Remnants of a time gone by, these Southern ruins and abandoned homes remind us that nothing lasts forever. Once filled with laughter, a bit of sorrow, and years of memories made, their halls now stand empty. No families to greet guests in the parlor. No children to run up the stairs. Some offer nothing but small glimpses into what once was. Their time is gone but not forgotten.
- Windsor Ruins—Port Gibson, MississippiAfter the fire on February 17, 1890, only the mansion’s twenty-three Corinthian columns and iron staircase remained (photo courtesy of Matt Lancashire)
A trademark of the antebellum South was the splendor of plantation homes, and Windsor did not disappoint. Completed in 1861 for wealthy planter Smith Daniell II, the sprawling mansion contained twenty-five rooms and twenty-five fireplaces, and was the largest house of its time. Resting on the Daniell family’s 2,600-acre plantation, Windsor was the epitome of Southern luxury at its finest.
But devastation strikes at any moment. After living in the mansion just a few short weeks, Daniell became ill after a mosquito bite and passed away on April 12, 1861. Coincidentally, this was the day the Civil War began. Despite the fate of many beautiful homes in the South, Windsor did not meet its ruin at the cruel hands of war. Serving as an observation point for both sides and later as a Union hospital, Windsor survived the war unscathed.
Still within the Daniell family after the War, the home looked as if it might fulfill the builder’s dreams after all. But on February 17, 1890, a guest accidentally dropped a cigarette, beginning a blaze that consumed the home. In the end, only the twenty-three Corinthian columns and the iron staircase survived.
- Old Sheldon Church— Yemassee, South Carolina Originally Prince William’s Parish Church, the structure later known as the Sheldon Church was one of the first Greek revival buildings in the U.S. (photo courtesy of Bill Fitzpatrick)
Once known to its congregation as Prince Williams’ Parish Church, the building was one of the first Greek revival structures to be built in the United States. Construction of the church, which bordered William Bull’s Newberry Plantation (Bull is believed to have funded much of the building), was finished in the early 1750’s. Sadly, none of its parishioners could foresee the war and torment that awaited their beloved church.
Nearly twenty years after its completion, the deep-seated tension that had taken over the colonies erupted. The Revolutionary War had begun, and it was rumored that Sheldon Church was used as secret storage for gun powder and other items of war. When South Carolina was invaded by the British, the church was burned, although its walls remained. Nearly fifty years after the war ended, the church was rebuilt.
Prince William’s Parish Church once again welcomed God’s people—until once again war broke out. General William Sherman’s “March to the Sea” spared little along the way, burning homes and buildings along its path. No stranger to war, on January 14, 1865, Sheldon Church was set ablaze. This time it would not recover. The ruins remain, a few remaining walls and columns scattered among the Low-country trees.
- Stoney Baynard Ruins—Hilton Head, South CarolinaThe Stoney-Baynard Ruins in Hilton Head, South Carolina, display the remnants of a mansion built in typical Low country style of the time, a mixture of timber and tabby, a mixture of crushed oyster shells, lime, and sand (photo courtesy of Dmytro Sergiyenko)
A story filled with character and island legends, the Stoney-Baynard ruins tell a story of island living and the families who walked it. While these ruins lack the impressiveness of many inland antebellum homes that have come to ruin, the Stoney-Baynard ruins display a striking difference in construction. The mansion, like many coastal homes of its time, was built with a mixture of timber and tabby, a mixture of crushed oyster shells, lime, and sand, of which time is not as forgiving.
The home was built between 1793 and 1810 by wealthy cotton planter Captain John Stoney. Naming the property Braddock’s Point Plantation, it faced the Calibogue Sound and was believed to have included a large wrap-around porch to view the sea from. Known around the island as a gambling man, local legend says the Captain’s grandson, “Saucy Jack,” lost the home to William E. Baynard in a poker match in the late 1830’s. Other stories say the Stoney family went bankrupt and Baynard bought the property from the bank.
The home stayed within the Baynard family until the Civil War, when many of the island’s residents fled inland. The Union acquired the Stoney-Baynard Mansion, legends and all, and used it as headquarters until it burned down toward the end of the war. It is unsure whether the fire was at the hands of the Union or Confederate army.
- McRainey House – Elmodel, Georgia Neglected, the McRainey home sits with no plans or funds to repair what time has destroyedA wealthy, prominent, and industrious man, Malcolm Archibald McRainey built his home in 1909. The first in the rural community to have running water and electricity, McRainey’s wealth helped to put Elmodel, Georgia, on the map.
Known as a friendly man, McRainey and his family enjoyed entertaining guests at the elaborate, neoclassical home. But he wouldn’t enjoy his dream estate long, as McRainey left his wife and many children behind upon his death in 1914. Unlike the other homes on this list, the McRainey House wasn’t burned or town apart by war. It fell neglected to disrepair, the victim of a vanishing fortune and time gone by. The home is still owned by the second wife of McRainey’s eldest son, now a widow living beside the dilapidated home, once ensconced in beauty. The upstairs is said to have collapsed, and at this time there are no plans to restore it to its original splendor.
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