SC History Trail

The Columns Plantation

Established as a cotton plantation in 1854, The Columns Plantation is regionally renowned for its classic Greek-Revival manor house, which features 22 colossal Doric columns and gives the site its name. The home is a popular local location for wedding receptions and is also the site of an annual Civil War reenactment.


The Columns Plantation
5001 Rankin Plantation Road, Florence, SC 29506
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Phone: 843-662-6350
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Site Description
The Columns Plantation, located in the Mars Bluff community east of Florence, was established by a Pee Dee region planter, William Rogers Johnson, in 1854. Johnson was a physician and planter who served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and the State Senate from Marion District. Dr. Johnson is said to have used local timber and brick made onsite to build the plantation's distinctive manor house which exists today.

Principal crops on the Johnson Plantation were cotton and tobacco. Unlike many Southern plantations, The Columns operated with slave labor for only about ten years, and for most of the property's history as a working plantation it was farmed with hired labor. Dr. Johnson lived here until his death in 1893 and is buried at nearby Hopewell Presbyterian Church.

The house is a classic example of the Greek-Revival style of architecture, favored by affluent cotton planters in the Antebellum South. The simple, but elegant home, with its white painted facade, features five downstairs rooms and five upstairs rooms with a basement. Its most prominent feature is the series of 22 colossal Doric columns which encircle the home's wraparound porch and which give the plantation its modern name - The Columns.

In 1902, the Johnson Plantation was acquired by Walter Lacy Rankin of Fayetteville, North Carolina, although he lived there only briefly before his death in 1904. His wife, Jennie Robertson Rankin, lived in the home until her death in 1959 and named the house The Columns. The magnificent house at The Columns is also known locally as "Carolina Hall" because it was the model for the plantation house in the motion picture "Carolina" - a 1934 romantic comedy starring Lionel Barrymore and Janet Gaynor, with an uncredited appearance by a new child actress named Shirley Temple.

In 1974, The Columns was purchased by James Harwell, a descendant of the Rankin family who raised corn, cotton, tobacco and cattle on the property. Today, the tastefully-restored home and surrounding plantation property are still owned by the Harwell family. A quarter-mile lane leading to the house is flanked by mature pecan trees, and the magnificent columned home - now known as the Rankin-Harwell House - is available for wedding receptions. The Columns, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is also the site of a popular annual Civil War reenactment.