Tracing how Bermuda stone built US city
An American scholar has embarked on a thesis to trace the origins of how Bermuda stone was used in the construction of early Charleston.
Justin Schwebler has scoured the South Carolina city for buildings constructed from the Island’s limestone as part of the project, which looks into the historic links between Bermuda and Charleston.
Mr Schwebler, who is doing a Master’s in historical preservation at Clemson University, is believed to be the first researcher in Charleston — established in part by settlers from Bermuda — to investigate how important limestone quarried on the Island was to the city’s architectural history.
His thesis involved a major archaeological dig in the city in January to find remains of the 1769 seawall built of Bermuda stone and brick.
“My work so far has really helped me to develop a greater appreciation for the relationship between Charleston and Bermuda throughout the early history,” Mr Schwebler said.
“I don’t have any links with Bermuda but I have been on tours of the city and the use of Bermuda stone has been pointed out to me in the past. The archives here have a very good history of how the stone got here and it piqued my curiosity.
“It appears that the stone would be cut in quarries in Bermuda, before being taken down to the Turks and Caicos, where large quantities of salt would also be loaded on to the ship.
“Then both materials would be brought up to Charleston, where the stone would be used for buildings and walls, and the salt for food preservation.
“It’s a very interesting piece of our history and the old sea fortification, that was made from Bermuda stone, is believed to be the biggest public works project of the 18th century.”
A “Walled City Task Force” led by a US expert, Dr Nic Butler, embarked on the archaeological dig for the old fortification wall around the city at the start of the year.
Mr Schwebler, 26, joined the dig as part of his thesis and the team discovered “a bonanza of rubble fill material, including large fragments of Bermuda stone”.
The 26-year-old, from Kentucky, started work on his thesis last summer and has to submit the finished work by March. He said: “The wall was probably destroyed in the 1800s by a hurricane, but we have seen evidence on the surface of its remnants and the Bermuda stone that was used to build it.
“There are quite a few buildings and houses in the city where the Bermuda stone is clearly visible to this day.
“The Bermuda stone link is still visible and relevant in Charleston to this day.”