Historic home to go on tour Saturday, maybe for first time ever
ST. GEORGE — No one in Dorchester County’s history remodeled their home with as much fervor as Vernon Cosby Badham did 100 years ago — at least that’s how one story goes.
Of course, it surely helped that Badham owned the sawmill nearby, near where U.S. Highway 78 and Interstate 95 cross today.
And love also might have played a role.
What is known for sure is that Badham, a self-made native of North Carolina, built this mansion with the two-story portico with Corinthian columns wrapping around three sides.
He also built an expansive sun room with about 600 separate panes of glass that extends off the western facade.
This room once offered glimpses of his industrial operation, which included not only a mill but also a commissary, worker housing, a post office and other support buildings.
Most of this community (named Badham) eventually vanished after the mill closed down in 1938, toward the end of the Great Depression.
Still, the house survives.
It has remained in private hands but will be open for a rare tour Saturday afternoon to benefit the Upper Dorchester County Historical Society.
As dramatic as the outside appears, the inside is just as interesting.
The interior features wooden floors, paneling and ceilings, including some ornate carvings, particularly with the two composite columns just inside the front door. It’s a dark look, a reminder this house was built near the end of the Victorian era.
The house has extensive stained glass, particularly surrounding the entrance and interior doors, many of which are sliding pocket doors that still work well.
A few marble fireplace mantels provide yet another elegant touch.
The house’s rear wing that now features the kitchen and pantry also once housed the servants’ quarters. This wing might have been Badham’s earliest home — or not.
Old newspaper accounts offer conflicting facts as to the circumstances behind the mansion’s construction, and they also question which of Badham’s two wives were first to occupy it.
The house is not on the National Register of Historic Places, not because it doesn’t qualify. It’s just that no one has done the research.
Two old News and Courier accounts suggest Badham had a much more modest foursquare home on the site long before his ambitious expansion and remodeling.
They say a New York architect guided the Badham House expansion and redesign shortly after Badham married for a second time and returned from his honeymoon in Italy.
His new bride apparently admired a marble mansion near Rome, and they decided to recreate their own version in wood. A 1958 report in The State implies his first wife lived there, but none of it is well-sourced.
A 1949 newspaper account says all the wood — the heart pine for the exterior and the interior hardwood paneling — was sawed and finished at the nearby mill, except for the column capitals imported from Philadelphia and some wide hardwood panels from New Orleans.
Badham died around 1947, and the property was purchased a year later by John Wesley Weeks, who renovated it.
The Badham House can be considered a sort of a wooden, country cousin to Charleston’s Villa Margherita at 4 South Battery, built about two decades earlier. Both white mansions are inspired by a romantic Mediterranean classicism.
And Badham’s grandeur is matched only by its lingering mysteries, by all that is not known about it. What is clear from its story is that while jobs, landscapes, even whole communities can come and go, a well-built building often stands the test of time.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.