(Columbia). Constructed in 1818 for the Columbia merchant Ainsley Hall, this three-story Federal-era townhouse became better known for its subsequent owners. In 1823 the planter Wade Hampton I purchased the property for his third wife. The estate soon became a mecca for the social and political elite. As the Hampton family’s wealth increased, so too did the grandeur of their urban estate. The home boasted extensive gardens, featuring both foreign and domestic plants, and a greenhouse for experimental horticulture. Following Hampton’s death in 1835, the property was inherited by his wife and children, one of whom, Caroline, married John Smith Preston of Virginia. For the next thirty years, the fame of the residence grew as it hosted such individuals as Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce and Senator Daniel Webster.
During the Union occupation of Columbia in 1865, General John Logan established his headquarters in the house. The property was saved from destruction when Ursuline nuns petitioned General William T. Sherman for its use as a makeshift convent. Depleted finances forced the Prestons to sell the property in 1873, beginning a spate of various occupants that included Reconstruction governor Franklin Moses, and once again, the Ursuline Convent of the Immaculate Conception. From 1890 until 1930 the estate was home to two women’s schools, the College for Women (1890–1915) and Chicora College (1915–1930). For the next thirty-five years the property experienced multiple changes in ownership and use, particularly after 1947 when it was subdivided for development. In 1969 the mansion was restored in celebration of the state’s tricentennial and debuted one year later as Columbia’s third historic house museum. Since 1972 the mansion has been chiefly operated by the Historic Columbia Foundation.
Sherrer, John M, III. “A Comprehensive History of the Hampton-Preston Mansion in Columbia, South Carolina.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1998.