Millford Plantation

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Millford Plantation
Millford Plantation HABS color 2.jpg
Millford Plantation as photographed by the Historic American Buildings Survey
Millford Plantation is located in South Carolina
Millford Plantation
Location of Millford Plantation, South Carolina
Location On SC 261 west of Pinewood, South Carolina
Coordinates 33°44′54″N 80°32′15″W / 33.7484°N 80.53745°W / 33.7484; -80.53745Coordinates: 33°44′54″N 80°32′15″W / 33.7484°N 80.53745°W / 33.7484; -80.53745
Area 712 acres (2.88 km2) surrounding house (out of 4,251 acres (17.20 km2) total)
Built Completed in 1841
Architect Unknown; builder Nathaniel F. Potter of Providence, Rhode Island
Architectural style Greek Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 71000808[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 19, 1971[1]
Designated NHL November 7, 1973[2]

Millford Plantation (also spelled Milford) is a historic place located on SC 261 west of Pinewood, South Carolina. Sometimes called Manning's Folly, because of its remote location in the High Hills of Santee section of the state and its elaborate details.

It is regarded as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival residential architecture in the United States.[3]


Millford Plantation's monumental two-story Greek Revival mansion was built in Clarendon (now Sumter) county between 1839 and 1841 for John L. Manning, Governor of South Carolina from 1852 to 1854, and his wife, Susan Frances Hampton Manning. The builder, Nathaniel F. Potter of Providence, Rhode Island, may have also done the design work.

Its imposing facade features six large carved Corinthian columns on granite bases that support the portico. Its 2-foot-thick (0.61 m) walls are of brick made on the premises; the granite was shipped from Rhode Island.

The excellence of Millford’s architecture extends throughout the house, from the tall floor-to-ceiling windows to a spectacular circular staircase rising, seemingly without support, in a domed cylindrical chamber on the rear side of the building.

Susan Frances Hampton was the daughter of General Wade Hampton I and his wife, Mary Cantey, and was half-sister of Colonel Wade Hampton II, who, though he alone inherited their father's considerable fortune, shared it equally with her and another sister. She died in 1845 giving birth to her third child with John L. Manning. In 1848 Manning married Sally Bland Clarke and had four children by her.[4]

Much of the money to build the residence (it cost $125,000, an enormous sum in 1840) probably came from Susan Hampton Manning’s recent inheritance.[5]

Near the end of the Civil War, the residence was threatened with destruction by Union troops on April 19, 1865, but was saved by the intervention of their commander, Brigadier General Edward E. Potter of New York, whose exchange with Governor Manning was recorded as follows:[6]

Potter: This is a fine structure.
Manning: Well, the house was built by a Potter (Nathaniel Potter, the architect) and it looks as though it will be destroyed by a Potter.
Potter: No, you are protected. Nathaniel Potter was my brother.

Likewise, four Yankee horsemen were said to have ridden side by side back and forth through the entrance hall,[7] an insult in hand to the former Governor.

When General Potter spared Millford he did not know that Manning had a copy of the Articles of Secession in his desk. The story of Millford's survival might have ended quite differently had he known.[8]

Another view from the Historic American Buildings Survey

Despite economic ruin during and after the Civil War, the Manning family managed to retain possession of Millford until 1902, when it was sold to Mary Clark Thompson of New York. She bequeathed it to her two nephews upon her death in 1923. It remained in the Clarks' hands, used by the family primarily as a winter retreat and for hunting and fishing, until 1992.[6][9]

On November 19, 1971, Millford Plantation, also called the Governor John L. Manning House, was added to the National Register of Historic Places and on November 7, 1973, it was declared a National Historic Landmark,[2][2][10][11] due to its historic and artistic importance. The plantation is one of three National Historic Landmarks located on SC 261, the Kings Highway, in the High Hills of Santee. The other two are Borough House Plantation and the Church of the Holy Cross, both in Stateburg.

The house, along with 400 acres of surrounding land, was acquired in May 1992 from three of the Clark descendants and was meticulously restored by Richard Hampton Jenrette, one of the founders of the New York investment banking firm, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and a collateral descendant of Susan Hampton Manning. He referred to the estate as "the Taj Mahal of my dreams".[12]

In 1995, Jenrette received a South Carolina Historic Preservation Award for Millford, and in 2006 he received the Governor's Award for his work on Millford and the Robert William Roper House in Charleston, another National Historic Landmark he owns and restored.[3][6][13][14]

The mansion was donated in December 2008 to the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, a foundation established by Jenrette to: "Preserve, protect and open to the public examples of classical American residential architecture, fine and decorative arts of the first half of the 19th century."

In 2012 the "Friends of Millford" was formed as a group of supporters who share a deep appreciation for this historical site and are interested in preserving its legacy for future generations.

Duncan Phyfe furnishings[edit]

John and Susan Manning furnished Millford in the then fashionable Grecian style, including a considerable quantity of furniture made by Duncan Phyfe (one of America's most celebrated cabinetmakers), much of which is still in the house.[6] The furniture belongs to the last phase of Duncan Phyfe's career, the least studied until the 2011-2012 retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum thanks to the joint work of Peter M. Kenny, Michael K. Brown, Frances F. Bretter and Matthew A. Thurlow. This phase, it has been claimed, has been unfairly undervalued in the past by generations of curators, antique dealers and collectors.[15]

In 1840, John Laurence Manning made a trip to New York City and most likely visited Phyfe. Between 1840 and 1844, the Mannings placed four separate orders with D. Phyfe & Son (the name of Phyfe's company between 1840 and 1847)[16] for a total of 72 objects, more than 50 of which remain at the house today.[17]

This period in Phyfe's work is characterized by the use of plainer bands of highly polished wood, with little carving, the use of volutes, deep cavetto cornices, simple square columns, Marlboro feet, and console supports (C-scrolls) that were known in the Phyfe shop simply as “Grecian scrolls”. The latter, lifted directly from the design vocabulary of French Restoration furniture of the 1820s, were ubiquitous in Phyfe’s Grecian plain style furniture.[18]

Every room of the mansion was filled with D. Phyfe & Son furniture, as is documented by an 1841 letter and bill of lading from the firm. In most rooms the furniture was in a Grecian plain style, but for the double parlor, the most magnificent room in the house, the Phyfes created something entirely new, blending the Grecian with Gothic and French Restoration style overtones. This is remarkable because the Phyfes, confirmed classicists to the end,[19] never fully engaged with the emerging historical revival styles (Baroque, Gothic, Rococo, etc.) that began about 1840.

In the entrance hall, most of the furniture is made of walnut, an economical and durable wood. In the double parlors, however, it is mainly of rosewood, an expensive and exotic wood from South America. The use of luxury woods indicates that the double parlors were a space for formal entertaining, a place for the Mannings to display their taste and wealth.

In the dining room, the elliptical table, matching the shape of the room, is made of mahogany and has four animal–paw feet and six leaves. The other pieces commissioned included, among others, 14 armchairs in the French Restoration style. It was uncommon to have armchairs at a dining table—usually there were armchairs only at the head and foot of the table, the others being side chairs—and this may express an egalitarian philosophy on the part of Gov. Manning.

When Richard Jenrette bought the property in 1992, less than half of the original furnishings remained in the mansion. Through research, documentation, and consultations with scholars, carried out over many years, he found and purchased much of the original furniture and returned it to its place. Other pieces were generously given by the descendants of the two families who had owned the plantation. This laborious process continues and more pieces are expected to be returned in the future.

Millford and its furnishings are remarkable in that the entire house was decorated with furniture commissioned from a single cabinetmaker (something uncommon those days), because it was one of the largest orders ever from D. Phyfe[20] and most pieces are preserved within the same building they were intended to complement and grace, all this makes of it a case unusual in the USA.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b c "Millford Plantation". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  3. ^ a b 2006 South Carolina Historic Preservation Awards
  4. ^ Smith, Thomas Gordon, "Living with antiques: Millford Plantation in South Carolina", Antiques Magazine, May, 1997.
  5. ^ Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. Annual report, 2008: p. 3
  6. ^ a b c d Antiques magazine article, May 1997, Living with Antiques: Millford Plantation in South Carolina, by Thomas Gordon Smith
  7. ^ Jenrette, Richard Hampton (2005). Adventures with Old Houses, p. 182. Wyrick & Company.
  8. ^ Marguerite Wiegand. South Carolina
  9. ^ nomination form for the National Register accessible only by Internet Explorer through the link on South Carolina Department of Archives and History listing for Milford (sic) Plantation
  10. ^ South Carolina Department of Archives and History listing for Milford (sic) Plantation
  11. ^ Mrs. James W. Fant (June 3, 1971). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Millford Plantation" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying three photos, exterior, undated PDF (32 KB)
  12. ^ Jenrette, Richard Hampton (2005). Adventures with Old Houses, p. 179. Wyrick & Company.
  13. ^ Richard Hampton Jenrette biography
  14. ^ 1995 South Carolina Historic Preservation Awards
  15. ^ Peter M. Kenny, "Changing Perspectives on an Iconic American Craftsman, Duncan Phyfe at the Metropolitan Museum". Antiques and Fine Art magazine, winter 2012 anniversary issue: p. 116.
  16. ^ Kenny (2012), pp. 119-120.
  17. ^ Peter M. Kenny. Lecture held at Millford Plantation on April 1, 2012.
  18. ^ Peter M. Kenny, Changing Perspectives on an Iconic American Craftsman, Duncan Phyfe at the Metropolitan Museum. Antiques & Fine Art magazine winter 2012 anniversary issue: p. 118
  19. ^ Peter M. Kenny, Changing Perspectives on an Iconic American Craftsman, Duncan Phyfe at the Metropolitan Museum. Antiques & Fine Art magazine winter 2012 anniversary issue: p. 120
  20. ^ Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. Annual report, 2008: p. 4

External links[edit]