2018-07-06 / On Second Thought

Hampton-Preston as a tourist home

Contributed by Anna Kate Twitty


Historic Hampton-Preston Tourist Home key fob Historic Hampton-Preston Tourist Home key fob For two decades of its 200-year history, Hampton-Preston Mansion served as a tourist home and boarding house for temporary lodgers.

Opened by local developer Thomas E. Hair in 1944, the Hampton Preston Tourist Home sought to appeal to middle-class travelers who wanted homey and charming accommodations without having to pay steep hotel prices.

Hair purchased the property in 1943 and performed necessary maintenance and created the desired ambiance prior to opening the tourist home for business the next year. The revitalized interior rooms were furnished with antiques meant to inspire feelings of nostalgia for the by-gone Southern glamour of the previous century.

The Hampton Preston Tourist Home, boasting 25 rooms, was one of several in the nearby area, which included the Blanding Tourist Home, the Martha Washington Tourist Home, and Gilliam’s Tourist Home.

These boarding houses excluded African American visitors, in accordance with the laws of the Jim Crow South. The Negro Travelers’ Greenbook helped African American travelers find lodgings and accommodations and provided traveling safety tips for avoiding inconvenience and danger.

Tourist homes for African American travelers in Columbia included the Cornwall Tourist Home and the Smith Tourist Home.

Today, you can explore more than 300 African American cultural sites across South Carolina through the Greenbook of South Carolina, a free mobile travel guide.

During the early 1950s, the property shifted from tourist home toward boarding house, focusing less on its atmosphere and more on providing basic utility. Part of this shift was brought about by commercialization of the surrounding properties, a change of neighborhood status, which was at odds with the tourist home’s nostalgic ambiance. Increasing wear and decreasing maintenance led to the closure of the home in 1966.

During the years Hampton-Preston served as a tourist home, tourists and long-term boarders were issued a room key attached to an oversized fob. These pressboard or plastic fobs ensured lost or mistakenly-taken keys could be returned to the tourist home through the United States Post Office.

After the closing of the home in 1966, most of the keys disappeared. Historic Columbia possesses six of these keys in their collection, three of which are on display at Hampton Preston Mansion.

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the construction of Hampton- Preston, one of South Carolina’s oldest structures. To commemorate this milestone, Historic Columbia reopened the site May 12 with an updated interpretation, new exhibits, hands-on interactive elements, expanded public gardens, a new exterior paint scheme, and further improvements to the site’s structure and grounds.

Tours are available Tuesday–Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Visit HistoricColumbia.org to learn more.

Return to top