PINEWOOD - Resting in the midst of towering pines and oaks outside the small rural town of Pinewood lies a historic plantation with roots dating back to 1839.
Millford Plantation was built between 1839 and 1841 in what was then Clarendon County but later became Sumter County on land that was inherited by John Laurence Manning, who became governor of South Carolina, from his grandfather, Richard Richardson. Many of the materials used to build the plantation were imported and transferred by ferry up the Santee River. The architect for the mansion was Nathaniel Potter, who had just finished working on the Charleston Hotel when he began building Millford Plantation, and many of the design elements from the hotel can be seen in the plantation's design.
The palatial two-story mansion's architecture is referred to as "Greek Revival." Six carved Corinthian columns which span the front portico greet visitors to the mansion. Sixteen-foot ceilings are featured in the main rooms of the structure. Hand-carved woodwork is showcased on the mansion's grand central hallway and the curved staircase in the home's cylindrical hall.
Reports state the plantation survived the Civil War because Brig. Gen. Edward E. Potter would not destroy the buildings that his brother had designed. According to south-carolina-plantations.com, it was later noted by a docent at the plantation that Potter may have changed his mind if he had known that inside a desk in the home were a copy of the articles of secession.
The plantation changed hands several times through the years. In 1902, Mary Clark Thompson purchased the property. When she died in 1923, the property was willed to her nephews, Emory W. Clark and Myron C. Williams. Clark's son became the next tenant and used the massive estate as his winter home. In 1971, Millford Plantation was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1973, the site was declared a National Historic Landmark. In 1992, Richard H. Jenrette purchased the plantation along with 400 surrounding acres. In 2008, Jenrette donated Millford Plantation to be used as a museum by the Classical American Home Preservation Trust, which maintains the property today.
Today, guided tours of the historic plantation are given by appointment only on the first Saturday of each month. The plantation is closed every January and open every Saturday during the month of April.
This year, visitors will be able to enjoy Millford Plantation for two days during the first weekend in December. With the theme of Yuletide at Millford, The Azalea Garden Club of Manning has decorated the home with festive arrangements in every room, including the kitchen. The plantation's grounds will be open from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Dec. 2, and the house will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. On Dec. 3, the grounds will open from noon until 4 p.m. with the house open from noon until 3 p.m. Admission is $15, and reservations are required. Call (803) 452-6194 to reserve your space.
"The tour sold out last year," said Marie Land, a member of The Azalea Garden Club of Manning and one of the decorators for the tour. "I had friends calling me last year, and I simply couldn't get them tickets. You need to call now and not wait until the last day to make a reservation."
Land said that decorating the huge plantation house was a lot of work but a lot of fun, too. She said fresh flowers and greenery were used throughout the home. Striking centerpieces showcase the home's beautiful architecture and furniture, she added.
"These ladies are very talented as you'll see during the tour," Land said. "It's spectacular. Each room of the house is beautiful. It really will get you in the mood for the holidays. People need to come and see it for themselves."