As far back as you can see in our history, you will find the oyster playing a huge role in South Carolina. The most visible reminders we have of the Paleo Indians who once called Hilton Head Island home are the massive shell rings they left behind. Scholars are split as to whether the rings hold any ritualistic significance or if the Indians just happened to discard their shells in a ring around camp, but either way, they clearly went through some oysters.

Fast forward a few centuries, and you will find oysters playing a huge role in the antebellum period of South Carolina’s history. The structures from that period were largely made from a material called tabby, which was composed of oyster shells. Once again, we see these bivalves playing a large role in our history.

But perhaps no period in South Carolina history owes as much to the oyster as the early 20th century, the “Heyday of the Canner.” During the period of time from around 1900-1945, the oyster industry was one of the state’s biggest industries. At its peak in the late 20s and early 30s, oystering accounted for up to 3,500 jobs with 27 shucking houses lining the shore up and down the ocean.

Today, Bluffton Oyster Factory is the last of the old shucking houses, the only reminder of an industry that once powered South Carolina.

Shell Art TrailIn celebration of these beautiful creatures that encrust the banks of our tidal creeks, Charter One Realty has partnered with the Lowcountry Oyster Trail, showcasing a stunning work of art by local artist, Julie Jones. Additional artwork by Julie Jones can be found HERE

The Shell Art Trail is a public Art Display throughout Bluffton, SC. The art trail is designed to be fun, interactive, and educational. The purpose of the Shell Art Trail is to promote the importance of the local Lowcountry marine ecosystem and help marine restoration efforts throughout the region.

The Shell Art Trail consists of 21 giant oyster sculptures places throughout Bluffton. Each sculpture has been sponsored by a local business and individually painted by a local artist, making each oyster a work of art. Download the digital map and Shell Art Trail Passbook for oyster locations. As you travel the trail, inspect each oyster carefully as each oyster provides a unique oyster fact and it holds the answers to the Passbook scavenger hunt. 

Posted by Paige Rose on
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