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Historic Hampton Preston Mansion to Add State-of-the-Art Greenhouse

Columbia's Historic Hampton-Preston Mansion has broken ground on a $2.5 million state-of-the-art greenhouse.
Tut Underwood
SC Public Radio
Columbia's Historic Hampton-Preston Mansion has broken ground on a $2.5 million state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Garden tourism in Columbia will be enhanced by the addition of a working greenhouse to the historic garden district.

A new $2.5 million state-of-the-art greenhouse will soon grace the grounds of Columbia’s historic Hampton-Preston mansion.

At the groundbreaking Aug. 4, Historic Columbia Executive Director Robin Waites told attendees that the greenhouse is the realization of a long-held dream. “In 2006 Historic Columbia adopted a cultural landscape master plan. It was designed to do three things: to guide the establishment of period appropriate gardens across the 14 acres of six historic sites that Historic Columbia manages, to establish connective links between these sites and essentially allow us to experience 200 years of landscape history within a very small geographic area in our city center, and it was also designed to allow us to brand this neighborhood as a garden district. So that 2006 plan allowed us to dream really big.

“This garden was among the most prominent (in) the Southeast in the 1850s, and so in this really big dream plan in 2006, we added the reconstruction of a greenhouse that once stood at the Northwest corner of this property.”

The greenhouse will allow the growing of plants that were originally grown at the site in the 19th century for planting on the Hampton-Preston site and other five Historic Columbia-run properties. Waites said this procedure would be a two-fold benefit financially, as well. “We’ll be able to save money by growing our own plants but also raise a little bit more money by selling historic plants. I think it’ll be a great investment for the organization in the long run.”

Education will be a big focus of the greenhouse, as it is for the mansion. Waites said the property and interpretive panels will tell visitors the story of people who lived and worked there, including 67 slaves who maintained the grounds and gardens.

Speaking at the groundbreaking, Richland County Councilwoman Gretchen Barron was appreciative of the inclusion represented in Historic Columbia’s telling of the property’s history. “you tell the story of everyone. Not just the owners of the homes, but the people who cooked the food and the people who kept the grounds. That’s important. So many people can come here and say ‘hey, I can identify. I heard the story about this. I heard the story about that.’”

To Charlene Slaughter of Experience Columbia SC, the tourism opportunities the new facility offers are exciting. “Did you know that in the United States, more people visit botanical gardens, botanical parks, garden tours and garden events than visit Disney World and Disneyland combined? For over a decade, the gardens at Historic Columbia have been one of Columbia’s calling cards for this type of tourist… The addition of a working greenhouse will only serve to increase that draw.”

Of the mansion’s grounds and gardens, Waites enthused, “We want this to be a place where people can bring their dogs and play Frisbee and bring a picnic in addition to learning something about the history of the site and the community.”

The greenhouse and accompanying gatehouse are expected to be completed in the spring of 2022.

Tut Underwood is producer of South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication. He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree. He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.