Visiting the Hobcaw Barony Mansion in South Carolina
by Weam Namou
Last night my family returned from South Carolina. Myrtle Beach was where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and we loved it enough to return for our 9th year wedding anniversary – this time with two children.
It was a lovely trip, with one of my favorite sites being the Hobcaw Barony – 16,000 acres of land which Native Americans called “hobcaw,” meaning between the waters.
The land was purchased by a Wall Street legend, presidential advisor and South Carolina native Bernard M. Baruch in 1905 for a winter hunting retreat. The Hobcaw Barony House is 13,000 square foot, with 12 ½ bathrooms and 16 bedrooms, nine of which are master bedrooms. In 1932, Winston Churchill was a guest in this house. We were shown his favorite sitting chair. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt stayed for what was supposed to be two weeks but which was extended to four weeks. Other notable guests included Woodrow Wilson and Ralph Pulitzer.
The house was welcoming, with black and white family photos everywhere, the sun shining in through the windows, and in a number of cases, visitors being allowed to sit on the furniture. Taking care of the Hobcaw Barony was evidently no easy task, as at times the Baruch’s had as many as 150 servants!
Bernard Baruch’s eldest child, Belle W. Baruch, later began purchasing the property from her father beginning in 1936. Belle was an accomplished horsewoman, a sailor and she also had an airplane which she flew herself. By 1956, Belle owned Hobcaw Baron entirely. Upon her death in 1964, it was transferred to the Belle W. Baruch Foundation for a nature and research preserve. It consists of over 37 buildings that represent the 18th and 19th century rice cultivation and 20th century winter retreats.
We arrived to this house by a ferry, which included a tour of the surrounding Georgetown plantations. Later I learned that a two-hour bus tour is available year round which for $20 not only takes you inside the Hobcaw Barony house, but also includes a drive by Bellefield Planation and stables, the home of Belle Belle Baruch, a drive through Friendfield Village, the last 19th century slave village on the Waccamaw Neck, and information on coastal ecosystems, native wildlife and endangered species.
The Hobcaw Barony definitely deserved at least a two-hour tour. Oh well, guess that gives me a good reason to return once again to Myrtle Beach.
For a tour of this beautiful and inspiring land, visit:
http://www.hobcawbarony.org/tours.htm or call 843-546-4623