Across the street from the Mills House  is the 1818 Hampton-Preston Mansion (1615 Blanding St., 803/252-7742, www.historiccolumbia.org , Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 1–5 p.m., $6 adults, $3 children, under 6 free). This classic example of an elite planter’s domicile was built for cotton merchant Ainsley Hall (who also had the Mills House built several years later), but soon ended up in the hands of an even wealthier planter, Wade Hampton, who at his death in 1835 was widely held to be the richest man in America.
Hampton’s daughter Caroline and her husband John Preston moved in after the patriarch’s passing, and it is during this period that many of the fine furnishings in the house today were acquired. Quite the collectors, the Prestons purchased many fine pieces during their many tours of Europe. From 1845-1850, the size of the house was doubled with the addition of the north facade.
The Hampton-Preston Mansion served as a Union Army headquarters during the occupation. In an all-too-familiar story for so many of these grand old Southern houses, the owners had to sell after the war, and the building fell into neglect after a succession of small colleges also left the premises. The Historic Columbia Foundation, which continues to administer the property, saved and acquired the building in 1969 and opened it to the public a year later.
You get tickets at the Robert Mills House . You can also buy a combo ticket (803/252-7742, $15 adults, $8 children, under 6 free) at the Mills House for all the Foundation’s house museums (including the Robert Mills House and Mann-Simon Cottage ). The last tour at each house begins at 3 p.m. Tuesdays–Saturdays and at 4 p.m. on Sundays.