Confederate veteran William Peter Beckman, who had been stationed in McClellanville during the Civil War, remained in the fishing village after the war’s end and opened a store on the lot beneath the beloved Deerhead Oak in 1867. As more people moved to villages from rural plantations after emancipation, merchants such as Beckman found great success. Beckman’s store was the first in McClellanville. Around 1868 he built this stately two-and-a-half story house and relocated his business to the ground floor. The store continued to prosper in its new location on Pinckney Street, the town’s main road. Legend holds that the Greek Revival home had secret holes in the upstairs floor so that Beckman could monitor business transactions below.
Education was important to Beckman, who built a schoolhouse in 1875 near his home for his many children. The small school building housed a classroom downstairs and living quarters for a teacher upstairs. The Beckmans continued adding to their family over the years, necessitating a new home. Local stories state that Beckman built another grand house in 1886, also on Pinckney Street. Other records claim the house was built in 1901 for William Beckman’s son, Ludwig Armstrong Beckman, who indeed lived in the house. Both Beckman residences are still extant, and the park in which the Deerhead Oak stands remains in the Beckman family.
The William P. Beckman House is listed in the National Register as part of the McClellanville Historic District:
The McClellanville Historic District contains a collection of approximately 105 residential, commercial, religious and educational properties dating from ca. 1860 to ca. 1935. This collection is architecturally significant as an illustration of the founding of a pineland resort village and its development into a small but stable year-round commercial fishing village. McClellanville begin in the late 1850s as a summer retreat for St. James Santee and Georgetown planters. The prevailing vernacular forms, especially the central hall farmhouse, predominated in early McClellanville architecture, although the more fashionable architectural styles began to receive attention and can be seen throughout the town: Carpenter Gothic, Queen Anne, and Italianate with a rare Colonial Revival example. The commercial strip developed in the early 20th century and are of frame construction built directly on the road. The historic district is visually unified by the nearly ubiquitous wooden frame construction, by the consistent scale of the house, lots, and their relation to the banks of the creek, by the tremendous live oak trees that permeate the town, and by the relative absence of contemporary commercial intrusions.