Originally created 09/15/99

House of many memories

Atop a hill, under dangling Spanish moss, Katharine Colgan looked at her old family home, Kathwood Plantation.

It was where she spent summer days chasing her brothers down to the millpond for an afternoon swim. And it was at Kathwood that she lay, curled up in the living room, listening to stories her grandmother read to her. A descendent of the Hammond family, original owners of the mansion, Ms. Colgan is again visiting the family home, now owned by Lee and Andrea Curley.

The Curleys have taken on the renovation of the plantation house. They bought the 350 acres of Kathwood Plantation, near Jackson, in 1998. They began renovations in June '98 and recently moved into the house after more than a year of construction.

For Ms. Colgan, the first look at the newly renovated house was somewhat bittersweet.

"It's kind of like giving away a pet," she said. "You don't want to lose it, but it's good to see someone love it and take care of it."

Kathwood's rich history began nearly 100 years ago, when Ms. Colgan's great-uncle Henry Hammond, a grandson of former South Carolina Gov. James Henry Hammond of Redcliffe in Beech Island, commissioned a contractor to build the house for $2,700.

In 1904, her grandfather Christopher Cashel Fitzsimmons Hammond moved into the house with his new wife to start a family.

Nearly 40 years later, Ms. Colgan was born. She lived there for 20 years with her grandparents, her mother, Katharine Hammond Suber, her father, James Calvin Suber, and her two younger brothers, Harry Hammond Suber and James Calvin Suber.

"There were always three generations in the house," she said. "My grandparents had a tremendous influence, not only on our day-to-day life, but on our formation and growing up."

Both Ms. Colgan and her brother Harry agree that summer at Kathwood was their favorite season.

"It was hot. I can remember the dry heat, you could smell it," Ms. Colgan said. "The bugs buzzing in the summertime is a sound I will never forget."

"There was a lot of room to roam out there," Mr. Suber said in a telephone interview. "A lot of trees to climb."

The 80-acre property the house stands on is still surrounded by large, sprawling trees, including Darlington oaks and sycamores with stunning white bark.

The red-roofed house, with its colossal columns, remains the most striking feature of the plantation, breathtaking in its grandeur.

The architecture of the house follows the characteristics of Early Classical Revival, according to Manuel Leon Ponce, assistant professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee and a consultant on historic interiors.

Dr. Ponce will lecture on antebellum Southern plantation architectures and interiors at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Augusta Country Club. The event, which includes a luncheon, is part of Historic Augusta's Antiques Show and Sale. It costs $35 and benefits Historic Augusta. Call 724-0436 by Monday for reservations.

One of the defining features of Kathwood's architecture is the two-story porch, Dr. Ponce said. An entry porch, dominating the front of the house and equaling it in height, is common and is usually supported by four Roman Doric columns, such as the ones at Kathwood. The columns support a prominent centered gable, in this case the triangular roof of Kathwood's porch.

When renovating the exterior of the house, the Curleys raised the porch 6 inches to correct a crooked column.

The exterior received a fresh coat of paint. The original shutters, made of heart of pine (the core of the tree), remain on the house.

The annex was the only significant portion of the exterior to be renovated. It was added around 1913 to connect the main house with the kitchen.

"The wood had a lot of termite damage," Mr. Curley said. "We found someone who could match the wood exactly, and we built a new annex."

Having a cook house separate from the main house was common then, according to Dr. Ponce. "They didn't want odors to come into the house, and it was thought of as a fire hazard," he said.

The old cook house will serve as a breakfast room for the Curleys. They also replicated the structure of the cook house, located on the back-left side of the house, and made a screened-in porch to match it on the right side.

The first story of the 2,700-square-foot house has four large rooms, each divided by a doorway. The original hardwood floors have been refinished, and heart of pine floors were added to a new annex, which the Curleys have turned into a spacious kitchen.

The room where Ms. Colgan's mother used to hold school dances when she was a teen is now a den with new cherry paneling. All the doorways leading to the rooms have been converted to double doors.

Kathwood didn't have central heat until 1947, and even then the bottom rooms were the only ones heated. There were no vents on the second floor until the Curleys had the heating and air-conditioning redone.

"We used to bring our baby blankets downstairs before we went to bed and warm them up by the furnace," Ms. Colgan said. "Then we would run upstairs as fast as we could and shove the blanket to the bottom of our covers to keep our feet warm. My mother always said the electric blanket was the greatest invention for country homes."

There are eight fireplaces and four double chimneys in the house. The Curleys replaced all the mantels except for one in the guest bedroom. The upstairs has three bedrooms, a bedroom converted into a closet and two bathrooms.

Mr. Curley attributes the strength of Kathwood's structure to diagonal rows of heart of pine wood lining the interior of the walls.

"That's the reason this house is still standing," he said. "It's very strong."

The original interior of the house was probably Victorian because it was the end of the Victorian era, Dr. Ponce said.

The bathrooms all have antique sinks and bathtubs, some from the original house. And the linen closet, once turned into a bedroom for Ms. Colgan when she reached junior high, is now a bathroom with a large, glass shower.

"I look back now, and I think about how just this place, itself, was such a warm, welcoming place," Ms. Colgan said, looking out the window at the faraway hills. "My mother and grandmother gave Kathwood a heart that made it a special place. They made it easy for us to leave when we had to, but they also made it very easy to come back to."

Past times

What:Historic Augusta Antiques Show and Sale

When:10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19; complimentary walking tour of the show 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19

Where:Enterprise Mill, 1450 Greene St.

Appraisal clinic:Informal appraisal by show manager offered 10 a.m. to noon and 2-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19; three items for $10, limit three items; 724-0436 for reservations and information.

Gala patrons preview party:7 p.m. Thursday; $75, or $35 for age 35 and younger; black tie preferred; includes unlimited show access.

Lecture and luncheon:The Antebellum Southern Plantation Home: Its Architecture and Interiors, presented by Manuel Ponce, associate professor of interior design, Florida State University; 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Augusta Country Club, 655 Milledge Road; $35; call 724-0436 by Monday for reservations.

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.


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