Four Historic Upstate Homes Preserve Heritage of Old South

By:Marie McAden

Imagine living in a house with no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing — such was life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Four historic homes in the Upstate bring to life both the hardships and privilege of the times for some of South Carolina's wealthiest families. Fort Hill and Ashtabula served as plantation homes, while Woodburn was a summer retreat built to entertain large numbers of guests. The Hanover House, originally constructed in Berkeley County, dates back to 1716.

All four historic homes are open to the public for tours.

Fort Hill

Originally a Presbyterian manse built in 1803, the original structure was expanded about 1825 to serve as the plantation home of John C. Calhoun, a prominent South Carolina congressman who went on to serve as vice president for Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams.

Calhoun’s son-in-law, Thomas Green Clemson, inherited the property and bequeathed it to the state of South Carolina for the establishment of a scientific and agricultural college. His will specified that Fort Hill should be open to the public seven days a week. Most of the furnishings in the antebellum home, office and kitchen were owned by the two families.

Unique Features: The Windsor chair in the parlor belonged to George Washington. In the state dining room you’ll find several notable pieces of furniture, including Calhoun’s banquet table and chairs designed by Duncan Phyfe about 1820 and a sideboard made of mahogany from the USS Constitution, the famous frigate known as “Old Ironsides.” It was a gift to Calhoun from US Senator Henry Clay.

The Details: Located at 102 Fort Hill St. on the Clemson University campus, Fort Hill is open from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2-4:30 p.m. Sundays. A suggested admission donation is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children.

Hanover House

The second oldest wooden structure in South Carolina, the two-story inland plantation home was built in 1716 for French Huguenot Paul de St. Julien in Berkeley County. Its French-influenced design features a gambrel roof, siding hewn from black cypress timbers and triple-flute chimneys.

Threatened by the flooding of Lake Moultrie in the early 1940s, the home was taken apart and rebuilt on the campus of Clemson University, home to the state’s architecture school. Five decades later, it was moved one and a half miles away to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens.

Unique Features: In honor of his French heritage, St. Julien inscribed in the mortar of one chimney “Peu a Peu,” from the French proverb “Little by little the bird builds its nest.” The house is furnished with 18th and 19th century period artifacts typical of the Lowcountry lifestyle.

Details: Hanover House is located on the grounds of the South Carolina Botanical Garden at 150 Garden Trail in Clemson. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-4:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2-4:30 p.m. Sundays. A suggested admission donation is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children.

Ashtabula

The legacy of Ashtabula dates back to 1790 when Samuel Lofton was granted 320 acres of land for his service in the Revolutionary War. He built a two-story brick house made up of two stacked rooms on each side of a common chimney. It was used as a traveler’s inn and tavern until 1823.

Lewis Ladson Gibbes and his wife Maria Drayton Gibbes, both of prominent Charleston families, bought the property to start a cotton plantation and built a large clapboard farmhouse to accommodate their 10 children.

The house was later expanded to four over four rooms, with a 42-foot long center hallway and a wraparound piazza on three sides. A passageway also was added to connect the new house with the original brick structure. It’s third owner, James T. Latta, named it Ashtabula, a Cherokee word meaning “river of many fish."

Unique features: The parlor in the “big house” features jib windows, which can be opened from the bottom to provide ventilation and access to the piazza, expanding the entertainment area. In the original brick house, the winding stairway to the second floor rooms is accessible only from the outside. Travelers who stayed the night could find themselves sharing a bed with two or three others, if they were lucky enough to get a bed at all.

Details: Located at 2725 Old Greenville Hwy. in Pendleton, Ashtabula is open to the public from 2-5 p.m. Sundays April to October. The Pendleton Historic Foundation also offers private tours by appointment year round. Admission is $6 for adults, $2 for children ages 5 to 10. To schedule a tour, call 864.646.7249.

Woodburn

In 1815, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of Charleston purchased 650 acres near Pendleton to build a magnificent summer plantation residence that could accommodate and entertain large numbers of guests. Designed in the architectural tradition of Caribbean plantation homes, the clapboard house featured oversized doors, high ceilings and a grand dining room. It was built on a hilltop to take advantage of the breezes and offer views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Dr. John B. Adger, a wealthy Presbyterian minister from Charleston, purchased Woodburn in 1852 and enlarged the farm to more than 1,000 acres. He also added the two-story piazzas that make the appearance of the house so distinctive today.

Jane Edna Hunter, the daughter of a slave who went on to establish the Working Girls Association in Cleveland, was born in a tenant farmhouse at Woodburn in 1882. A replica of a double slave cabin, a one-room pioneer cabin and Adger’s gothic revival carriage house also are located on the property.

Unique features: Pinckney raised the hearth in the basement to ease the burden on slaves having to lift heavy pots into the fireplace. The original bed used by Adger and his wife can be found in one of the upstairs rooms. Despite the norms of the period, the two slept together. Inside the carriage house is Thomas Green Clemson’s traveling coach and a Conestoga wagon.

Details: Located at 130 History Lane in Pendleton, Woodburn is open to the public from 2-5 p.m. Sundays April to October. Private tours are offered by appointment year round. Admission is $6 for adults, $2 for children ages 5 to 10. To schedule a tour, call 864.646.7249.

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