Historic Columbia breaks ground on state-of-the-art greenhouse and gatehouse at Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens

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Wednesday, August 4th 2021

Ground Breaking

Historic Columbia (HC) on Wednesday officially broke ground on a state-of-the-art greenhouse and historically inspired gatehouse on the grounds of the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens. The ceremony, held on the back lawn of the Richland County-owned property, marked the latest in a long line of grounds upgrades generously supported by the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation.

Through its investment of more than $1.5 million dollars to date, the Boyd Foundation has powered Historic Columbia’s transformation of the site into one of the most dynamic public gardens in the region. The new $2.5 million dollar gift from the Boyd Foundation will allow HC to take the next step in a decades-long vision to transform this historic site into a hub for horticultural research and plant propagation alongside the ongoing interpretation and programming. The greenhouse and gatehouse additions, designed by Lambert Architecture + Construction Services with Cohn Construction as the general contractor, are based on historic structures that once stood on the property.

Greenhouse Rendering
Image courtesy Lambert Architecture + Construction Services

“I once considered this greenhouse a pipe dream,” said Historic Columbia Executive Director Robin Waites. “But we have people who believe in this project, believe in our organization and believe that Columbia and Richland County can be a place where our visions can become a reality.”

Once built, the greenhouse facility, located on the northwest quadrant of Hampton-Preston’s grounds, will offer Historic Columbia the enhanced capacity to care for the 14 acres of grounds and gardens under the institution’s care. It also will serve as a space to interpret the role that an extensive workforce of gardeners and horticulturists – Black, white, enslaved and free – have played in shaping this site.

The project is expected to take eight months to complete.

New Construction of Historic Structures

Using the most probable design of the original glasshouse on the site, the new building will feature a three-quarter span glasshouse running the entire length of the structure and include a production greenhouse, a central orientation lobby, and an interpretive greenhouse.

The production greenhouse will serve as the central propagation facility for the grounds department and will only be open to the public for special programs. The orientation lobby will serve as a space for interpretive signage about both the current and historical workings of the garden and greenhouse and will be open to the public during the hours that the garden is open. The interpretive greenhouse will host a variety of plants propagated in the original structure with accompanying informational signage. The facility will also be a “one-stop shop" for HC’s grounds department, also housing staff’s offices and storage.

An octagonal gatehouse, based upon a mid-19th century structure that stood on the property until the 1940s, will be integrated into the southwest section of the Pickens Street wall. Unlike its wooden precursor from which it will draw architectural details, this contemporary creation will be fashioned from steel both for durability and in an effort to provide material continuity with the centerpiece of the children’s garden gazebo that occupies the southeast portion of the site.

Gate House Rendering
Image courtesy Lambert Architecture + Construction Services

Site History

Owned by Richland County and managed by Historic Columbia, the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens is an historic site most often associated with the socially and politically influential antebellum planter-class families from which it draws its name. During their time at the urban estate, the property became renowned for its extensive native and exotic plantings that filled most of the four-acre tract on which the main house still stands today. This horticultural excellence was only made possible through the forced labor of Black people enslaved at this site. Wayside signage throughout the property, installed in 2018, outline these people’s work conditions, tasks, and the outbuildings where they lived. Historic Columbia plans to install physical representations of and a memorial to these individuals, both named and unnamed, in the future.

The greenhouse itself was documented throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Citations include:

• An article in the July 1861 issue of The Farmer and Planter titled “Visits to Columbia Gardens” indicated the presence of at least one greenhouse on the Hampton-Preston estate.
• Camille C. Drie’s 1872 birds eye map of Columbia illustrates a greenhouse in the northwest corner of the tract.
• Author E.T.H. Schaffer wrote in 1937 that the property had “a large greenhouse, for roses and other flowers, built against the south wall of the house.”
• William G. Haynes, Jr.’s 1941 sketch of the gardens outlines the foundation of the by then-destroyed building.

About Historic Columbia:
In November 1961, a small group of individuals intent on saving the Ainsley Hall House from demolition officially incorporated as the Historic Columbia Foundation. Over the next six decades the organization, which was founded on the premise of preservation and education, would take on the stewardship of six historic properties in Richland County. Today, the organization serves as a model for local preservation efforts and interpretation of local history. Visit historiccolumbia.org or find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.

About the Boyd Foundation:
The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation promotes projects of specific interest to the Boyd Family, such as education, beautification, creation of outdoor recreational opportunities and wildlife enhancement to enhance the quality of life for citizens of Columbia and the Midlands. In addition to supporting the greenhouse project at Hampton Preston Mansion, including restrooms, classrooms and a sunken plaza, the Foundation recently supported additional garden renovations at Hampton-Preston as well as garden renovations at Robert Mills House and has made possible other projects at Historic Columbia in recent years. 

The Boyd Foundation has also made possible a variety of projects in the Midlands, including Boyd Plaza, a public space at the Columbia Museum of Art, renovations of facilities at Riverbanks Zoo and Sandhills School and more.