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Historic Columbia’s properties include more than 14 acres of landscapes, featuring gardens that range from an expansive park-like setting with an elaborate formal garden to a traditional 19th-century swept yard.
Due to its use by educational and religious institutions, grounds of the Robert Mills House never featured ornamental gardens. After Historic Columbia saved the property in 1960, gardens were created. Today, the gardens are a combination of an early 1970s landscape design, hallmarks of 19th century English-style gardens and the accomplishments of contemporary gardeners. Open to the public and available for special event rentals, the grounds of the Robert Mills House are an inviting green space set within an urban environment.
Mother-daughter duo Mary Cantey Hampton and Caroline Hampton Preston began improving the four-acre grounds around the mansion in the late 1830s. They transformed the landscape into regionally-acclaimed antebellum gardens that contained a remarkable collection of native varieties and plants from around the world. One of Columbia’s most heavily documented historic estates, Historic Columbia seeks to revitalize the 4-acre property in the spirit and design of the antebellum gardens. Plans for a 3-phase, multi-year implementation began with the revitalization of the southern portion of the property, with ground broken in January 2012. Learn more about the garden restoration project and make a donation.
Long celebrated for its beautiful garden, the Seibels House garden is often mentioned in 19th- and 20th-century travelogues and articles. The garden received a comprehensive transformation in 2007 through the vision of contemporary horticulturist A. Jenkins Farmer, featuring a revitalized landscape that merges existing historic elements with heritage plantings to showcase the contributions of generations of gardeners.
Reportedly designed under the influence of Jessie Wilson, the future president's mother, the landscape was divided into the formal front yard and working back yards, which included vegetable and flower beds as well as a kitchen house, privy and carriage house. While little documentation of the property exists from the time of the Wilson family's occupation, records indicate that roses, tea olives, crepe myrtle, japonica, and other shrubs were planted in the front yard, implying its use as a decorative garden area. Rehabilitated in 2013, large magnolias line the front of the property, shading a Victorian garden in the spirit of Jessie Wilson’s vision.
The Mann-Simons Outdoor Museum features five “ghost structures,” frames of buildings that once stood on the site, including a former lunch counter, grocery store, outhouse and residences. Interactive interpretative signage tells the story of these former structures. The front yard reflects the traditional plants and the swept-yard common among African-American homes of the late 19th through early 20th centuries.
In 2006, Historic Columbia began consulting with garden enthusiasts, community leaders and city planners to create the Cultural Landscape Master Plan for the Robert Mills Historic District. The CLMP is an in-depth proposal to reestablish Columbia as a destination known for its rich gardens. The document has become the roadmap for HC’s systematic installation of gardens and for the creation of pedestrian and interpretive linkage systems designed to unify the 12-square block historic district. Learn more about the Cultural Landscape Master Plan.
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