Are you familiar with tabby cement?
If you’ve ever explored Lowcountry here in the USA, chances are you’ve seen houses, churches, or other structures made out of what looks like concrete mixed with oyster shells. That’s tabby!
Also known as “coastal concrete,” tabby is a construction material made by burning oyster shells to create lime, which is then mixed with water, sand, ash and more shells. The result is a cement-like substance that can be used in the same way as you would use cement blocks, bricks or stones to build homes, buildings, bunkers and the like.
Although nobody knows for sure the actual world origin of tabby cement or how long it’s been around, tabby is believed to have been first introduced to the USA by Spanish explorers, who brought it to Florida in the 16th century, and then by the British, who introduced it to Georgia and South Carolina in the 17th century. It became hugely popular as a building material at the time thanks to the readily available oyster shells found along the southeastern coastline, as well as the availability of slave labor to manage the extremely labor-intensive task of collecting, crushing and burning the shells.
Tabby is an important part of the historic landscape in the South and can be found in a number of old plantation homes and ruins along the southeastern coast. Most of the surviving tabby structures today are protected due to their cultural and architectural significance, including Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island where these images were taken.