The Wedge plantation six miles outside of McClellanville is for sale, but its owner, the University of South Carolina, may not get as much money as it originally hoped.

Earlier this year, the school put the property up for bids with a $4 million minimum, but when that process ended on June 12, no one had made an offer that the school felt it could pursue, USC's chief communications officer Wes Hickman said.

"We are now entertaining offers that may be below minimum asking price, but there is no deadline to submit and no requirement that we accept one of them," he added.

The property, a former rice plantation on Wedge Plantation Road, includes a large, historic home built around 1830, 452 acres of high ground and 1,051 acres of wetlands.

Former USC President James Holderman bought the plantation three decades ago, and it briefly served as a biological research institute. When federal research support dried up, the university began leasing the property around 1997 to a private group.

Dana Beach, director of the Coastal Conservation League, said conservationists have known for years that the university might sell The Wedge, which is nestled in one of the state's most pristine areas.

"It's fine for them to sell it, but they ought to make sure either they protect it with a conservation easement or with an understanding from a buyer that the buyer will protect it," Beach said. "The reason that makes sense is there's a vast amount of state-owned wildlife habitat right in that immediate vicinity."

That state-owned land includes the 20,000-acre Santee Coastal Reserve, and Beach said placing a conservation easement on The Wedge likely wouldn't drop its value much.

"The likelihood that someone will come in and buy it and develop it is not much," he said. "That area is not a hot spot for development. There are more mosquitoes up there than almost anywhere else in the state, which is a lot."

The house reflects the Santee delta's prosperous rice culture that began in colonial times and extended through much of the 19th century. It was built by William Lucas, who also invented a rice thresher to separate rice grain from its hulls.

He later transferred the property to his son, Alexander Lucas, who owned it until 1914, according to its National Register of Historic Places nomination. For much of the 20th century, The Wedge served as a resort home.

In 1966, Dr. Richard Dominick, who had lived in New York but spent part of his childhood in the Lowcountry, bought the property and built a laboratory near the plantation house. His widow sold the property to the Carolina Research and Development Foundation.

The rectangular-shaped house is significant for its architectural merit as a late Federal plantation home residence, according to the S.C. Department of Archives and History. A horseshoe stair of granite steps and iron railing leads up to the porch, while a semicircular arched entrance way leads to the basement.

The house has about 8,600 square feet, including 10 bedrooms, a library, kitchen, and dining and living rooms.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.