Historic Columbia is excited to announce significant progress on the much-anticipated improvements to the Hampton-Preston Mansion & Gardens, the second oldest building under Historic Columbia’s care. The property is currently undergoing a significant transformation, including massive additions to the gardens, a holistic re-evaluation and restructuring of the site’s interpretation, and capital repairs to the building.
Due to rehabilitative work, Historic Columbia will temporarily close the Hampton-Preston Mansion for public tours beginning on Monday, March 12. The last public tour will be this Sunday, March 11 at 2:30 p.m. Construction permitting, the gardens may close at times to the public. Hampton-Preston will reopen for tours on Saturday, May 12 at a public event.
“After years of thorough research and careful planning, we are eager to present a new interpretive framework that invites our visitors to critically explore historical perspectives of both the mansion’s antebellum owners and the enslaved individuals who lived and worked at the site,” said Robin Waites, Historic Columbia’s executive director. “Additionally, the rehabilitation in the gardens will provide an expansive and historically-inspired green space for the public to experience.”
The unveiling of this work will be coupled with the 200th anniversary of the construction of the mansion. This milestone reopening will showcase the historic property in unprecedented ways intended to broaden appreciation for both the property and the people associate with it from 1818 through the mid-20th century. Improvements to the site include:
Garden improvements: The rehabilitation will return the garden’s central sections to the historic site’s horticultural “golden age” (1840s-60s), a time when it was regionally-acclaimed for its remarkable collection of native varieties and plants from around the world. Work will include installing an urban arboretum densely populated with trees, re-establishing historic pathways and plant beds, introducing period-appropriate plant materials and garden structures, and repairing the perimeter wall as well as introducing lighting and irrigation systems.
Once complete, there will be 20,500 square feet of new pathways and 55,000 square feet of newly irrigated planting space. Historic Columbia has a master inventory of 50+ trees that have either already been planted or will be planted in the coming weeks. The robust collection of trees and plants includes diversity of species and will continue to expand as the garden develops. Resources for the selections are wide ranging and include historic periodicals referencing Columbia’s gardens, Jim Cothran’s book Gardens and Historic Plants of the Antebellum South, Restoring American Gardens, Fruitlands Nursery catalog, Pomaria Nursery catalog, research from Historic Columbia’s Cultural Landscape Master Plan and more.
These garden improvements are made possible through a private donation from The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation, Inc. Ongoing garden support is made possible by AgFirst, the Central Carolina Community Foundation and the Palmetto Garden Club.
Thanks to new research findings, Historic Columbia soon will offer greater information about the enslaved African and African American individuals who once worked and lived at the site. This coverage, and further information about the owners who held them in bondage, will result in a more holistic understanding of the site and the institution of slavery that framed the South’s racial, social and economic character. Further discoveries—about the site after the Civil War—grant insight into the black and white people associated with (or barred access to) the property during its later uses as the campus of two women’s colleges and as a tourist home.
Historic Columbia staff have spent the past several years gathering new archival sources and developing this new interpretive framework, which will feature a diverse group of women, men and children who lived and worked at the property from the mansion’s construction in 1818 through the South Carolina Tricentennial celebration in 1970.
These interpretive improvements are made possible through funding from AgFirst, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Richland County Conservation Commission, South Carolina Humanities and Synovus/NBSC.
The property is also undergoing capital improvements, which will be environmentally intertwined and will holistically address the preservation of this important 1818 structure. The Richland County-owned property will receive a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system; waterproofing measures, including site drainage to mitigate interior moisture levels; and a stucco replacement. These capital improvements are made possible through the support of Richland County.
For updates on this project, please follow the hashtag #HPturns200 on social media and visit HistoricColumbia/HP200.