Hampton Plantation House

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.

It could use a fresh coat of paint or whitewash. Being a state-run historic site, it probably does not receive adequate funding.

The tour begins at the back entrance near the garden planted by Archibald Rutledge.

Archaeologists removed bricks from this fireplace to study its evolution.

A well-crafted fireplace and paneled wall. You can’t tell from this picture, but this room has a blue, arched ceiling.

Some of the original wallpaper was exposed.

This is one of the front rooms in which the ceiling is raised, making the second floor windows purely decorative.

Exposed beams.

Partially finished ceiling.

Back room.

The room has been unlevel since the 1886 earthquake. My sister’s backside is to the right.

The open second floor certainly saved on restoration costs. The wall is where the 1760s addition was put on.

Two women in the family etched their marriage dates on the door in 1768 and 1789.

The exposed lathes atop the first floor arched ceiling. The charred post to the left is evidence of a long ago fire.

George Washington supposedly requested that this tree near the front of the house be spared during his 1791 visit.

What a guy.

The portico added before Washington’s visit.

Arched vaults underneath the front portico.

An excellent example of Georgian architecture.

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2 Comments

Filed under South Carolina

2 responses to “Hampton Plantation House

  1. Thanks for the informative and interesting blog post. I was researching a photo I found in a 1949 issue of “HOLIDAY” magazine when I came across your post about the plantation. The caption on the image I have refers to it as the Archibald Rutledge Plantation House. I’d be happy to send you a copy of the image if you are interested.

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