Richard Hampton Jenrette a self-proclaimed “house-aholic”, established the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT) and Richard Hampton Jenrette Foundation in 1994. Mr. Jenrette has spent the last forty five years acquiring and restoring homes. Some were sold and given away but he kept 6 of the finest. This not-for-profit organization will eventually own, maintain and manage sharing the homes with the public. In additon to the restoration the next logical step was the collecting of period antiques to furnish the houses. Today, Mr. Jenrette owns hundreds of antiques, almost entirely American and many original to the houses.
1. Ayr Mount
“Ayr Mount is a Federal-era plantation house built in 1815 in Hillsborough, North Carolina by William Kirkland. Kirkland, named the house in honor of his birthplace, Ayr, Scotland. Unlike the other houses in the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust collection, Ayr Mount looks deceptively simple, even austere on the outside. There are no soaring columns proclaiming its classicism. On the other hand, Ayr Mount is far grander – especially in the interior – than one might expect from a first look at the exterior. The ceiling height of 14 feet is unusual for this period as is the elaborate Federal period woodwork and plasterwork found throughout the house. Ayr Mount also was the first major residence built of brick in this area of predominantly colonial era wood frame houses. At the time of its construction at the end of the War of 1812, Ayr Mount was considered one of the finest residential structures in Piedmont, North Carolina. “
This home is currently open to the public. Information for visiting the home and its beautiful grounds are here. The preservation of the land surrounding Ayr Mount is an important part of Mr. Jenrette’s mission. Ayr Mount was originally a 503-acre plantation, but today the house is surrounded by approximately 60 remaining acres of gardens, woodlands, pastures, and serene riverside lookouts. These grounds, plus the trails opposite it across the Eno River, total to over 287 acres. There are three distinct trails that are privately maintained without governmental funding by Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. Enjoy year round.
Video on Poets Walk. Publication available on this house, The Kirklands of Ayr Mount chronicles the rise and fall of Kirkland’s fortunes and his descendants’ efforts to retain the family mansion for 150 years after Kirkland’s death. The book also provides a detailed picture of the small but historically important town of Hillsborough.
“Millford Plantation, built in 1839-41, is considered by many to be the finest example of Greek Revival residential architecture in America. The grandeur of the house, located in such a remote section of rural South Carolina, seems to come as a surprise to first-time visitors, who must drive over miles of dirt roads and through moss-draped forests to reach the house. Suddenly the house appears out of nowhere, in all its classical glory – six massive fluted Corinthian columns, 16-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, a domed rotunda enclosing a spectacular circular staircase – all the features to impress that are inherent in Greek Revival architecture. Surrounded by live oaks, magnolias and green lawns, Millford seems as though it might be part of a dream.”
How did Millford survive the Civil War? It was a miracle. On what turned out to be the final day of the War before Lee’s surrender, Northern troops, under the command of Brig. General Edward Elmer Potter, arrived at Millford. Gov. Manning met the Yankee General at the front door and observed: “Well, the house was built by a Potter (Nathaniel Potter, the architect) and it looks as though it will be destroyed by a Potter.” General Potter responded: “No, you are protected. Nathaniel Potter was my brother.”
Although their fortune was destroyed by the Civil War, the Mannings managed to hold on to Millford until 1902 when it was sold to Mary Clark Thompson of New York, who later bequeathed it to her two Clark nephews. The Clarks owned and loved Millford for the next 90 years, enjoying it as a winter residence with ample opportunities for hunting and fishing. The Clarks sold the mansion and 400 acres to Richard Hampton Jenrette in 1992, but they still retain several thousand acres of timberland in the vicinity. Visit Information.
3. Roper House
Roper House, was built in 1838 on the recently completed High Battery with a commanding view of the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. The house is an outstanding example of early 19th Century Greek Revival architecture in a city better known for its 18th Century Georgian-style architecture. Roper House is built on a monumental scale, with massive, two-story-high Ionic columns raised above a first floor, arched loggia pedestal base. Ceiling heights are 18 feet on the piano nobile, with tall windows extending to the floor. The piazza, opening off the double parlors, has the finest view in Charleston.
It is said that Mr. Roper intended his showcase home to be the first residence seen by visitors approaching Charleston from the sea.
The architect of this imposing house is undocumented, but some architectural historians have attributed its design to Karl Friedrich Reichert, a highly regarded German who was working in Charleston at the time on the new Charleston Hotel.
Richard H. Jenrette’s new book about the Roper House is now available for order. Columns by the Sea: The Roper House takes a closer look at this National Landmark and National Registered Historic Place with full-page images of the house and its collection.