island known as Braddock’s Point Plantation,” said historian and Heritage Library history department member Richard Thomas. “He moved into the house that was built there, the only full tabby mansion on the island. He also bought a mansion in Savannah that today is known as Davenport House.”

Baynard Mausoleum2It was after he made the move to Braddock’s Point Plantation that Baynard began construction of the mausoleum. Three years later, he was the first person to be buried there after he died of an illness he contracted at an island party in October 1849.

In 2013, the Heritage Library assumed responsibility for the structure from the Hilton Head Historical Society. After resolving a moisture problem at the site, the library launched an initiative to raise money for the restoration of the structure. The approached local businesses for sponsorships, spoke with the families of those buried in the cemetery, and, finally, asked St. Luke’s Church for help. The Church Mouse, a boutique and fundraising mission for the church, raised more than $135,000 for the project.

Repairs on the exterior of the building should be done sometime this month. Plans include restoring the fencing, excavating a walkway and replacing gates and the mausoleum’s front doors. Then the Heritage Library will set to work on the surrounding area, developing an educational history walk complete with muster house and exhibits.