The Robert Smalls House is a historic house at 511 Prince Street in Beaufort.
Built in 1843 and altered several times, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 for its association with Robert Smalls (1839-1915). Smalls, born into slavery, achieved notice for commandeering the CSS Planter and sailing her to freedom during the American Civil War. After the war, he represented South Carolina in the United States House of Representatives during Reconstruction.
About the house:
The Robert Smalls House is located in central Beaufort, at the northeast corner of Prince and New Streets. It is a two-story wood-frame structure, with a side gable roof and a two-story porch extending across its (south-facing) front facade. A two-story ell extends to the rear, giving the house a basic T shape. Originally built in 1843 with a single-story porch and ell, updates expanded the house to two stories in 1850 and 1870.
Robert Smalls was born into slavery in 1839, and spent most of his early years in this house.
His master (and father) was Henry McKee. Around 1851, McKee hired Smalls out to work in Charleston. He worked on the docks, and eventually learned to sail. In 1862, during the American Civil War, he successfully commandeered the Planter, sailing her to the blockading Union fleet. He later served in the Union Navy, and became involved in South Carolina politics after the war. His bravery promoted and prompted the Union Army’s enlistment of African-American soldiers.