Japonica Hall – Society Hill, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Darlington County Photos | Japonica Hall
This Beaux Arts-style residence in Society Hill, called Japonica Hall for the Camellia japonica planted on its grounds by owner Major James Jonathan Lucas, was completed in 1897. The house replaced an earlier one on or near the same site that had been the home of Dr. Thomas Smith. That home burned in 1892.
Major Lucas, a graduate from The Citadel and an artillery officer in the Civil War, served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1856 through 1862, representing Charleston. In 1861 Lucas married a woman from Society Hill, Caroline Eliza McIver, and they moved to his wife’s home town in 1865.
The Lucases hired noted architect Charles Coker Wilson of Hartsville – responsible for the South Carolina Statehouse – and his partner, William Augustus Edwards of Darlington, to design their two-and-a-half story manse. In fact, Japonica Hall is one of Wilson’s earliest extant designs in the South Carolina and may be his earliest residential design in the state.
Once established in Society Hill, Lucas achieved success as director of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad Company when it was established in 1898 as well as the Cheraw and Darlington Railroad. Lucas, a horticulturalist, also belonged to the Darlington County Agricultural Society, which met at a mineral spring in the neighboring town of Darlington. Lucas’s interest in agriculture was evident in the plantings on his home estate as well as his local vineyards and winery.
Japonica Hall later became the residence of Lucas’s son, Captain Thomas Smith Lucas, who owned it until his death in 1939.
Japonica Hall is listed in the National Register, which says the following:
(Maj. J.J. Lucas House) Japonica Hall was built in 1896-97 for Major James Jonathan Lucas, a prominent local railroad builder and businessman. Lucas, who represented Charleston in the state House of Representatives from 1856-1862, and was a prominent Confederate artillery officer in the defense of Charleston during the Civil War, settled in Society Hill in 1865. This two-and-one-half story over basement brick residence is significant architecturally as an important early residential design of Charles Coker Wilson and William Augustus Edwards, noted South Carolina architects. Its primary significance, however, is as an academic expression of turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts or eclectic classicism.
Reminiscent of Italian Renaissance palazzos, Japonica Hall features a rusticated first story and a second story emulating a piano nobile with paired pilasters demarking the bays on the second story. The first and second stories are separated by a molded brick band. The cornice is composed of overhanging molding supported by modillions above a denticulated brick course. The projecting hipped-roof central entrance bay has a double door entry with flanking fluted pilasters, sidelights and transom-lights on the first floor, and double glass paneled doors with semi-circular transom-light, a rusticated surround and small flanking windows on the upper floor. A one-story Tuscan veranda is accessed by a wide stair. The four chimneys have corbeled stacks and the hipped roof features finials at the termination of roof ridges.
Japonica Hall Info
Address: South Main Street, Society Hill, SC 29593
Japonica Hall Map
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