Redcliffe Plantation – Beech Island, South Carolina
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Redcliffe Plantation in Beech Island (near Aiken) was built for former United States congressman and South Carolina governor James Henry Hammond (1807-1864) with the use of slave labor. During his term as governor, Hammond oversaw the transition of both the Charleston arsenal as well as the arsenal in Columbia into military academies, an idea proposed by his predecessor, Governor John Peter Richardson. The former is now known as The Citadel while the latter currently serves as the Governor’s Mansion. Construction began in 1857, and by 1859 the Hammonds were occupying the home. Though originally considered Georgian in its design, alterations since it was completed have rendered it more Greek Revival in style.
Soon after the Hammond family moved in, the open space beneath the manse was bricked in to block cold drafts that penetrated the home’s interior. In 1886 a second floor piazzas were removed by Henry Hammond, son of James Henry Hammond, due to water damage. Many architects consider this modification one that ruined the symmetry of the home. Yet another necessary change was made to the house in 1901 when the cupola that once grace the roof was removed as a fire hazard and replaces with the widow’s walk that remains today.
James Henry Hammond was known for more than his political influence in the state; he was also an advocate for agrarians and is credited with the phrase, “Cotton is king,” which he first stated in senate chambers. He was an experimental agrarian and formed the Beech Island Agricultural Society, first called the Beech Island Farmers Club, in 1847. The club still meets the first Saturday of each month and is composed of Hammond and descendants as well as the descendants of original members.
Governor Hammond was also known for his progressive social stances regarding those who worked for him. He provided them with affordable hospital care as well as childcare for female employees. However, Hammond also used the labor of slaves, who were not afforded such care. In fact, Governor Hammond owned around 300 slaves during his time as a cotton farmer – a large number for a crop that required far fewer d=slaves than rice cultivation.
Four generations of Hammonds occupied this mansion. Governor Hammond’s great-grandson, John Shaw Billings (1898-1975), who served as the managing editor of Time and Life magazines, brought the Redcliffe mansion back to life in the 1930s. Billings donated the property to the state in 1973, and today Redcliffe Plantation is managed by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. Find out more about SC governors and learn more about SC plantations.
Redcliffe Plantation – Exterior Views of the Redcliffe Home
The following images show the exterior of the Redcliffe Plantation House at various times, in various seasons, and from various angles.
Redcliffe Plantation – Interior Views of the Redcliffe Home
These images show the interior of Redcliffe, from Governor Hammond’s study to the bedrooms upstairs.
Redcliffe Plantation Grounds
The following images show Redcliffe’s grounds, including its stables, a slave cabin, and a vegetable garden. The abutting fields were used in agricultural experiments with vineyards as well as fruit trees.
Magnolia Lane at Redcliffe Plantation
Contributor Jenks Farmer shares the following about Magnolia Lane: “Redcliffe’s Magnolia Lane was SC Historic Tree of the Year, 2012. It was planned and planted with the help of two significant horticulturist (Berkman Brothers) who’s nursery became the Augusta National. The Lane was the entrance to Redcliffe and it connected two house: those of father and son Hammonds. Today, though partially disrupted, it connects Redcliffe and the Farmer’s home.”
Redcliffe Plantation is listed in the National Register:
(Redcliffe Plantation State Park) Redcliffe is representative of the architectural styles in the South during the early nineteenth century. Begun in 1857 by James Henry Hammond, it is a two-story house of wooden construction. Built on brick pillars like many of the lowcountry houses, Redcliffe maintained the pattern of a central hall with four rooms, so characteristic of the Carolina upcountry. Double-decked porches were built on all four sides. Only the front and back porches had steps down to the ground. Large French windows in all rooms opened on to the porches, upper and lower. An enclosed cupola or observatory, consisting almost entirely of windows, was built on the roof between the two chimneys.
In 1886, James Hammond’s son Henry removed the upper porch and moved the main stairs to the corner of the new porch. In 1901, the observatory on the roof was removed and replaced by a widow’s walk. Originally Georgian in style, the house now features many Greek Revival elements. Two slave quarters remain, illustrating the pattern of life prior to the Civil War. A young landscape architect, Louis Berckman from Belgium, planned the grounds at Redcliffe. The home’s builder, James H. Hammond, was elected governor of South Carolina in 1842 and served two terms. He was elected to United States Congress in 1834 and then to United States Senate in 1857. A later owner of Redcliffe is John Shaw Billings, a descendant of Hammond. Billings was Managing Editor of both TIME and LIFE magazines and eventually Editorial Director of TIME, Inc.
Redcliffe Plantation Info
Address: 181 Redcliffe Road, Beech Island, SC 29842
GPS Coordinates: 33.418241,-81.868347
Redcliffe Plantation Map
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