Hampton-Preston Turns 200
Hampton-Preston is now open
2018 marked the 200th anniversary of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, one of South Carolina’s oldest structures. To commemorate this milestone, we reopened the site on May 12 with 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.
Hampton-Preston Now Open
Tours of the reinterpreted site are available Tuesday through Sunday. Check our hours and pricing to find a time that works for you!
The new interpretation – presented through guided tours, new exhibits at the site, period vignettes, hands-on activities and digital elements – critically explores historical perspectives beyond the mansion’s antebellum owners and their planter-class peers. These enhancements have dramatically built upon the foundational exhibit Home to Many People, which debuted 15 years ago and provided the first significant coverage of the roles enslaved people played at the site and in Columbia in general. This exhibit has been further developed and integrated into both of the site’s main floors to ensure a more balanced representation of African and African American voices. We also debuted new interpretive panels and exterior wayside signage, as well as a supplementary tablet tour and a variety of artifacts.
With the oversight of our Garden Committee, we completed Phase II of the Hampton-Preston garden rehabilitation, which is outlined in our Cultural Landscape Master Plan. This much-anticipated phase returned the garden’s central sections to the historic site’s horticultural “golden age” (1840s-60s). Work included installing an urban arboretum densely populated with trees, re-establishing historic pathways and plant beds, introducing period-appropriate plant materials and garden structures, and repairing the perimeter wall as well as introducing electrical and irrigation systems.
The property has undergone many capital improvements, which are environmentally intertwined and holistically address the preservation of this important 1818 structure. The Richland County-owned property has received a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system; waterproofing measures, including site drainage to mitigate interior moisture levels; and a stucco assessment and replacement. Most dramatic changes included the site's exterior color.
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Imagine having a story to share with others but being unable to do so. Perhaps, no one wanted to hear what you had to say—even if your contribution would make everyone’s experience more meaningful. Maybe your voice was muted intentionally; maybe it was quieted, or silenced altogether, through circumstances, including the passage of time. Now imagine being someone who finally hears what was being said, maybe not fully, but enough to better appreciate your experiences.Learn More
In 1970, following months of rehabilitation and restoration work, the circa-1818 Hampton-Preston Mansion opened as the centerpiece of the Midlands Exposition Center, one of three major state-run facilities established for celebrating the 300th anniversary of South Carolina’s founding. At that time, reverence for the site’s association with Wade Hampton I drove many decisions on how the site was presented to visitors. Far less emphasis was placed on Mary Cantey Hampton, Wade I’s third wife, who, ironically, spent far more time at the urban estate, from 1823, when he bought the property until her passing in 1863, forty years after his death.Learn More
Like most older buildings, the Hampton-Preston Mansion has evolved over time. Today, it stands as an amalgamation of changes, some large, some small, all interesting in their own right. Each change offers clues about the people who designed, built and subsequently modified the former residence so that it could perform in new ways physically and/or aesthetically. Discerning how the building changed over time unfolds like a detective story, through study of the structure and by poring over historic documents, images and maps, among other things. Individually, each resource or approach tells its own version of the past.Learn More
In November 1943, local real estate developer and lawyer Thomas Hair bought the former Hampton-Preston estate, which had been placed to many uses since Chicora College left Columbia nearly 15 years earlier. Banking on the property’s widely known association with members of Columbia’s and South Carolina’s most elite families, Hair repurposed the former antebellum destination as a tourist home with the goal of bringing back the “hospitality of the Old South,” as reported by The State newspaper. Hair’s targeted patronage was white travelers who either could not afford or chose not to stay at more expensive downtown hotels.Learn More
The gardens of the Hampton-Preston Mansion were one of the most celebrated in the antebellum south. With so much space to fill, we have relied on several sources to narrow our focus for plant material. While no explicit records of the content of the gardens exists from the Hamptons or Prestons, there are numerous visitor accounts of the gardens and the City of Columbia during that time. Along with this information, we rely on the catalogues of Pomaria Nurseries, which operated near what is now the town of Pomaria in Newberry County. This nursery was one of the largest and most important nurseries in the southern United States, supplying nearly all of the gardens of our region with hardy and exotic plants from around the world.Learn More
At Historic Columbia, we have the great responsibility of being the stewards of the unique Richland County-owned site that is Hampton-Preston. Since reopening the Woodrow Wilson Family Home in 2014, our organization has shown an unwavering commitment to tell a more complete and inclusive history at all the sites that...
Thank you to our sponsors!
Support from the following sponsors have helped make this project possible.