Inside Columbia, South Carolina’s Historic Hampton-Preston House

Columbia’s Hampton-Preston House and its grounds—built in 1818 on the corner of Pickens and Blanding Streets—survived General Sherman, a stint as the governor’s mansion, and four turns as various institutes of higher learning. But commercial real estate development during the mid-twentieth century nearly did the place in. Since 2012, though, in the hands of just two full-time gardeners and a dozen volunteers, the once overrun grounds have come back to life season by season. And on May 12, Historic Columbia celebrated the reopening of the renovated home and gardens to the public, coinciding with the two hundredth anniversary of Hampton-Preston’s construction. “The four acres are divided into garden rooms with a foundation of boxwood around a fountain, saw palmettos around the edges, and plenty of hydrangeas and roses,” says Robin Waites, the executive director of Historic Columbia. For plantings in the front and rear, gardeners thumbed through antique nursery catalogues to discover historically accurate varieties—deep red Camellia japonica ‘Anemoniflora’ dating to 1814; lilac evergreen azaleas from the 1830s. The backyard trails wind through ginkgo, chinaberry, and monkey puzzle trees, nods to the original owners’ global travels. “Historically, as now, the home had a public entrance for people to feel welcome to come through the gate,” Waites says, “allowing them to spend time in a beautiful green space in our city’s center.” Scroll through for a look at the property. 

Start Slideshow View as list