Historic homes adorn Sumter's downtown

Posted 4/8/18

This issue of Reflections focuses on the exceptional number of historic homes within the Sumter community. From 1890 to 1940, the city experienced a period of unprecedented growth and development brought on by the influx of new businesses and the …

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Historic homes adorn Sumter's downtown

Bland-  Tiller home
Bland- Tiller home

This issue of Reflections focuses on the exceptional number of historic homes within the Sumter community. From 1890 to 1940, the city experienced a period of unprecedented growth and development brought on by the influx of new businesses and the growth of the rail industry. Fortunately, a number of families have been able to preserve a number of these historic treasures which illuminate our community's history and illustrate the changes in architecture with the passage of time.

The ensuing article features several of the structures that remain and provides information on others that are no longer standing. The information used in preparing this article was obtained from The Item archives. Some editing was required.

In 1890, it was reported in the Watchman and Southron that "the growth of Sumter had been so rapid in the last five years and the demand for houses within the limits of our city were so great to have induced some of our enterprising citizens to open up for residences in a portion of the city hitherto utilized only as farming lands."

"During the last few days, the surveyors have been busy staking off streets and blocks in the northwestern portion of the city, extending from Main Street opposite the place of Mr. J. B. Roach and residence of the late Judge Green, westward to the Corbett lands. These streets were broad and laid out with such regularity as to make a beautiful suburb to our growing city."

"The extension of Church Street one third of a mile beyond the residence of Col. Jos. H. Earle made it one of the handsomest streets and the pleasantest drives in the city; we hope to see elegant residences being built on either side, where the land is said to be 6 feet higher than at the intersection of Main and Liberty streets. The blocks will be of convenient size. The lots are about 80 feet front by 200 deep and we are informed will be sold at reasonable figures, so that all may be able to secure for themselves desirable locations for houses. There will be several streets running from Main Street westward through the entire tract of land and others in the city."

"Westward on the Stateburg Road beyond Capt. Gaillard's residence, including the Dargan place, there will be quite a number of fine building lots. These streets will be in a very short time graded, and should oak trees that grow so quickly in our soil be set out on either side, this will certainly be the most attractive portion of the city of Sumter."

"We view with pleasure the increasing interest of our citizens in the prosperity of our town and feel assured that in the near future with its present and increasing railroad facilities, its educational advantages, its factories, cotton compress and other enterprises it will soon become the most thriving and prosperous city within the state. We have no sudden abnormal boom but a steady growth that shows itself upon our streets, in our businesses being erected, and now this latest enterprise of extending the city, that our friends Dr. Hughson and Messrs. A. S. and W. A. Broyn have entered upon, show the demand that is being made for more eligible building lots by those who are desirous of making their homes in our midst."

In 1891, it was reported that several "large, airy, well-built and comfortable homes" were built or were under construction by several of Sumter's leading citizens. "The residence of Mr. Horace Harby on Church Street is one of the finest in the state and combines beauty of architecture with the best materials and workmanship. It contains 15 large rooms besides the halls."

"Mr. Ernest Bultman of Ducker and Bultman on Main Street, next to the Presbyterian parsonage, built a large home which was a model of neatness and comfort."

"Mr. C. T. Mason Jr. is proceeding with the greatest elaboration to make his home one of the gems of architecture and completeness. It will be heated with a furnace and provided with all modern appliances."

"Mr. D. Rosendorf's home next to the Mason House on Main Street is built in a style of a modern city house and has many novel attractions. The beautiful hard driveway on West Liberty Street leading to Charleston Sumter and Northern Rail Road depot was ornamented by some of the loveliest homes in the town. Among them were the elegant residences of Messrs. Ferdinand and Mitchell Levi."

On Washington Street were the new and handsome homes of Messrs. W. F. Shaw, W. H. Ingram, Schwartz Bros., Chas. McFadden, W. A. Pringle and others. Gen. Moise's new home, which we have mentioned before, was one of the prettiest in Sumter."

"In 1912, several homes were being constructed including the W. B. Boyle two-story, eight-room house, brick-veneered structure, Robert Shelor on Calhoun Street, an eight-room brick-veneered structure. F. C. Manning was building a small cottage on North Main Street on what was formally the McDowell property. A residence was being put up by Mr. J. L. McCallum and was a two-story, seven-room building. "

"On the corner of Salem Avenue and Liberty Street, Mr. J. Z. Tisdale has just completed a nice two-story residence, having eight rooms."

"Three practically new buildings were those of the Rev. Friday K. Kershaw, Thomas Jefferson and James L. Foggie, which were being remodeled near the corner of Council Street and Oakland Avenue. The owners were black men living in Sumter. The buildings are six- to eight-room two-story structures. One of them was already occupied."

"In 1941, a unique housing development was announced for the Sumter community by the Henry P. Moses Co. The plans called for the building of a court of houses on Haynsworth Street on what was generally referred to as the Judge H.L.B. Wells property. The land in question consisted of a peach orchard (i.e. the name given to the development was "Orchard Place") and was located 'between the two houses once occupied by H. A. Mood Jr. and Julius Pitts.' There was to be a 50-foot-wide street cut down the middle of the court. 'On each side of the street, there were three small houses, either frame or brick veneer construction making six houses in all.'"

"Plans called for the construction of a large apartment building at the end of the court. The building was to have a U-shape configuration, and the apartments would vary in size."

Sumter has undergone a steady growth since its inception. The homes constructed have varied in size, and the architecture has been consistent with the fashionable architecture of the different periods. Sumterites are blessed to have many of these beautiful historic homes to visit and study. We are also fortunate that photographs and studies on the histories of many of the razed structures remain.