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Your Guide to the Robert Smalls House: Home to a Civil War Hero

The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort, SC, was designated as National Historic Landmark in 1974 for its presence as a memorial to Civil War Hero Robert Smalls. Smalls, who later served as a US Congressman, gained fame for escaping slavery by captaining and commandeering a Confederate ship and sailing it to freedom. Today, after several renovations, the Robert Smalls House stands as a piece of Lowcountry history in downtown Beaufort.

The Robert Smalls House is one of many fascinating historical sites and attractions in Beaufort. To learn more about all the wonderful things to do in the area, access our free Vacation Guide. This carefully curated guide has helped so many visitors plan the perfect Beaufort getaway. Be sure to get your copy!

About the Robert Smalls House

Robert Smalls’ Story

Born into slavery in 1839, Robert Smalls lived on the property where his mother, Lydia Polite, served as a slave to the John McKee household. When he was twelve years old, Smalls was sent to Charleston where he worked and lived until the outbreak of the Civil War. It was here that he famously commandeered the CSS Planter Confederate ship through the Charleston Harbor and sailed it to freedom. Smalls safely delivered the Planter, which also carried Smalls’ brother and family, to Union forces, freeing its captives.

After serving the Union in the war, Robert Smalls returned to Beaufort where he bought McKee’s former house which was put up for sale during a tax sale. He was soon elected to Congress and served as one of the first African American Congressmen. During his time in office, Robert Smalls fought for black rights and importantly impacted military development on Parris Island. A brave hero, Smalls died in 1915, passing the home along to his descendants who occupied the property for approximately 90 years.

The History of the House

The Robert Smalls House is located at 511 Prince Street in Beaufort, SC, 29902. Before undergoing several renovations, the house was originally built in 1843 with a single-story porch and ell. Although the house was expanded to two stories in 1850, the original south-facing porches still hold. The original hardwood floors and high ceilings are still intact as well, but the kitchen and ground floor received an update during a 2014 renovation.

The iconic large framed house features moss-lined steps and landscape gardens. A side gable roof and two-story portico extend across the front facade, giving the home a charming appeal while maintaining its classic structure. A famous piece of Civil War history with a unique history, a stroll by the Robert Smalls House is a worthwhile experience.

More Ways to Experience Beaufort’s Rich History

If you’re a history buff or simply take an interest in the area’s fascinating past, we recommend taking a look at our blogs on the Beaufort National Cemetery, Fort Fremont, and the John Mark Verdier House. You can also check out our guide to the best downtown Beaufort attractions!

Complete Your Stay at the Cuthbert House Inn


Bedroom and balcony view

After exploring the historic neighborhoods of Beaufort which contain gems like the Robert Smalls House, make your way back to the Cuthbert House Inn for a relaxing stay. Our charming B&B is centrally located in Beaufort, meaning you’ll have easy access to all the best activities and attractions in the area! Enjoy stunning waterfront or garden views from each of our cozy accommodations, luxurious amenities, and a delicious breakfast each morning.

One of our most popular guest rooms is the Oaks Room. Enjoy this beautifully restored space featuring heart pine floors, old sash windows, a comfortable queen-sized bed, charming decorations, and marble shower with rain head. You’ll love relaxing on the second-floor portico overlooking magnificent live oaks and our courtyard garden!

Check availability of the Oaks Room and all accommodation now and book your stay today! We can’t wait to host you on the perfect Beaufort vacation!


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Bedroom with queen bed with upholstered headboard and dresser with an oval mirror


Oaks Room

Corner of a bedroom with yellow walls, TV over a white dresser, floral sitting chair and doorway into a bathroom


Courtyard Room

Bright bedroom with two queen beds, built ins with decorative items and two large windows


Garden Room

Bedroom with blue walls, queen bed with large antique headboard and footboard, red sitting chair by a bright window


Victoria Room

King bed with black and yellow headboard, table with lamp and bright window


Hideaway Room

Bright bedroom with king-sized canopy bed, fireplace and doorway into a bathroom


Federal Room

Large king room with four poster bed, four large windows with curtains and antique furniture




Cozy bedroom with king bed, coral shaped lamps on bedside tables and hanging artwork


Coastal Suite

Unique bedroom with king four poster bed, brick wall with arch detail, sitting chair and doorway into a bathroom


Mariner Suite

Bedroom with green walls, king four poster bed, and bright windows with floral curtains


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