The Hampton Plantation house surprised me. I did not expect the building to have retained so much of its historic fabric and be interpreted in such a unique way.
The building, located 35 miles north of Charleston, South Carolina, near McClellanville, originated as a one-and-a-half story farmhouse built in 1735. In the 1760s, Daniel Horry had wings and a story added to the house to give it a Georgian appearance. False windows were situated on the second floor facade to retain symmetry. The property became a successful rice plantation, and the Horrys intermarried with the Pinckneys and later the Rutledges, families that included important early state and national leaders.
Francis Marion, the Revolutionary War hero who is as revered as George Washington in that part of the state, reportedly fled the house as British soldiers approached. Speaking of the first president, he too visited Hampton. According to his diary, he had breakfast at the plantation while on his tour of the southern states in 1791. The two-story Adams-style portico and pediment were reportedly added shortly before Washington’s visit.
The property continued to be utilized as a rice plantation through the Civil War, when the slave labor system that had brought the plantation so much prosperity was abolished. Archibald Rutledge, South Carolina’s first poet laureate, returned to his childhood home in 1937 and oversaw a restoration of the house. He wrote a book about his experiences, “Home By the River.” In 1971, the Rutledges gave the property to the South Carolina State Park Service. It was restored again and opened to the public. It is a National Historic Landmark. For more on the property’s history, go here.
I toured the plantation earlier this month and was impressed by the state park. The grounds of the 274-acre property are free to visit, but the half hour guided tour of the house costs $4 per person. My guide, Jan, was extremely knowledgeable about the property’s history and owners. She also gave equal attention to the blacks, both slave and free, who labored on the land.
Like Drayton Hall, which I believe is the gold standard for historic plantation houses, there are no furnishings inside the house. However, unlike Drayton Hall, there were descriptive panels in each room throughout the house, which I felt were unnecessary because only guided tours are allowed. I also spotted a few electric fans and metal folding chairs, and non-historic materials such as drywall were added in places. As you will see from the pictures below, the house has been restored to its post-1790 appearance. The house’s interior is most notable for what it lacks in places: ceilings and walls. This allows visitors to see the post-and-beam structural system and how the house evolved over time.