1615 Blanding Street
Hampton Preston Mansion
Wealthy Columbia merchant Ainsley Hall and his wife, Sarah, had this mansion built in 1818 but soon sold it to Wade Hampton I. Enslaved laborers were forcibly relocated from Woodlands Plantation to this 4-acre estate in 1823 after its purchase by Hampton, who a national newspaper once called a “vast monopolizer of human liberty.” The enslaved people who labored here most likely resided in two, two-story dependencies located to the rear of the mansion. These two structures, which also included a laundry, the main kitchen, and other workspace, were demolished during the 1890s. After Hampton’s death in 1835, his wife, Mary Cantey Hampton, inherited this site and an unknown number of enslaved men, women, and children.
For nearly thirty years, she oversaw a household that included her daughter and son-in-law, Caroline and John Preston, and their children. By 1860, it also included 74 enslaved men, women, and children, among them, siblings Maria and William Walker, as well as six free people of color. Although not listed in the census, some of their names have been uncovered from various primary documents such as church records and Mary Cantey Hampton’s will and inventory. Mary Hampton’s death in 1863 was an especially traumatic event for the 33 people she owned. In her will, Hampton separated four families by gifting individual members to each of her grandchildren. This attempt to divide her estate equally among her heirs was in keeping with her belief that slaves were first and foremost property.