By James T. Hammond
Published May 19, 2014
The University of South Carolina is seeking to sell a former rice plantation, including a house built in 1825 and the surrounding woodland and wetlands that the university has owned for three decades.
The Wedge plantation in South Carolina's Santee Delta features this Federalist style home built in 1825 by rice planter William Lucas. (Photo provided by University of South Carolina)
The invitation to bid was posted in today’s edition of S.C. Business Opportunities (.pdf).
Bids will be accepted until 3 p.m. on June 12. The notice specifies that the minimum bid that will be accepted is $4 million. People interested in bidding may contact USC at 803-777-3620 or download the invitation to bid and property information at http://www.gs.sc.gov/sb-ps/RPS-bids-invite.phtm.
The plantation is located on Wedge Plantation Road, McClellanville. The tract comprises 452 acres of highland and 1,051 acres of marsh and wetlands.
The plantation was purchased by USC during the administration of former President James Holderman, and served for a few years as the home of a biological research institute. By 1996, there was no longer federal research support for the institute, and The Wedge lost any institutional purpose. The university leased it for 10 years to a private group for recreational purposes.
In 2007, when that lease expired, USC sought new tenants who could afford to keep up the 8,600-square-foot historic home.
The decision to sell could ignite a fight over the plantation’s future use. It would be highly desirable to developers. But conservationists likely would oppose development of the unspoiled property surrounded by 100,000 acres of protected wetlands.
The Santee delta in colonial times was home to the richest class of planters in America. In 1825, planter William Lucas invented a rice thresher to mechanically separate rice grain from its hulls. Lucas built the Greek Revival-style home near the docks where his boats sailed for Charleston.
The Carolina rice culture long ago disappeared, and The Wedge was sold in 1966 to Dr. Richard B. Dominick, who had lived in New York but spent much of his youth in the S.C. Lowcountry. Dominick’s studied moths and built a laboratory near the plantation house. When Dominick died, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a grove of sweet bay trees on the plantation.
Dominick’s widow sold the property to the Carolina Research and Development Foundation for less than its value because she believed in the mission proposed for it by the university, said son Oliver Dominick.
The plantation house, surrounded by great oaks, remains prominent among Lowcountry plantation architecture. Its floors are made of broad pine floorboards the color of dark honey and glisten in the sunlight that streams in the windows. Several rooms feature tall fireplaces where servants once prepared meals. It has 10 bedrooms, a library, kitchen, and dining and living rooms.
"The Wedge is architecturally significant as a Lowcountry example of a Federal style residence," according to the nomination by the S.C. Department of Archives and History for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. "Although the house has undergone certain alterations, the integrity of the building is not significantly compromised."
It was named to the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 18, 1975.