Hayrides, docents in period dress, uniformed 18th century militiamen, hot chocolate, artists, period Christmas decorations and the opportunity to tour one of Stateburg's oldest, historic homes will highlight Saturday's fourth seasonal observance at The Ruins. Built on land that once belonged to Gen. Thomas Sumter, who never actually lived there, the 9,000-square-foot home has been lovingly restored by Col. and Mrs. Rett (Pat) Summerville over the 32 years since they purchased it.
Pat said there is still a lot to do to finish the restoration, but for the fourth consecutive year, the Summervilles will invite the public to tour the house and grounds. The Dec. 2 Christmas at The Ruins is their gift to the community.
The event got its start in 2014, when the Historic Kensington Mansion at Eastover was forced to cancel its annual Christmas tour because of weather-related damage to the building. The Summervilles decided to host Christmas at The Ruins, and it was a resounding success.
With the help of the Historic Columbia Foundation and Kensington Mansion staff, they continue to decorate in 18th-century style; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 2, guests will see the home decorated with all-natural materials, be served refreshments of the period and take docent-led tours of the house and grounds.
The highly successful tours have attracted more visitors each Christmas season, most interested in The Ruins' history. There is enough going on to fill the event's six hours.
The Ruins was built in 1784 by war hero John Mayrant, who served under Capt. John Paul Jones during the American Revolution. It is now on the National Register of Historic Homes, which notes: that "From 1835-1837, (the home) served as Hawthorne Dean Seminary for Young Ladies. Original locks and keys, window panes, plaster moldings, marble baseboards, large double sliding doors, fan-shaped skylight, many antiques and collectors' items (remain)."
Pat Summerville said the original house had only two stories, measuring 40 by 45 feet. The wealthy Robert DeVeaux bought it in 1838 and enlarged it to its present size. It was his wife, Videau, whose offhand remark gave the home its name, when she said " ... the men are going to work on the ruins today ... ."
Summerville said each of the first three Christmas at The Ruins programs "focus(ed) on a specific period. This year there will be something from every century The Ruins has touched: 1700s, 1800s, 1900s and the present day."
The 19th century, she said, will be represented by an art fair, curated by local potter Laura Cardello. A dozen or more artists working in many different genres will be showing and selling their art and working on the grounds.
Tom Elmore of Columbia will be on hand with copies of his books on the Civil War. He will be available to talk with guests and sign his books. Elmore has degrees in history and political science from the University of South Carolina; he writes primarily about the Civil War in S.C. Among his works are "A Carnival of Destruction: Sherman's Invasion of South Carolina" and "Potter's Raid Through South Carolina." He contributes regularly to several Civil War magazines and serves as a consultant on the war.
A special guest will also be honored during Saturday's celebration. Present for the occasion will be Amelia DeSaussure Barnwell Harper, a previous owner and resident of The Ruins. Visitors to the tour can visit her in the library, where she will answer questions and tell stories from the history of the home.
There will be a birthday cake outside in observance of Harper's 90th birthday. Summerville said, "The outside of The Ruins looks as it did when (Harper's) family remodeled it in 1838."
Tours of the main floor and a self-guided tour of the grounds will be available, and The Ruins museum and "Curiosity Shop" will be open. Several history exhibits will be found around the grounds, some on story boards, and volunteer Mel Welch will demonstrate spinning.
Admission is free to Christmas at The Ruins, and donation boxes will be located around the grounds. All proceeds will go toward continuing restoration projects on the house.
For updates on Christmas at The Ruins, visit the website www.ChristmasatTheRuins.wordpress.com.
To get to The Ruins, 1257 Barnwell Drive, take U.S. Highway 76-378 west toward Columbia, turn right on S.C. 261, take the third road (DeVeaux) to the right, and follow it until it meets Barnwell Drive. Turn left, and The Ruins will be on your right.