The Paul Hamilton
House, known as "The Oaks" stands at 100 Laurens Street in Beaufort, just
across the street from Tidalholm, although it faces away from its neighbors to
capture the best view over the water. Col. Paul Hamilton, grandson of the Paul Hamilton who served
as Secretary of the Navy under President James Madison, built the house in 1855.
Like Tidalholm, the
house is built in the Italianate style. Its two-storied verandas extend across
the front of the house and around both sides until they meet the wider back
portion of the house. The back rooms feature bay windows that stretch from
floor to ceiling. Inside, unusual
carved mantles extend on three sides of the chimney, echoing the design of the
West Rear of the Hamilton House
When the Gideonites
arrived, they selected this house for the twelve women who accompanied the
group. Here is the description
recorded by Washington socialite Susan Walker:
Tuesday, March 11, 1862:
Went with Mr. French
escorted by the Provost Marshal in search of a house large enough to accommodate 12
ladies. Twelve women together! This is fearful. We found a splendid
house near the water and therefore pronounced healthful It must be thoroughly cleaned for the
"chivalry" look not to corners and cupboards. They
leave this to the poor despised "mudsie" of the north. Such a kitchen
as supplied their luxurious tables would nowhere else be suffered. Bah! What
filth—years only could have so matured it.
The Cookhouse at the back of the Hamilton House
Wednesday, March 12, 1862:
Here we are at last in
possession of Hamilton's superb mansion. Slept last night at good Dr. Peck's but
tonight must occupy the pleasant room assigned me in our new home. Unfurnished,
of course, for every house has been stripped of furniture. I have a frame of
rough boards to support my narrow straw-stuffed mattress. My table is a packing
box, my candle-stick a potato, and a small wooden bench my only seat. I have a
single piece of furniture—a marble-top mahoganywash-stand, which
kind provost Belcher has brought, he says, "expressly for you." I
expect to have wash-basin and pitcher some time. Having neither pillow
case nor sheet, I split open a white peticoat and slipped myself between.
Friends have sometimes called me fastidious, am I so?
Thursday, March 13,
My window east opens
upon a little porch with mosaic floor. From this what a glorious sunrise over
the river. Rosy Aurora tints sky and water. A magnificently spreading Live Oak
fringed with long pendants of grey moss stands between me and the river
promising charming shade when summer heat demands out-door breezes. My window
north reveals orange trees and negro cabins and a pretty white henhouse made of
lattice work and looking like a fanciful summer house. Window south opens upon
a broad verandah exposed on two sides to the sea or river rather, but it is an
arm of the sea and salt. A dressing room belongs to this room but is not spared
for me. I have a fire-place and fire is required night and morning.
Within a few weeks, the women Gideonites, too, moved to their assigned plantations to begin teaching and caring for the abandoned slaves. The Hamilton, like its neighbor, became a Union Hospital # 1 until the end of the war.
The northern teachers who remained in the Low Country at the end of the war must have been horrified to learn that the previous owner of the Hamilton House declared he would pay "a million dollars to keep his home from becoming a school for Negroes." When he could not raise the full purchase amount within the three days allotted to him, the citizens of Beaufort banded together to purchase the home in his name. It returned to being a private residence.