Hobcaw Barony – Georgetown, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Georgetown County Photos | Hobcaw Barony
More than 16,000 acres comprise the pristine research reserve in Georgetown known as Hobcaw Barony. The native Waccamaws who originally inhabited the land called it “Hobcaw,” meaning “between the waters.” The name references its location between the Winyah Bay, which is fed by several surrounding rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean. The land was issued to John Lord Carteret in 1718 as a land grant from King George, I; however, Lord Carteret remained in England, never to see the land, and sold the undeveloped property in 1730. The acreage was then subdivided into multiple rice plantations.
In 1905 New York financier Bernard W. Baruch – originally of Camden – began purchasing most of the original Hobcaw tract for use as a hunting reserve and winter retreat, along with some surrounding land. Baruch called his land holdings Hobcaw Barony, which by definition means a tract of 12,000 acres or more. When he bought the property, many former slaves from Friendfield Plantation were still living and working on the property. They had not left after Emancipation, and Baruch allowed them to stay as employees. He also updated the former slave cabins in which they lived; these had not seen substantial change since before the Civil War.
Baruch’s daughter, Belle, began purchasing portions of her father’s property in 1935, including Bellefield Plantation. In 1937 she built a home on the foundation of the original plantation home and retained its name, which was given by owner Thomas Young in 1794. By 1956 Belle owned all of Hobcaw Plantation. The Baruchs had several modern structures built for themselves and for the estate’s employees and even restored the chapel that belonged to Friendfield Plantation, which was still in use as an African-American church. Friendfield Village, as the former slave street of Friendfield Plantation came to be known, consisted of the church, slave cabins as well as modern cabins built there by the Baruchs, as seen above, and a school house for the children of employees. The school house also operated as a medical dispensary. By 1937 the International Paper plant had opened in Georgetown, and a bridge across the Winyah Bay meant that people could leave the area. Many of the Baruchs’ employees did just that, and by the 1950s Friendfield Village had been abandoned.
Belle Baruch had managed Hobcaw Barony for three decades prior to her death in 1964 from brain cancer. She left the property to a foundation to be preserved as an outdoor laboratory and research site to be used by schools and universities from South Carolina. Belle Baruch’s legacy continues through the Belle W. Baruch Research Foundation, which owns and manages the educational wildlife refuge. Today the barony stands at 16,000 acres.
Belle Baruch was an avid sportswoman, conservationist, and women’s rights champion. She built this home in 1937 on the 5,000 acres of Hobcaw Barony she purchased from her father in 1935. Bellefield, as the home and surrounding property were called, was the name of this portion of land in the late eighteenth century – a fitting name for Belle Baruch.
The landscaping of Bellefield was created by landscape architect Umberto Innocenti, known for his designs at both New York World’s Fairs and the Belmont and Aqueduct raceways, among other notable sites. In South Carolina, Innocenti’s work includes Bonnie Doone, Joye Cottage, and Harietta Plantation. The brick work of Bellefield was taken from the Charleston Academy of Music, which was demolished in 1936. The recycled bricks were used in order to give the brick work an old appearance, similar to that of nearby Arcadia Plantation.
Belle was a competitive sailor, winning more than 50 trophies for her yacht racing, including a championship. She was also a dedicated equestrian and hunter. She lived in Paris with her father from 1919 through much of the 1930s, earning 300 medals for her riding. Her gender prevented her from her dream of competing in the Olympics, though few would argue that her skills qualified her.
She was active during World War I in the Women’s Radio Corps teaching women Morse code. During this period she also advocated for the voting rights of women. Following the war, she traveled the world as a representative of the League of Nations Non-Partisan Association.
A woman of many passions, her greatest love was arguably her horses. She spent much of her time and money building a stable in Europe as well as the one pictured above, completed the same year as Bellefield. Though Belle was primarily living in Europe during the construction of the house, she insisted on personally overseeing the building of the stable. One of her prize-winning Arabian horses, Souriant III, is buried at Bellefield.
Hobcaw Barony is listed in the National Register:
(Bellefield Plantation) Hobcaw Barony is a 15,680-acre tract that includes buildings, structures, landscape features and sites associated with the continuing use of the land from ca. 1730 until 1943. Individual components, such as buildings, roadways, cemeteries, canals and embankments, reflect the use of the property over time. They illustrate the evolution of lower Waccamaw Neck from the development of rice plantations, through the antebellum period of concentrated rice cultivation, to the post-Civil War conversion of former plantations to winter resorts where natural and cultural landscapes were conserved for duckhunting and entertainment.
Hobcaw House was built in 1930, and retains a high degree of integrity of design, materials, and workmanship throughout. Its architecture is a good example of the popular Colonial Revival influence that was supplanting the rustic style of earlier hunting club lodges. The house was designed by the Columbia firm Lafaye and Lafaye. Designs of buildings and landscaping at the Hobcaw House and the Bellefield House complexes are typical of properties that were constructed or reused by hunting plantation owners for themselves and their employees. The entire site includes 42 contributing buildings, 53 contributing sites, and 25 contributing structures. Numerous outbuildings include such examples as various barns, pumphouses, various sheds, cottages, slave settlements/cabins, and a church. The source of the name lies in the 1718 royal grant to John, Lord Carteret, a “barony” of 12, 000 acres on the southern portion of Waccamaw Neck, called Hobcaw Point. Between 1766 and 1767 the property was surveyed, divided, and sold as several parcels.
Reflections on Bellefield Plantation
Contributor Gazie Nagle, who sent the above photos of Bellefield Plantation, shares: “I consider it a privilege when I am a guest visiting a historic home where owners once lived during a different lifetime. These are pictures from Bellefield, built in 1937. I visited today and had the opportunity to see two floors and the fallout shelter below, and the beautiful stables. Bellefield Plantation was the name of the original plantation on what is today known as Hobcaw Barony. Belle Baruch had the house built over the foundation of the original home and kept the name.
“She had the stables built when she returned home from France because she wanted it done her way. She returned home after living 16 years in France because her father warned her of the threat of war. Belle was a sportsman, a sharpshooter, a horseman, and a pilot. She loved her home and wanted to be buried there. Unfortunately she died a year before her father and he had her buried in NY. Her prize winning Arab, Souriant III, lived into his 30s and is buried on the property. Many of her dogs were also buried there.
“Cannot tell you everything nor would it be fair for anyone else to. Hobcaw Barony has many tours and programs offered to the public, from introductory tours, to behind the scenes, dinners at the Baruch home, and lots of other things. Membership and paid events also help the non-profit organization restore some of the structures as Belle’s home will some day.”
Hobcaw Barony Info
Address: 22 Hobcaw Road, Georgetown, SC 29440
Hobcaw Barony Map
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