One of Columbia's oldest historic houses, the Hampton-Preston Mansion was home to many people over the years, most notably the Hampton and Preston families.


The Hampton-Preston Mansion has had many uses over the years, including a private residence, a governor’s mansion, Union Army headquarters, a convent, educational institutions and commercial space. 

This house was built in 1818 by Ainsley Hall, a wealthy Columbia merchant, and his wife Sarah. They sold the house in 1823 to Wade Hampton I, who updated the Federal-style home to Greek Revival. The house passed through the Hampton and Preston families, who were forced to sell the estate after the Civil War. It was home to four different colleges before grounds were divided for commercial use. Rehabilitated in the late 1960s, the historic mansion opened in 1970 as the centerpiece of the Midlands Tricentennial Exposition Center. Learn more about the next phase of capital improvements.


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 restoration of the Hampton-Preston gardens.

Collections & Exhibits

Inside the mansion, period rooms take visitors through the history of the house and Columbia from the 1810s through the 1910s, featuring many of the Hampton and Preston families’ belongings. The award-winning exhibit Home to Many People explores the institution of urban slavery and documents the evolution of the property from 1818 to the present. Learn more about the upcoming interpretive improvements.