Beaufort County Library Logo

Pediment above the entrance of the former Beaufort Township Library.  Above the inscription, "Public Library," is an open book motif
Pediment above entrance to former
Beaufort Township Library, now covered
with pigeon netting

Public Library History of Beaufort County, SC

Public Library History

Public Library Directors
(1962- Present)


South Carolina
Library History

Beaufort County Library Construction Projects
(Photographic Histories)


Public Library History of Beaufort County
1755 - Present






Steeple of the St. Helena Espiscopal Church in Beaufort, photographed close up from the ground up
The Parish Church
of St. Helena established
a book collection
for its clergymen.
The Beaufort Library Society was founded.
The Library Society received a charter from the State of South Carolina.
St. Helena's Epsicopal Church, Beaufort


After a fire, the Society's 3000 books were moved to the old College of Beaufort building (800 Carteret Street, Beaufort) for safe keeping.

Old drawing of College of Beaufort building says that the structure was a "Public Library and High School"

The old College of Beaufort as it was in 1861.
The building is now part of the campus of the
University of South Carolina Beaufort.



During the Civil War, the Union Army confiscated the Beaufort Library collection. All of the books were sent to New York City for auction as rebel property. Public outcry in the North was so fervent that Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase intervened, saying,
"The Union does not
make war on libraries."
The books were then stored in the Smithsonian Institution for eventual return to Beaufort at the war's end.

(AT RIGHT) Official handbill for the
auction of "rebel property"
-- the library books of Beaufort

(Reproduced with permission from
The State newspaper magazine
of March 20, 1955)

Handbill stating that Bangs, Merwin and Company planned to sell Beaufort's library books in New York City on November 17, 1862


A fire consumed the wing in the Smithsonian Institution where Beaufort's confiscated books had been stored. Beaufort was to be without a library until the turn of the century.
Photographic portrait of Mrs. Waterhouse, in an oval cameo shape
Mary Elizabeth Waterhouse,
Founder of the Clover Club

(At Left) Mary Elizabeth Waterhouse founded the
Clover Club literary society.

(At Right) Historical marker erected in 1989 by the Beaufort County Historical
Society and the Beaufort Female Benevolent Society, on Scott Street, downtown Beaufort.

Text of historical marker: " Beaufort Femal Benevolent Society. The Society, founded in 1814  to educate and provide relief for destitute children, built this house in a895 and leased it for many years, using the income to help the needy. Tenants included the Clover Club, which operated a circulating library here from 1010-1917, and an inirmary from 1917 t0 1925. Dunds from the 1982 sale of the house continue to provide relief for people in need."
Photograph by
Dennis Adams

(September 4, 2004)
The Clover Club established a circulating library. The thirty members served as volunteer librarians.

Masonic Building, destroyed in the 1907 fire

Photographs by courtesy of the Clover Club

To the  left of the main building is a small, one-story extension structure



The "Great Fire" of 1907 devastated much of downtown Beaufort. Although the Masonic Building (Top Left) housing the Clover Club library was destroyed, all but fifty of the books were saved.

1910 - 1917

The building of the Female Benevolent Society
(Lower Left, at 301 Scott Street, Beaufort), which housed the Clover Club Library from 1910-1917, now faces the entrance of the Beaufort Branch Library facility.


The Clover Club began its fund-raising project for a permanent library building enlisting the aid of the Civic League. The City of Beaufort donated property at Craven and Carteret Streets.


The Beaufort Township Library was built with Carnegie Foundation funds procured by Senator Neils Christensen. The Clover Club donated a nucleus of 2000 books and some of its members served as the library staff. The Beaufort Township Library was one of fourteen public libraries built with Carnegie Foundation funds.

Now a municipal office building (Craven and Carteret Streets), Beaufort), the old Township Library faces the Craven Street side of the present library facility.
(Beaufort County Library Collection)





The J. I. Washington branch occupied a wooden Victorian church that now has white exterior walls and  a red roof

(Beaufort County Library Collection)

The Library Board opened  a separate facility to provide library services to black residents.  It was dedicated in memory of J. I. Washington after his death in 1938.  The building (602 Carteret Street) had originally served the Berean Presbyterian Church's African-American congregation. In 2014 the building is the Art Studio for the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Historic Campus.

J. I. Washington (1864-1938) was a local attorney, active in civic affairs. His obituary in the Beaufort Gazette read that "he was largely instrumental, after many years of untiring effort, in having the Colored Branch of the City Library Established."

A copy of the "Dedication of Colored Library" ceremony program is in the Beaufort Gazette, October 27, 1938, on page 3.

With the aid of Senator Burnet Maybank, the South Carolina State Library Board secured a token repayment from the federal government to the Beaufort Township Library for the book collection lost in 1865.


The lower half of bookmobile exterior was painted dark blue, and the top was white, with "Beaufort County Library" in blue letters

Mrs. Barnwell outside of the bookmbile, helping four children slect books from the open shelves

(At Left )The County Library continued the Bookmobile service established by the Laura Towne Library in 1958. (Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)

(At Left ) Wilhelmina Barnwell helps children on the Bookmobile in 1958. Mrs. Barnwell and Mrs. York Bailey had been carrying books in their own cars to the children on St. Helena and Lady's Islands, until they had more "Book Outposts" than their personal vehicles could handle.

(Photograph by courtesy of Hillary Barnwell)





  • The Township Library became the Beaufort County Library by act of the General Assembly. The library was now fully integrated (although the Washington Branch Library continued to operate into 1965).
  • The library employed its first professional librarian, director T. Ray Peppers.
  • The Laura Towne Library at Penn Center, which had operated as a separate library on St. Helena Island since the early 1950s, became the first branch location of the County System.


The Beaufort County Public Library received the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award as the nation's outstanding small library. The award came with a $5,000 grant for new books.

(At Right ) The new County Library building under construction.

(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
The Beaufort County Library building under construction in 1964.  The open roof with its metal supports can bhe seen from the interior
  At its completion, the first Beaufort County Library  was a simple one-storied building with three windows on either side of the front entrance
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
  (Above) The new Beaufort County Public Library building at 711 Craven Street was completed (now the children's wing of the current Beaufort Branch Library facility).




The J. I. Washington Branch Library closed.


View of front enrance of the white double-wide trailer. An unidentified female employee stands on the steps. There is a white book drop (possibly an old mailbox)  in the front parking area
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
      (Above) Rapid population growth on Hilton Head
Island brought about the establishment of a
temporary library branch on the Island.
The facility was a double-wide mobile unit
provided by a group of interested Islanders.


The Laura Towne Branch Library closed.



The glass doors and windows of the 1976 Hilton Head Island Branch Lirary "peek out" from the shady trees that surround it. The outer walls are coated with tan stucco to blend in with the natural setting
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
The Bluffton Branch Library facility was a small building with tan stucco exterior. Four cars are parked in front of the building
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
The first permanent facility of the Hilton Head Branch Library was built with federal Revenue Sharing funds on land deeded by the Hilton Head Company.
  The newly-organized Bluffton Community Library on 48 Boundary Street became the Bluffton Branch of the Beaufort County Public Library system.


Two wings of the Davis Elementary School border a large schoolyard area. At the end of a long sidewalk stood the entrance door to the Dale Branch Library with its blue awning  
  • (At Left) The Dale Branch Library location was established, sharing space with the Davis Elementary School media center on Kean Neck Road.
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
  • Ground was broken for the current Beaufort Branch Library headquarters facility on 311 Scott Street, Beaufort.



Between the two entrance doors of the Beaufort Branch Library building  is a tall archway  that frames the two story-high central window. The pediment recalls the symmetry of antebellum architecture, and the brick columns are reminiscent of the columns at the Old Sheldon Church ruins
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)

The Saint Helena Branch Library's outdoor entrance faces a side parking lot of the elementary school
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
(Above) The current Beaufort Branch Library opened in late August (311 Scott Street, Beaufort), incorporating the older Beaufort County Library building of 1964. The formal dedication of the building took place on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1993.  
  • (Above) The Saint Helena Island Branch location was established, sharing space with the Saint Helena Elementary School media center on Sea Island Parkway (Highway 21).

  • Beaufort County Library's bookmobile service ended in favor of branch locations and alternative outreach services.


The official ground breaking for a new facility on Hilton Head Island along Beach City Road took place in December.




  • The new second floor interior of the Beaufort Branch Library dedicated. The Friends of the Library had been instrumental in the project.

Bronze plaque in the Beaufort Branch Library's meeting room features a portrait of Colonel Siegmund in  his Marine uniform
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)

  • (Above) Also in 1997, the second-floor
    Paul Siegmund Meeting Room was dedicated at the Beaufort Branch facility. Colonel Paul Siegmund, United States Marine Corps (1928-1994), was a charter member and the first president of the Friends of the Beaufort County Library.
Taller and more spacious than the 1976 structure, the current Hilton Head Beranch Library also bkends in with the surrounding landscape -- just yards away from busy Highway 278!
  • The Hilton Head Branch Library
    facility was completed in November. The building (at 11 Beach City Road), with 26,000 square feet of floor space
    (three times the size of the previous facility) and a volume capacity of 100,000 books.


Addition of a modular unit expanded the Bluffton facility's space to include a separate reference and reading area, as well as a manager's office. The small children's area gained open space, and access to the public computers became less confined.





County officials an dignitaries wear white hard hats and prepare to use golden shovels to break ground for the new Bluffton Branch Library. Library  Director Julie Zachowki , in red dress, joins the group
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
Orange construction barriers surround the Lobeco Library premises(
Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
(Above) Groundbreaking ceremony for a new
Bluffton Branch Library took place on June 8.

See photos of the Bluffton construction
(Above) Construction of the Lobeco Branch Library began in late October.

See photos of the
Lobeco construction




Four large, square columns frame the entrance to the current Bluffton Library.  Smaller wings of similar shape flank the entrance. The exterior color is a light gray earth tone
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
(Above) The Bluffton Branch Library held its Grand Opening activities on November 14-16.
The white exterior color brings out the classic Art Deco features of the restored Lobeco Branch Library building
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
(Above) The Lobeco Branch Library,
at 1862 Trask Parkway (Highway 21) held its Grand Opening activities on June 14. The Lobeco facility replaced the Dale Location at Davis Elementary School.
Julie Zachowski, BCPL director since 1974, retired on December 31.


• Public Services Coordinator and Beaufort Branch Manager Hillary Barnwell served as interim library director from January 1 through May 7.

• Wlodek Zaryczny, formerly director of the Roanoke (VA) City Public Library, became the fourth permanent professional director of the Beaufort County Public Library System on May 10.


The historic Cope Building at the Penn Center now houses the York W. Bailey Museum
(Photograph in Beaufort County Library Collection)
(Above) Cope Building, Penn Center
Beaufort County Library and the Penn Center began discussions about construction of a new full-service branch library facility on property adjacent to the historic Penn campus on St. Helena Island.


The Library system's special local history collection and archives unit, the Beaufort District Collection (BDC), relocates to the renovated Paul Siegmund Room, 2nd floor, 311 Scott Street, Beaufort.

Beaufort County Public Library
1962 - Present

  • T. Ray Peppers, 1962-1966

  • Betty Ragsdale, 1966-1972

  • Julie Zachowski, 1972-December 31, 2003

  • Hillary Barnwell, Interim Director, January 1 - May 7, 2004

  • Wlodek Zaryczny, May 10, 2004 - September 5, 2014

  • Jan O'Rourke, Interim Director,  September 8, 2014 - present
Related Links about South Carolina Library History
from the University of South Carolina
College of Library and Information Science
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