Kilburnie, the Inn at Craig Farm, has stood for nearly 200 years, its longevity a testament to beautiful architecture and meticulous renovation. Thought to be the oldest standing structure in the town of Lancaster, the house was slated for demolition in the 1990s. Dilapidated and ready for the wrecking ball, the destiny of the once-stunning home suddenly brightened when the current proprietors saw something redeemable amid the ruins.
On the move
The 1827 home originally stood on White Street in Lancaster. In a major undertaking, it was taken apart and transported about 3 miles to the grounds of historic Craig Farm in 1999.
“In order to be moved, the second and third story and the two-story porch had to be dismantled, board by board and beam by beam,” said Johannes Tromp, who recognized the building’s architectural appeal and believed in its potential. Along with John E. Craig of Craig Farm, Tromp saved the home and began the tedious and lengthy tasks of relocation, restoration and renovation. “All lumber was marked for proper reconstruction. Only the first story, a block 30 feet-by-40 feet, was moved in one piece.”
Reassembled and outfitted with updated plumbing, electricity, central climate control and other modern-day creature comforts, the inn was officially opened in 2000 by Gov. Jim Hodges. Since then, scores of guests have been welcomed at the gracious home, drawn by the promise of refined respite amid the bucolic setting of the pre-Civic War Craig Farm, owned by Tromp and descendants of the original Craig family.
About Craig Farm
After Scotsman John E. Craig, Esquire, immigrated to South Carolina from Northern Ireland in 1772, he received land through a grant from King George III. Craig and his sons established their home and farm, and fought for it in Revolutionary War battles waged across the region. Before the Civil War, their property spanned more than 1,000 acres. Today, nearly 400 acres of the original Craig land comprises the farm where cattle are raised by the current generation.
“Kilburnie is set among pastoral rolling hills, woodland and pasture lands,” said Tromp, who encourages guests to explore the trails and gardens, and tour the historic farm house just across the way.
Situated in a geographical region called the Carolina Volcanic Slate Belt, a hotbed of volcanic and seismic activity millions of years ago, the trails around Kilburnie are punctuated with metamorphosed sandstone, slate and milky white vein quartz. The area was once a gold mining hot spot, too. You'd be hard-pressed to discover a nugget now, but it’s likely you’ll feel a stay at Kilburnie is akin to striking gold.
While the grounds are alluring, if you choose to spend most of your time basking in the beauty of the house, you’ll be well justified. A blend of Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian influences, the inn boasts a European-Southern charm rooted in architecture and history. One of the most notable features is found in its public rooms. Though the home’s original plaster crown molding could not be saved in the renovation, nationally renowned South Carolina artist, Jim Shore, painstakingly reproduced the elaborate wall frieze in the breakfast room and parlor.
The same attention to detail is apparent in all five guest rooms, each outfitted with antiques, working fireplaces and en-suite bathrooms with soothing hydrotherapy whirlpool tubs and separate enclosed showers. There’s cable television and Bose wave radios, too. The decor and furnishings are fine, but decidedly unfussy and uncluttered, which adds to the spacious feel of the rooms.
The attic suite, named for Revolutionary War partisan Capt. James Walkup, is especially roomy with a separate fireside sitting room and sweeping property views from the second story porch.
The artwork and furnishings of the Robert Mills/Palladio room pay homage to 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio and South Carolina architect Robert Mills, the first trained architect in the US whose work is thought to have inspired the original design of Kilburnie.
The Ann Beard Crawford room is named for the second owner of Kilburnie, who bought the home in the early 1800s and named it for her family’s ancestral home in Scotland. One distinctive feature of this room are the drawings and etchings of famous women who lived during Revolutionary War times.
The Gov. William Richardson Davie room, inspired by a Revolutionary War era political figure who grew up near Kilburnie, features the original heart pine floors as well as rare battle prints. Two gas-log fireplaces – one in the bedroom and one in the bathroom – distinguish the President Andrew Jackson room. Appropriately, the room is appointed with prints and etchings of Jackson and his wife, some of them rare.
Comfortable beds by night give way to amazing breakfasts by day. The highlight of hospitality at Kilburnie is found at the table. A European-trained chef and former restaurateur, Tromp knows his way around the kitchen. Sit down to piping hot apple cider muffins, rich oven-shirred eggs, cold strawberry soup or Southern pecan peaches, a house specialty in which the fruit is halved, filled with a brown-sugar pecan mixture, then broiled in the oven. It’s an experience that indulges all the senses.
Things to do
While Kilburnie is just a short drive from Charlotte, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Lancaster, part of the Olde English Tourism District. Call ahead to check dates and times of operation.
* Don’t miss nearby Andrew Jackson State Park, where you’ll find a museum, a replica of an 18th century school house and ongoing living history programs. Secure a fishing license and bring your gear along to try your luck in the stocked lake.
* Visit the working studio of famed artist Bob Doster and marvel at the outdoor botanical and sculpture garden accented by more than 50 ponds and waterfalls.
* Once held by the Catawba Indian Tribe, Lancaster is home to the Catawba Reservation. See the most expansive collection of Catawba pottery and more at the Native American Studies Center of University of South Carolina-Lancaster.
* You’ll want to go aboard the Lancaster & Chester Railroad Museum, which houses hundreds of rare South Carolina railway photographs as well as an impressive operating layout of the L and C Railway.
* There are several golf courses in the area, including Edgewater Golf Club, offering a public, championship-caliber course.
* When it’s time to eat, Lancaster boasts a wide selection of dining options. Some of the most popular include Charley’s Cafe and Catering, serving chicken, seafood and steaks; Leigh Ann’s Restaurant, home of “meat-and-three” comfort food plates; and Mully’s, a Southern buffet.
As your host, Tromp wants to make your stay one to remember, so he’s happy to suggest an itinerary or assist you with your dining plans. He’s also your source should you wish to delve deeper into the rich background of the inn, the farm and the town of Lancaster. These lively history lessons are just one more amenity that make time spent at Kilburnie a true escape from the daily grind.