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Tabby Building Material

To most of the English-speaking world, the word tabby brings to mind dapple-coated cats, but along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina it means something else entirely. Here, tabby is a traditional building material, commonly used in the 17th and 18th centuries and still employed to give a regional signature to modern-day structures.

Tabby is made from sand, oyster shells, and lime. Originally, the lime was leeched out of oyster shells by burning them; today all but the most die-hard traditionalists simply use packaged lime, which is mixed with shells, sand, and water to make a cement. At one time entire structures were made from tabby, but now it's most commonly used as a facing, like stucco, and is distinguishable by the shell fragments clearly visible in the finished product. The origins of tabby are disputed. The prevailing theories are either that it came from African culture via the slave trade, or that it was the creation of Spanish settlers.

Updated: 09-2013

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