Join Historic Columbia for the reopening of the Hampton-Preston Mansion & Gardens, one of South Carolina’s oldest urban estates, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 12. In commemoration of the site’s 200th anniversary, Historic Columbia will debut an updated interpretation, new exhibits, hands-on interactive elements, expanded public gardens, a new exterior paint scheme and further improvements to the site’s structure and grounds.
This event will feature house and garden tours, special presentations, children’s games and crafts, a 1910s calisthenics class, quadrille dance lessons, food trucks and more. Additionally, Historic Columbia also will offer a variety of plants for sale that have been propagated from its 14 acres of gardens and grounds.
“We have spent nearly two decades meticulously researching this site and the persons who once lived, worked and visited Hampton-Preston since its establishment 200 years ago,” said Robin Waites, Historic Columbia’s executive director. “The narrative – delivered through guided tours, digital interactives and hands on elements – will be more balanced and will represent all voices, including the enslaved people who lived and worked at the site.”
This milestone reopening will showcase the historic property in unprecedented ways intended to broaden appreciation for both the property and the people associated with it from 1818 through the mid-20th century. Improvements to the site include:
- Interpretive: Thanks to new research findings, the interpretation and new exhibits at the site will offer greater information about the enslaved African and African American people 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 and those barred access to the property during its later uses as the campus of two women’s colleges and as a tourist home.
- Gardens: Thanks to a major gift from the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation, the garden’s central section is being returned to its 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. New features in the gardens include: an urban arboretum densely populated with trees, 20,500 square feet of new pathways, 55,000 square feet of newly irrigated planting space and a variety of period-appropriate plants and garden structures. In addition, repairs have been made to the perimeter wall as and lighting and irrigation systems have been installed.
- Capital Improvements: One of the most visible changes to the property is the updated exterior color scheme, which has shifted to an ochre yellow and brown scheme – one more appropriate to its antebellum history. Further capital repairs address the preservation of this important ca.-1818 structure, which include a new HVAC system and waterproofing measures, including site drainage to mitigate interior moisture levels. Inside, the building’s main hall now features a reproduction early-19thcentury oil floor cloth and a wall treatment mimicking cut stone or ashlar, an aesthetic effect original to the 1810s through 1830s.
This comprehensive rehabilitation is made possible thanks to the generosity of AgFirst, The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation, Central Carolina Community Foundation, the Graham Family Foundation, National Trust for Historic Places, Palmetto Garden Club, Richland County Conservation Commission, South Carolina Humanities and Synovus/NBSC. For additional information about this project, visit HistoricColumbia/HP200.
The reopening event will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 12 at the Hampton Preston Mansion and Gardens, located at 1615 Blanding Street. Tickets are $5/adult and $3/youth for members, and $8/adult and $5/youth for non-members. Visit HistoricColumbia.org, call (803) 252-1770 x. 23 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and register.
In November 1961, a small group of individuals intent on saving the Ainsley Hall House from demolition officially incorporated as the Historic Columbia Foundation. Over the next five decades the organization, which was founded on the premise of preservation and education, would take on the stewardship of seven historic properties in Richland County. Today, the organization serves as a model for local preservation efforts and interpretation of local history. Visit historiccolumbia.org or find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube for more details.
Featured photo: The gardens at Hampton-Preston are being returned to their 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. Image courtesy of Historic Columbia.