Less Traveled 2012

Ernie Wiggins



Kensington Mansion is a hidden treasure in Eastover

Posted 10/17/2011 4:11:00 PM

I'm always on the lookout for those hidden treasures that are tucked away on the less traveled roads all over the state. One of the many jewels in the state’s treasure chest is a stone’s throw from my home base in Columbia.

The Kensington Mansion in Eastover is not only a delightful visit for travelers interested in South Carolina architectural history, it is also a wonderful story of how a corporate citizen came to the rescue of a valuable asset.

Kensington Mansion was built by Matthew Singleton with slave labor in 1854. The 12,000-square-foot mansion was designed by Edward C. Jones and Francis D. Lee of Charleston. and has 29 rooms.

It was purchased by Robert Hamer in 1910, and his son, Robert Cochane Hamer, lived there until 1941 when it was bought by the U.S. government. After World War II, the property was sold again and turned into a farm.

The property eventually fell vacant and into serious disrepair. International Paper in Eastover acquired the endangered property 30 years ago and painstakingly restored it to its 1850 appearance by replacing the tin roof, rebuilding the chimneys, repairing cornices, removing rotted wood windows and shutters and restoring the brick foundation, among many other repairs to the mansion’s interior.

The Scarborough-Hamer Foundation, a non-profit group that works with International Paper to provide tours of the mansion, furnished the property with pieces from the Victorian era.

If You’re Going:

Kensington Mansion, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, is open for tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, except for major holidays. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on those days. The mansion is closed in January, February and August.

Tours are offered at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Admission is $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, $2.45 for children 10 and younger. School groups are admitted free. Groups of 10 or are asked to make reservations by calling the mansion at (803) 353-0456.

The mansion is located at 4101 McCord’s Ferry Road (U.S. 601) in Eastover.