One of the best ways to get to know someone is by visiting their home. Similarly, you can get intriguing glimpses of South Carolina’s history by exploring the historic houses managed by the South Carolina State Park Service. Several of the homes are historic house museums featuring displays of house contents and family artifacts that help tell the stories of people and events from state’s past. You can experience these homes through ranger-guided tours or on your own. Read below for information on each, and click through to their websites for more detail and information on tours and how to visit.
Between 1792 and 1809, Oconee Station State Historic Site served as a point of contact and interaction between two cultures: European-American and Cherokee. During this period the relationship between the cultures shifted from one of conflict, to one of cultural and economic exchange. The remains of the fortifications and trading post at Oconee Station interpret this evolving relationship. The Richards House at Oconee Station is one of the earliest brick houses in the Upstate and a tangible reminder of William Richard’s trading post and the cultural exchange between westward-moving Europeans and native Cherokees.
Hampton Plantation State Historic Site tells the story of a lowcountry rice plantation and its families. The mansion, built in the mid-18th century, is a fine example of Georgian architecture. Since it is an unfurnished architectural study house you can see unusual “behind the scenes” views that reveal how the house was constructed. From the exposed, massive hand-hewn timber frame to delicate mantelpiece carvings, Hampton documents the craftsmanship of South Carolina’s colonial period. Park interpreters are available to guide you through the house and make connections between its architecture and the lives of its former residents.
Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site offers insight into the upcountry cotton plantation of South Carolina’s “Secession Governor,” William Henry Gist. Rose Hill served as Gist’s primary residence during his tenure as governor and during the tumultuous months of pending Civil War. The house, its furnishings, surrounding gardens and outbuildings document the lifestyle and changes experienced by the Gist family and African Americans who occupied the plantation from the antebellum era through Reconstruction.
Redcliffe Plantation, completed in 1859, was once the home of James Henry Hammond, three generations of his descendants, and numerous African-American families like the Henleys, Goodwins, & Wigfalls who worked at the site as slaves and later free men and women. The site symbolizes the ambition, wealth and power of James Henry Hammond a successful cotton planter, congressman, governor and senator, who spent his life defending the southern plantation system and his status within it.
Redcliffe provides a setting for exploring the experiences of the enslaved, as well as the larger institution of slavery and reflects the historical experiences and impact of the white and black families who lived and worked at the site. The extant slave quarters, mansion, and iconic lane of magnolia trees planted in 1860 serve to highlight the plantation’s rich and varied history.
A National Historic Landmark, the Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park is the former winter home and studio of noted
American sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington. Visitor guides describe castle features and explain the purpose of the unusual architecture of the winter home including the large studio where the sculptor used wild animals as models.
At Charles Towne Landing you can see a newly-constructed “historic home.” This replica 17th-century dwelling is a living history exhibit that focuses on the struggles and contributions of indentured servants in early Charles Towne. Indentured servants were men and women who entered into servitude voluntarily to pay for transportation to the colony. Along with African slaves, servants provided much of the back-breaking labor that ensured the survival of the new colony.
Make plans to enjoy a tour of South Carolina State Park's historic homes and relive the legends of South Carolina history.