A RARE FIND

BY ROBIN HOWARD | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

The Paul-Wichman home in Walterboro, SC, built in 1847, is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Rare 12-foot-tall windows begin at floor height; traditional sleeping porches flank bedrooms at the rear.

The white Greek Revival house sits on a hill. From this perch in the peaceful Hickory Valley, it has quietly watched 172 years of history pass by. The 5.3 acres that cocoon the house are home to 100-year-old camellias, towering magnolias, pines, ancient live oaks and hollies that are alive with symphonies of birdsong. The home welcomes visitors with generous and sincere hospitality that is otherwise endangered in the real world. It is a happy place.

This is the historic Paul-Wichman house and estate in Walterboro, and I’ve come to see it because, incredibly, it’s for sale. Built in 1847 by lumber baron James Lawrence Paul, the property is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. It has only had three owners in its long lifetime.

An antiques-filled parlor, which catches the winter sun, looks out over a host of old camellias. There are more than 100 on the property, including the first species introduced to the Lowcountry. The Portuguese needlepoint rug was a gift from renowned Lowcountry pianist Dana Dixon.

If we could pop the roof off and look down, we’d see a three-bedroom, three-bath home with 3,600 square feet of living space and 1,800 square feet of veranda. There is a 10- foot wide, 15-foot-high, 40-footlong grand receiving hall that separates the home into two mirrored halves. The rooms to the right of the hall—the parlor and dining room—are considered the more formal rooms.

But let’s allow the house to show us around properly. After crossing the wide veranda, we are received in the parlor. This room features 12-foot-high double-hung and weighted windows that are currently filled with views of camellias in raucous bloom. The floors are original, made of longleaf pine harvested on-site, and there is a lovely fireplace with a perfectly preserved marble mantel.

The parlor is square instead of rectangular, a shape favored by Thomas Jefferson at Poplar Forest. Walls are plaster, as are moldings and ceiling medallions. Enormous heart pine pocket doors lead to the formal dining room with fireplace. This room is large enough to host a party but cozy enough to be enjoyed by two. Off the dining room is a den (which could also be a guest room) with a full bath and a completely restored sleeping porch.

A cozy, detached study has built-in wormy cypress cabinets, a fireplace and a full bath. The walls are painted with historical colors. The room can be used as an office or guest room.

Now to the private spaces: On the left side of the grand hall a music room mirrors the parlor. The cypress mantel over the fireplace matches the marble fireplaces in the formal rooms. This room, home to a restored 1866 Steinway Parlor grand piano with rosewood case, has hosted more than one public chamber music recital. The music room leads to a book-lined library, also with a fireplace.

Behind the library, we find the master bedroom, master bath and a second completely restored sleeping porch, which is flanked by fragrant sweet olive and has a beautiful view of the property. Both sleeping porches are situated to stay shady and cool in the summer.

Heart pine pocket doors separate the formal dining room from the parlor. The door on the left, which leads to the kitchen, originally led to the veranda. Lucile “Lucky” Fickett of Cannell & Chaffin in Los Angeles decorated the dining room, as well as the rest of the home. Wallpaper is by Clarence House.

The butler’s pantry has been transformed into an efficient kitchen, while preserving the huge, original cabinet that covers one wall. A door leads to a massive, private screened porch with towering ceilings and a view of an all-white garden resplendent with jasmine, azalea and gardenia.

Past the screened porch is an expansive laundry room and a charming detached office that, with a fireplace and a full bath, could double as a bedroom. There are four outbuildings on the property: A carriage house, a well-preserved tworoom former slave cabin, a brick greenhouse and a smokehouse that’s been converted to a screened room—perfect for picnics, yoga or summer reading.

Except for the birdsong, it’s otherworldly quiet here. It’s hard to believe it’s just a short walk to Walterboro’s Antique District, Artisan Center, museum, churches, restaurants and grocery stores. Charleston; Savannah; Beaufort, South Carolina; coastal beaches; and the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge are an hour away.

A spacious, screened back veranda, cool and shady in the summer, opens onto a fragrant white garden.

A former two-room slave cabin is one of four outbuildings on the property, including a carriage house, a greenhouse and a smokehouse, now a screened-in relaxation room.

Calvert Huffines, manager of The Huffines Company, represents the home. Huffines, a retired Realtor from Sotheby’s International, specializes in the sale of historically significant Southern properties, such as plantations and hunting properties. He is a dedicated preservationist as well as a member of the board of directors of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation. “Something about this house grabbed me. It is one of the most important antebellum Southern estates that exists—I had to be involved,” he says.

The home is filled with lovely antiques, each with a story that the current owners will happily share.

Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.