One of Columbia's oldest historic houses, the Hampton-Preston Mansion is situated on four-acres in the city center. Established in 1818 by an enslaved work force for a wealthy planter-class family, the site features a single structure and expansive gardens that have been recreated to represent the antebellum era.
This May, Historic Columbia will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the construction of the Hampton-Preston Mansion and will unveil much-anticipated improvements to the site. This milestone re-opening in May 2018 will showcase the historic property in unprecedented ways intended to broaden appreciation for both the property and the people associated with it from 1818 through the mid-20th century. This debut will follow more than a year’s worth of comprehensive work—from capital repairs to the former estate’s mansion, to massive additions to the gardens and grounds, to a holistic re-evaluation and restructuring of the site’s historical interpretation.
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 ensured that the four-acre grounds around the mansion signaled their extensive wealth and influence. Through enslaved labor the landscape was transformed into regionally-acclaimed 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 is recreating the gardens in the spirit and design of the antebellum era. The second phase of this transformation is schedule for completion in May 2018. 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.