City Directories and History: Enjoy added information on this National Register site.
The Governor Thomas Bennett House is an outstanding example of Federal style architecture. It features exceptional design, proportions, and details of the period. The house is also significant as the home of Thomas Bennett (1781-1865), Governor of South Carolina 1820-1822. Probably built ca. 1825, the house is a two and one-half story clapboard structure set upon a stucco over brick English basement. In typical Charleston fashion, a one-story piazza supported by an arcaded basement extends down the front façade (south). In the center on the main level is an elaborate entrance which features engaged columns, sidelights, and an elliptical fanlight with heavily carved moldings.
Above the entrance (on the second story) is a tripartite window with sidelights and entablature which is flanked by two 9/9 windows on either side. A semicircular fanlight is located in the pediment in the attic level with a dormer window on either side. Notable features include the elliptical stair which extends, with no visible means of support, to the second floor. The west façade reveals 20th century additions: part of the piazza has been enclosed and extended, and the northernmost end has had a two-story wing added to it. Included within the nominated acreage is the old servants quarters. Listed in the National Register January 31, 1978. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
GOV. THOMAS BENNETT HOUSE
Constructed circa 1822; restored 1988
“This is the ambitious house of one of Charleston’s wealthiest and most progressive antebellum residents. Thomas Bennett Jr. followed his father and namesake in the operation of the family’s lumber and rice milling industries that surrounded this house. Although the vast mill pond with its flood gates, and the manager’s house have disappeared, the Bennett residence survives as a testament to the family’s prominence. Bennett served as governor of South Carolina from 1 820 to 1822 as well as various terms in the General Assembly, and he continued to urge industrial and social progress for his native state. A curving marble stair approaches the raised door architrave leading to the south-facing piazza entry of the Bennett House.
This architrave and the main door architrave within the piazza feature semicircular fanlights and elaborate surrounds with pilasters and modillioned cornices. Pediments with lunette windows project from the roof on the north and south elevations, while the closed front end gable features a Venetian (Palladian) window. The splendid exterior woodwork, created from wood produced in the Bennett mills and probably by their own carpenters, hints at the exceptional interior, which boasts a two-story free-flying staircase, marble mantelpieces, and elaborate plaster cornices and ceiling medallions.
In the late-nineteenth century E. L. Halsey became the owner of the remaining lumber mills as well as the house. After serving various uses after its sale by the Halseys following World War I, the building was restored by the Roper Foundation in 1988. Subsequently, the garden was renewed with a new plan and the kitchen and slave-quarters dependencies to the west were rehabilitated as guest accommodations. The remarkable wooden fence, with its columnar post topped by spherical finials, has remained, as have the wooden gates with a guilloche decoration. Formerly Lucas Street, the street name was changed to Barre Street when the thoroughfare was extended to Broad Street in the 1950s.”
The Buildings of Charleston – J.H. Poston for the Historic Charleston Foundation, 1997
“Gov. Thomas Bennett’s house, built c. 1825 on land inherited from his father, Thomas Bennett, Sr. (1754-1814), the architect (Orphan House, 1792), builder and lumberman. The senior Bennett, in cooperation with Daniel Cannon, built and operated large lumber mills using both wind and tidal power. The mill known as Cannon’s Lower Mill was located on Bennett’s tract of land. After the partnership with Cannon ended, the senior Bennett took his son into partnership, and in 1802, the younger man continued the business alone. Thomas Bennett, Jr. (1781-1865) was a member of the S.C. House of Representatives, 1804-06, 1808-10, 1812-18 and Speaker of the House, 1814-18;
member of the South Carolina Senate, 1819-20 and 1837-40; and Governor of South Carolina, 1820-22 . He was intendant of Charleston, 1812-14. ln addition to the lumber business, which he turned over to his son-in-law, Jonathan Lucas, III, in 1847, Gov. Bennett was active in rice milling, building Bennett Mill on the Cooper River side of the city, and in banking, serving as president and director of the Bank of the State of South Carolina and director of the Planters and Mechanics Bank of South Carolina. When built, Gov. Bennett’s house looked out on his rice and saw mills and his mill ponds to the south and east, which were filled in in the 1880’s and ’90s.
The house is two and one-half stories of brick on a raised basement of stuccoed brick The one story piazza on the south side of the house has a fanlighted entrance, with engaged columns and entablature, and segmental arches rising from unfluted Roman Doric columns. The piazza and the iron railed entrance platform with curving steps, rest on arcades of stuccoed brick. The house has a pediment on the south facade, palladian windows in the east gable and a round-headed stair window on the north side. The interior woodwork and plasterwork is elaborately decorated in the Regency style and the free-flying stair rises for one floor without visible means of support . The only other free-flying stair in the city is that in the Nathaniel Russell House 51 Meeting St., which rises three floors without touching the walls. The floor plan is that of the double house, with a central hall flanked by two rooms on either side.
The stairhall is separated from the entrance hall by a keystone arch and fan lighted doorway. A two story stuccoed brick outbuilding remains in the rear yard. The fence and gate in front of the house are black cypress.”
(Thomas, DYKYC, Dec. 8, 1969; Ravenel, Architects , p. 82-85; Chamberlain & Chamberlain, p. 138; Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses , p. 321-322, 325-329; Stoney, This is Charleston , p. 69.) – CCPL
Other sources of interest: Charleston Tax Payers of Charleston, SC in 1860-61 and the Dwelling Houses of Charleston by Alice R.H. Smith – 1917 The HCF may also have additional data at: Past Perfect and further research can be uncovered at: Charleston 1861 Census Schedule or The Charleston City Guide of 1872
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