Millford Plantation rises like a mirage from the forested hills north of the Santee River. Its location may be rural, but with its fluted Corinthian columns and domed rotunda, the Greek Revival abode—this year celebrating its 175th anniversary—is every bit as impressive as its Holy City contemporaries. And that’s no accident: before future South Carolina governor John Laurence Manning and his bride, Susan Frances Hampton, broke ground in 1839, they looked 100 miles southeast to Charleston for inspiration.
Then as now, the city’s architecture was renowned, particularly Greek Revival buildings like the since-demolished Charleston Hotel. It’s no wonder, then, that the pedigreed couple enlisted Nathaniel Potter, an apprentice of the architect behind that structure, to build their residence. The domicile was so expensive and remote that some called it “Manning’s Folly.”
Millford miraculously survived the Civil War and, in 1992, was purchased by businessman Richard Jenrette, the force behind Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (www.classicalamericanhomes.org). Since then, it has been painstakingly restored and outfitted with early-19th century accoutrements—including much of the original Duncan Phyfe & Sons furniture Manning commissioned.
Like the five other classical manses owned by the Trust, Millford is occasionally open to the public, and this fall celebrates its milestone anniversary with two events. September 18 brings the fifth annual Music at Millford, when cellist Robert deMaine—joined by two colleagues from the Los Angeles Philharmonic—will perform a piece he penned for the occasion.
The festivities continue this fall with a barbecue picnic and open house (originally scheduled for October 15, the event has been postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew) that offers the chance to visit the two bedrooms furnished with items original to the home and recently recovered by the Trust. “We’ve had fabulous success with descendants of the Mannings giving us objects that belonged at Millford,” says the trust’s co-president, Margize Howell. “It’s such a homecoming when things return.”