History truly comes to life at the Beaufort History Museum, located at 713 Craven Street in Downtown Beaufort.
Originally constructed in 1799, the brick and tabby arsenal has participated in a number of U.S. wars. During the Revolutionary War, a volunteer company served valiantly. The artillery also saw action during the Civil War during the battle of Port Royal.
Just inside the gate, a series of Civil War era cannons stand as sentinels to the arsenal’s rich history. The two brass trophy guns on display were captured from the British in 1779 and seized by Union soldiers at the fall of Fort Walker in 1861. The museum also features informative exhibits including World War I hand grenades, Confederate sabers and a 1915 machine gun.
The Beaufort Arsenal Museum opens a fascinating window on the past, offering insight into the rich history of the Lowcountry. Historic artifacts on display represent Native American settlements, the earliest 16th-century Spanish settlement, Union occupation during the Civil War and 20th-century phosphate mining, truck farming, fishing, shrimping and oystering industries.
Construction of the Beaufort Arsenal was begun in 1795 and was completed by 1799. The building had deteriorated substantially by 1852, when the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery Company rebuilt the complex.
The Arsenal was once home to the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery, which was organized in April of 1775 and has the distinction of being the fifth oldest military unit in the United States. As part of a 1934 WPA project, the original arsenal building was renovated and enlarged.
In 1990, the city of Beaufort accepted the fiduciary responsibility and from 2001 to 2008, the Historic Beaufort Foundation managed it, after which the city took over. Then in 2011, the Beaufort History Museum was chartered by the city to care for it and to create a public museum.
Today, the Beaufort History Museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and active military and families are admitted free, as well as children under 10, when accompanied by a paying adult. For more information, call the Beaufort History Museum at (843) 379-3079.