Longtime owners sell Middleburg Plantation

Middleburg Plantation includes the remains of a rice mill. The Berkeley County landmark recently sold for $3.5 million.

A historic Berkeley County rice plantation that’s older than the United States has changed hands.

The owners of Middleburg Plantation, which dates back to the late 1690s, sold the 326-acre property off Cainhoy Road in Huger for $3.5 million last week.

Hill Family Limited Partnership sold the landmark on the east branch of the Cooper River to Middleburg Plantation LLC of Charlotte. The buyer is registered to Howard Martin Sprock III, founder of Moe’s Southwest Grill and Planet Smoothie.

Sprock could not be reached for comment Monday.

The plantation property includes a 2,500-square-foot, three-bedroom house, an old commissary and the remains of a mechanized rice mill.

The main residence is considered the oldest surviving wooden plantation dwelling in South Carolina.

Owners Max and Jane Hill of Charleston bought the old plantation in 1981 for weekend getaways. The decision to sell was not easy, Max Hill, 87, said Monday.

“We bought it for the family, and they are up and about now,” the longtime real estate agent added. “We have three children, and you can’t divide property like that. You like to keep it as long as you can.”

Hill said he has not met Sprock, but “I look forward to meeting him.”

The existing house at Middleburg was built in 1697 by planter Benjamin Simons, who named the plantation after the ancient capital of Zeeland Province in Holland.

The property is listed as a National Historic Landmark by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Hills and their children gradually restored parts of the aging structures, sometimes using grant money earmarked for historic projects.

At times, workers even used antique tools to recreate the craftsmanship, said Hill, who quipped in a 1983 newspaper article that Middleburg “now owns me.”

Many of the main house’s windows are original and still have a greenish tint. The stateroom features a marble fireplace that was imported from Italy.

The plantation has been a private residence and not a tourism stop, but the Hills have placed easements on the property “to protect it for the future” after the sale.

The Hills tried to sell the property at auction in 2007, but none of the bids was acceptable.

A story at the time said the property was listed for $9.9 million, but Hill said that was not true.

“We wanted to see what the market would bear,” he said. “It didn’t have a set price.”

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