A holiday by candlelight at Columbia’s historic homes
Posted 12/30/2010 7:52:00 PM
While most of the state spent the past few weeks in the Christmas hustle and bustle, two blocks of Columbia
spent the holidays in another time -- 1860.
The Historic Columbia Foundation
celebrated the holidays by showing off the Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Robert Mills House with special candlelight tours. In the dim, romantic candlelight visitors not only got to see these magnificent houses, but got a true feeling of what it would have been like to live in those houses in a time before electricity or even gas lamps.
The twinkling candles highlighted the wonderful, natural Christmas decorations in the houses. The greenery, berries, pine cones, fruit, flowers and feathers that decorated the mantles and table settings made me question the fortune I’d spent on lights and decorations; many of these simple, natural decorations came from the houses’ grounds.
In order to complete the effect of an 1860s Christmas, costumed volunteers in waistcoats and hoop skirts greeted us in many of the rooms. In these vignettes, the performers not only shared their yuletide traditions but also their anxieties; in South Carolina, the Christmastime of 1860 was also the eve of secession.
Although the candlelight tours are a once a year event for the holidays, you can visit these two remarkable buildings all year. The Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Robert Mills House are open for tours Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to each house is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, military and college students, $3 for kids ages 6-17, and free for children 5 and under. Discounts for AAA members and their children as well as combination tickets are available.