Kalmia Gardens and the Origins of Hartsville, S.C.
City Directories and History: The Thomas E. Hart Home, constructed in ca. 1817-20 with ca. 1930’s additions. This is a typical Carolina “I” House plan found throughout the South.
The property belongs to Coker College and it’s Kalmia Gardens are renowned. Thomas G. Harbison designed the original in 1935 with updates in 2000 via Susan Bradford Robinson and Christy Snipes.
The Thomas E. Hart House is significant as an excellent local example of an early nineteenth century I-House and for its association with Thomas Edwards Hart (1796-1842), the prominent Darlington County planter for whom Hartsville was named. The house is a central feature of Kalmia Gardens (ca. 1932), which is significant as a designed botanical garden of the early twentieth century and is the only known such garden in South Carolina. The house was built ca. 1817 by Hart, soon after he moved to this site on Black Creek and acquired a tract of some nine hundred acres. The house is of heavy timber frame construction with weatherboard siding. It is two-stories with a rectangular plan, lateral gable roof, and exterior end chimneys. A one-story, hip roof porch extends across the full façade and wraps to the right elevation. A one-story addition was made to the rear ca. 1932. The property immediately surrounding the Hart House includes a ca. 1932 frame, hip roof contributing building. Kalmia Gardens consists of 28 acres of natural and planted flora, and designed features such as a pond and paths. The garden is located on an eighty-foot bluff on Black Creek. This unique topography creates the setting for the indigenous growth of mountain laurel (kalmia latifolia), which is the main theme of the garden. Listed in the National Register May 3, 1991. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
R&R NOTES: On 2.3.17, Roots and Recall founders and local historian – contractor, Bill Segars visited the historic site and spent a short time with their staff, looking at historic details of the house. It was very clear from the outset that the house has been modernized several times; mid 19th century, early 20th century, and the updates noted above by the S.C. Dept. of Archives and History. Changes include but are certainly not limited to; addition of pediment caps over interior door openings, replacement windows, siding, the position of the staircase and railings, and the addition of rooms across the back portion of the house.
What struck the groups’ attention were the solid wooden columns, wide 11′ front porch and corresponding rear shed size, as well as the massive room size of such an early 19th century house. In all likelihood upon initial review by anyone knowledgeable of 19th century construction, the house more closely resembles that of a ca. 1840s house, not one dated to 1817. However, when reviewing the details of this house, with those of the Jacob Kelly home, of the same period, there are numerous likenesses. Yes, the architectural elements having made up the staircase, wainscoting and mantels are all strikingly similar.
In conclusion, far greater research needs to be conducted on the construction and history of this early Pee Dee house and the importance of Mr. Hart’s economic successes. But an equal review and detailed examination needs conducting to reveal other “alikes” to the Jacob Kelley house which are not immediately apparent.
On 11/3/17, Kyle Campbell of Preservation South, Bill Segars and I examined in details the construction features of the two historic homes and though similar in style, after measuring the moldings, etc., they were not from the same set of tools. It therefore appears most likely that though the two contemporary dwellings, within a short distance of one another, with such striking similarities were indeed not executed by the same hands.
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IMAGE GALLERY via photographer Bill Segars – 2010 with additions by R&R in 2017.