True tabby is made of equal parts lime, water, sand, oyster shells, and ash. The ash is a byproduct
In 1702 the British lay siege to Spanish-held St. Augustine, Florida, where tabby had been in use for over a century. Soon afterward, tabby structures began appearing in the British colony of South Carolina. James Oglethorpe, who had seen tabby military structures near Port Royal, South Carolina,
James Spalding purchased Oglethorpe's house in 1771. His son Thomas was born there in 1774 and became a leading agriculturist and political figure of his day. Thomas Spalding's advocacy of tabby on his Sapelo Island plantation led to a tabby revival that lasted into the 1840s; tabby from this period is sometimes called "Spalding tabby." The end of slavery; the depletion of materials, especially the middens; and the introduction from England of Portland cement (made by burning limestone and clay) by 1870 led to another decline in the use of tabby.
When Jekyll Island was developed as a millionaire's retreat in the 1880s, another tabby revival occurred, and several mansions on the island were built of tabby mixed with Portland cement. Although the use of traditional tabby virtually disappeared after 1925, tabby construction is not totally
Among the existing examples of true tabby structures in Georgia today are the Wormsloe Plantation outside Savannah, the Horton-DuBignon House on Jekyll Island, and the ruins of Spalding's plantation on Sapelo Island.
E. Merton Coulter, ed., Georgia's Disputed Ruins: Certain Tabby Ruins on the Georgia Coast, by Marmaduke Floyd; An Archaeological Report on the Elizafield Ruins, by James A. Ford; Observations on the Method of Planting and Cultivating the Sugar-Cane in Georgia and South Carolina, by Thomas Spalding (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1937).
Lauren B. Sickels-Taves, The Lost Art of Tabby: Preserving Oglethorpe's Architectural Legacy (Southfield, Mich.: Architectural Conservation Press, 1999).
Buddy Sullivan, Tabby: A Historical Perspective of an Antebellum Building Material in McIntosh County, Georgia ([Darien, Ga.?]: n.p., 1998).
Susan D. Morris, University of Georgia Libraries
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