The remaining acreage of a once-sprawling and historic rice plantation along the Ashley River could soon be growing homes.

A Myrtle Beach development company plans to build 61 single-family houses on 21 acres of high ground at Ashley Hall Plantation in West Ashley.

Ashley Hall Plantation

A Myrtle Beach developer recently bought Ashley Hall Plantation in West Ashley and plans to build houses on the historic property. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Carolina Holdings Group bought the 44.6-acre site at the end of Ashley Hall Plantation Road in January for $4.4 million through an affiliate, Ashley Hall Plantation Partners LLC.

The riverfront property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and dates back to the mid-1600s.

The developer's website calls for "an intimate neighborhood of single-family residences" on the property. "Great care will be taken to respect the land and all of its historic significance for the enjoyment of generations to come."

In addition to building houses, the developer plans to set aside three acres near the entrance because of historic structures remaining there. They will be open to the public and under the oversight of Historic Charleston Foundation, according to Gary Wadsten, managing partner in the development firm.

The historic structures include the remaining steps of the original plantation house that was burned during the Civil War as well as the bottom floor of a house built by the plantation's founder, Stephen Bull. It is believed to be one of the oldest structures in the state.

A second floor with little historical significance was added much later and is expected to be ripped off. A simple post-and-beam roof is expected to cover the original construction.

"We want to try to put it back into its original state as much as possible," Wadsten said last week.

The new owners are asking the city of Charleston to annex the site and zone it for single-family homes with a landmark overlay zone for the historic portion.

"The plans still have a lot of approval to go through," Wadsten said.

He hopes construction on water and sewer lines can begin by the first of the year with the development of homes about 90 days later.

Wadsten didn't offer a price range for the houses. The smallest will be about 2,200 square feet.

Two other houses are on the property. One was added early in the last century when the property changed hands. Wadsten said the house, erected next to a tall monument, will be restored and used as a community center and temporary sales office.

The other ranch-style house built a few decades ago by the previous owner will be demolished to make way for a small lake, he said.

The city's zoning allows up to 80 homes on the property, but Wadsten said his firm, which specializes in developments in unique locations, including Jekyll Island in Georgia, is comfortable building fewer houses on the site.

Winslow Hastie, chief preservation officer of Historic Charleston Foundation, said a preservation easement never worked out on the land.

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"He has every right to develop the whole thing," Hastie said. "There is no protection for the whole area."

Even so, Hastie said, the developer "is fully committed to preserving and protecting the most historically significant part of the site. He wants this to be an amenity, not only for the development, but also for the community."

The property has a colorful history.

Stephen Bull, a diplomat between the colony and American Indians, founded the original 400-acre plantation around 1676, according to the South Carolina Plantations website. His son, William Bull, built a large plantation house in 1704. The house remained in the family until it was burned in 1865 near the end of the Civil War.

In the late 1700s, a tall monument to William Bull II was erected on the property. In 1873, the Bull family sold the plantation, and it subsequently changed hands several times.

In 1900, John William Kennerty purchased what had become a 1,000-acre holding. Unsuccessful at farming, he lost the property a few years later. The next owner built a house next to the monument.

In 1919, Kennerty's son, William Charles Kennerty, bought the plantation. He died in the 1930s, and the property was divided between his wife, Rosina Kennerty; his daughter, Rosina Marie "Rose Marie" Kennerty Signeous; and his son, William Charles Kennerty Jr. Because of the high cost of property taxes, the Kennerty's sold off all but a few acres, according to South Carolina Plantations.

The recent property sale was through the estate of Signeous, who died in 2014.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or warrenlancewise@twitter.com.