Discover The Fascinating History of Hopsewee Plantation SC

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or just love visiting old houses, a visit to Hopsewee Plantation in South Carolina is a must for your bucket list.

In addition to touring the beautifully preserved house that was the birthplace of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, guests can visit the River Oak Cottage Tea Room to relax with a cup of tea, get a bite to eat, or just soak in the magic of another era.

So tag along as I take you on a tour of the beautiful house and grounds at Hopsewee Plantation in historic Georgetown, S.C.

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Ready to go on a tour of Hopsewee Plantation? It’s the #1 Georgetown, S.C. attraction on TripAdvisor.

Hopsewee Plantation History

Built between 1735 and 1740 Hopsewee Plantation is the birthplace and home of Thomas Lynch Jr., one of the youngest signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The plantation house (which was built nearly 40 years before the Revolutionary War), sits on the North Santee River, and is sometimes called Hopsewee-on-the-Santee.

The origin of the name of the plantation is unknown, but my tour guide said it meant “high ground” to the Native Americans of the Sewee or “Islanders” tribe in that part of South Carolina.

If you want an idea of what an original lowcountry rice plantation looks like then Hopsewee Plantation is a great place to visit.

Drayton Hall in Charleston is another former rice plantation that is open for tours.

See the area by water with this Waccamaw River Guided Boat Tour.

The signatures of the signers of the declaration of independence including thomas lynch jr who was born at Hopsewee Plantation.
Signatures on the Declaration of Independence include Thomas Lynch Jr., whose name can be seen in the first column, second to last between two other signers from South Carolina: Thomas Heyworth Jr. and Arthur Middleton. There is a space between Rutledge and Heyworth because it was reserved for Thomas Lynch Sr., who became too ill to sign.

Who Was Founding Father Thomas Lynch Jr.?

Thomas Lynch was born at Hopsewee Plantation in Georgetown, S.C., in August of 1749, to Thomas Lynch and Elizabeth Allston Lynch.

After growing up and being educated in England, he returned to South Carolina in 1772. Although his father dreamed that his son would become a lawyer, Thomas returned to become a farmer.

But Thomas had other interests as well. Because of his involvement in politics and his position in society, he was elected as a member of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina in February of 1775.

At the time, this was not a popular position. Many South Carolinians objected to the state constitution this group created, as did the Continental Congress that was meeting in Philadelphia at the time.

In June of 1775, Thomas Lynch became a company commander of the First South Carolina regiment, a commission given to him by the Provincial Congress.

When he learned of the declining health of his father, he requested leave to go to Philadelphia where his father was serving on the Continental Congress.

Although his request was denied, Thomas soon received word that he, too, had been appointed to the Continental Congress, so he was permitted to make the journey to Philadelphia.

The Lynches were the only father and son to serve on the Continental Congress, but only Thomas signed the Declaration of Independence, his father being too ill to do so.

Edward Rutledge, also of South Carolina, was the only person younger than Thomas to be a part of the Congress.

After signing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas and his father set out to go home to South Carolina, but on the way, his father suffered a stroke. The elder Lynch died in Annapolis, Maryland in December of 1776.

Thomas retired from public life at the beginning of 1777, living at nearby Peachtree Plantation with his wife. In 1779 the couple decided to relocate to France in order for Lynch, Jr. to restore his health.

Sadly, they were both lost at sea during the voyage.

Other Hopsewee Plantation Owners

Before he died, Thomas Lynch, Jr. sold Hopsewee Plantation to Robert Hume, who died four years after acquiring the property.

The plantation remained in the Hume family, and was taken over by John Hume Lucas, great-grandson of Robert Hume, in 1844.

Lucas became a prominent rice planter at Hopsewee. When Lucas died in 1853, the plantation’s ownership went to his widow, who continued to use the land for rice.

Amazingly, the property remained in the Lucas family until the early 20th century. In 1945, Hopswee Plantation was purchased by the International Paper Company and then sold to Colonel Reading Wilkinson three years later.

Take a look at some plantation tours in Charleston SC.

The Wilkersons updated the house with electricity, running water, and other modern conveniences. Mrs. Wilkerson moved to Charleston in 1969 after her husband died, and traded the property to Jim and Helen Maynard, who opened the house as a museum.

In the early 2000s, the Maynards sold the property to the current owners, Frank and Raejean Beattie. The Beatties have kept the property open for tours and also lived in the house for many years.

The river side of Hopesewee plantation showing the balcony, front porch and brick steps.
This is a view of the river side of the Hopsewee Plantation house.

Inside The Hopsewee Plantation House

It’s hard to believe this beautiful house has stood for almost three centuries! The construction and craftsmanship that went into the house are evident and obviously helped it to stand the test of time.

I wish I could share interior photos, but no pictures are allowed inside Hopsewee. It is furnished with beautiful 18th and 19th century furniture and set up so you can envision what a rice plantation looked like when it was in operation.

Architectural Features Of Hopsewee Plantation House

The walls of Hopsewee are made of black cypress and the floors are heart pine. Cypress is slow growing but was plentiful back then. The wood has qualities that help it repel insects and keep it from rotting, so was used quite often for construction in the South.

The main house is forty feet wide and fifty feet deep, and like many other homes I visited in South Carolina, the plank floors are made from one length of board, not pieced together as they are today.

The piazzas or balconies that are seen today were added in 1845, replacing an earlier verandah.

The house rests on a brick foundation which forms a large cellar.

The Gold Room

The Lynch family was considered the second wealthiest family in the region, and the colors in the house bear that out. The first room we entered, a parlor, was called the “Gold Room,” a color that was considered a sign of wealth.

The fireplace mantel and the molding in this room were an intricate hand-carved candlelight motif brought from Charleston. The hear pine floor boards were 1 and half inches thick!

According to our guide, the trees used were only harvested when they were about 100 years old. That makes sense since the floors were made with one solid piece of board running the length of the room.

Some of the furniture in this room was owned by the current owner’s great-great grandmother and dates back to the 1700s.

The Purple Room

The Purple Room (yes, it was very purple) was used as the dining room and was smaller than most plantation dining rooms. It would have only been used on rare occasions like Christmas gatherings or special events.

The windows were 9-over-9 panes and someone engraved their initials in the glass in 1906, reportedly to see if their engagement ring was a real diamond.

The Central Hall

The Central Hall is just as it sounds, a wide hallway that runs from the front to the back of the house. Each floor at Hopsewee has four rooms with a central hall.

The downstairs hall featured a dark blue Oriental runner and had a portrait of Francis Marion hanging on the wall. Marion, also known as the Swamp Fox, operated in the area during the Revolutionary War.

Interestingly, one of the owners of Hopsewee had a son who fought with Marion at the age of only 14.

There was also a display of duck decoys, a prevalent sport in the region.

The Study

The Study was painted a bright pink and contained family pictures of the owners as well as ancestors who were prominent South Carolinians.

There was also a picture of Archibald Rutledge, a prolific writer and owner of nearby Hampton Plantation.

It was a very cozy space that looked comfortable and inviting to for doing business.

The Bedroom Where Thomas Lynch Jr. Was Born

It is amazing to be able to stand in the bedroom where a signer of the Declaration of Independence was born!

The room had floral wall paper and a poster bed and was very sunny and bright.

The Balcony

The door to the balcony was 8 feet high by four feet wide and had L and H hardware that was probably forged on the plantation. No glue and no nails were used in the construction of the door.

When the door was opened, the breeze through the central hall on the second floor from the river was immediate. It’s amazing the knowledge they used in the earliest houses to provide natural air conditioning.

The Cellar

The Cellar of Hopsewee Plantation was large and contained a small door that probably led to the outside kitchen at one time.

The owners have cases of items that have been found on the property over the years, including belt buckles, square locks, pottery, utensils, bullets, pipe stems, buttons, stirrups, farm implements and horse shoes.

Hopsewee Plantation Tour Information

The guided tour at Hopsewee Plantation house goes room-to-room and explores the history of those who lived there, as well as the architectural features of the house.

Tours of the house are given on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The plantation is closed on Sunday and Monday, as well as from mid-December to mid-January).

Dining in the Hopsewee Plantation Tea Room is available Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hopsewee Plantation Tour tickets are:

  • $22 for adults
  • $20 for seniors ages 65 and over
  • $15 for students ages 12 to 17
  • $10 for children ages 6 to 11.

The plantation also offers special half-hour Gullah-Geechee tours Tuesdays through Saturdays for an additional charge of $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $8 for youth and $5 for children.

Related Post: For more information on the Gullah Geechee culture, you can visit the McLeod Plantation in Charleston.

Another offering at Hopsewee (that I want to go back for) is an Indigo Dyeing Workshop. Indigo was an important part of Lowcountry culture, and was the first cash crop at Hopsewee. This class lets you create a bandanna and tea towel to take home! Check their website for times and prices.

Sweetgrass Basket Weaving on Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and Ghost Tours on Wednesdays at 5 p.m.

Dining at River Oak Cottage is open to the public and available Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pro Tip: I recommend that you tour Hopsewee in the morning, grab lunch at the River Oak Cottage, and then spend the afternoon at Hampton Plantation, which is right down the road.

Other suggestions: If you enjoy plantation tours, visit Boone Hall, which has lovely gardens and was used for the filming of numerous movies. Nearby Middleton Place is also known for its gardens and was the home of another Declaration of Independence signer.

Nature Abounds At Hopsewee

The stately Hopsewee Plantation house sits on the banks of the North Santee River and is surrounded by ancient trees that are adorned with the silvery scarves of Spanish moss.

You will definitely want to take a house tour, but make sure you leave enough time before or after your tour to explore the beautiful grounds and just sit on the front porch or in the yard by the river.

It’s amazing to be able to walk around and touch trees that have stood for centuries and would have been around to witness the birth of this country (and Thomas Lynch Jr.).

Old live oak tree on the grounds of Hopsewee Plantation with Spanish moss and sun shining through the branches.
The branches of ancient live oak trees hang over the North Santee River in the yard of the Hopsewee Plantation house.

Slavery At Hopsewee Plantation

Of course, Southern plantations couldn’t be prosperous without the slaves who performed the labor. Hopsewee features presentations that focus on the enslaved African experiences on this historic plantation and teaches about the interesting Gullah Geechee culture of the region.

Two original slave cabins remain on the property, a testament to the time period. They help provide an authentic look at plantation life and the Hopsewee Plantation slaves.

One of the original slave quarters at Hopsewee Plantation. It is a small white rectangular building with a shingle roof.
One of the two remaining slaves quarters at Hopsewee Plantation.

The Hopsewee Plantation Tea Room: River Oak cottage

Named one of the top tearooms in South Carolina, the Hopsewee Plantation Tea Room, called the River Oak Cottage, has an English tea service that is flavored with Hopsewee’s distinctive Southern charm.

And I do mean Southern charm!

It was a chilly Spring day when I visited and the beautiful Tea Room had a blazing fire going in the their large inviting “library” space.

The Hopsewee Plantation Tea Room, showing comfortable black chair, a white bookcase full of books and a piano. There is a beautiful chandelier hanging overhead.

In addition to teas, the Hopsewee Plantation tearoom provides a full lunch menu with recipes created by gourmet cook (and owner) Raejean Beattie.

Raejean specializes in dishes that reflect the tastes and traditions of the Lowcountry region.

The cottage’s beautifully-appointed interior creates an inviting atmosphere for any dining experience and makes a perfect setting for private events and wedding ceremonies.

Dining at River Oak Cottage is open to the public and available Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hopsewee plantation tea room, showing white round tables with blue tableclothes.  The floor and ceiling are wood and windows surround the room.
Hopsewee Plantation Tea Room offers a beautiful dining room with a wonderful view.

What’s Nearby Hopsewee Plantation

I highly recommend Hampton Plantation State Park, which is close by. I spent three hours walking the grounds and doing the house tour there.

You should also visit my favorite town in the world: Georgetown, S.C.

And if you love historic, charming small towns, take a drive to tree-lined McClellenville, S.C.

FAQs About Hopsewee Plantation

Where is Hopsewee Plantation Located?

Hopsewee is located at 494 Hopsewee Road, Georgetown, S.C.

Does Hopsewee Plantation Have A Menu?

Yes, the plantation tea room, called the River Oak Cottage, offers a lunch menu of lowcountry dishes.

Does Hopsewee Plantation Host Weddings?

Yes, the plantation can be booked for weddings and other special events.

Wrap-Up Of Hopsewee Plantation

Hopsewee Plantation is a remarkable place to visit and tour. Make sure you leave enough time to explore both the house and the grounds.

It’s wonderfully significant that Hopsewee Plantation is one of just 12 remaining birthplaces of Signers, and that it has not been modified from its original design.

This National Historic Landmark is in a very convenient location, being about halfway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston on Highway 17 (Ocean Highway) in the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

In addition to tours, the plantation hosts numerous special events including Hopsewee Plantation ghost tours, indigo dyeing classes and sweetgrass basket weaving instruction.

The property is also available for special events, like weddings and family gatherings.

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