266 St. Margaret Street, Charleston, South Carolina
This house is best associated with...
George Abbott Hall
George Hall, of Charleston; Commander of the Continental Navy in South Carolina
Frederick Wilhelm Wagener
Captain F.W. Wagener, Retail Merchant, of Charleston, South Carolina
Duelling at "One of the most Beautiful Pleasure Gardens in the World..."
Christopher Gadsden was the irascible leader of the anti-British, pro-war faction in South Carolina and the designer of “Don’t Tread On Me” flag - known as the Gadsden flag - which was used by the Continental Army's marine corps. In 1778, when one of his officers (Robert Howe) resigned from his command, the hot-blooded Gadsden accused him of cowardice and Howe responded by challenging him to a duel. Being not too far from Charleston but sufficiently out of sight of the authorities, the Grove was then a popular venue for such trials of honor. On this occasion, Howe shot first and his bullet whizzed past Gadsden's facing, missing it by inches. Rather than seize the opportunity to dispose of his opponent unhindered, Gadsden instead discharged his weapon into the ground and brazenly demanded that Howe try again! At this point those present managed to talk both men back to reason and the duel ended with them shaking hands and walking away.
Irvings at The Grove
The house remained a ruin and rather than rebuild it, Gibbes bought Fenwick Hall. He sold Orange Grove to the husband of one of his nieces, George Abbott Hall (1737-1791). In 1786, Hall built a new manor house surrounded by oaks near to the ruins of the old one. But, just five years later he was dead and the plantation was sold by his brother-in-law, Governor John Mathewes (1744-1802), to John Beaufin Irving (1765-1813).
Irving referred to the house as "The Grove" and divided his time between here and Jamaica, where he managed "Ironshore" - his family's sugar plantation. The Grove provided him with an elegant home where he kept his racehorses, but as a farm it ran at a loss of some £200 a year. In 1796, his brother, Jacob Aemilius Irving - then living at Corbett House - sold this "very worthless place" on his brother's behalf to Captain Joseph Vesey (1747-1835), for "£800 down and his bond for £400 more, payable in one year".
The Veseys, "As Exotic a Household as that of Edmund Dantes"....
The Lowndes' Summer Home & Rose's Garden
The Charleston Exposition & "Wagener Terrace"
In 1881, one year after Arthur Rose's death, his heirs sold the farm (then 33-acres with 14-acres of marsh) for $12,000 to Frederick Wilhelm Wagener (1832-1921). Wagener was a highly successful and hugely popular German retail merchant whose store - the Wagener Building - can still be seen at 161 East Bay Street. He maintained a private racetrack on the property and as President of the South Carolina & West Indian Exposition, he remodelled the house for its use in 1902 and built a number of further outbuildings. President Theodore Roosevelt was among the visitors to the Exposition and had dinner in the house.
In 1917, now an old man, Wagener's sold the Grove to the Italian-American entrepreneur, James Sottile (1887-1964), whose father emigrated from Sicily to Charleston. Sottile and his brothers made a fortune as whisky distillers, before James bought 30,000-acres in Florida (the Sottile Farms) which after his death he gifted to the state. At the Grove, he left the present 14-acres that surround the house and developed the remaining 20-acres into streets and building lots that he named "Wagener Terrace" for its former occupant.
Lowndes Grove Today
When Sottile died in 1964, he was reputedly one of the fifty wealthiest men in America. He donated Lowndes Grove to the Daughters of the American Revolution and in 1978 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2000, it was purchased by Alexander and Tina Opoulos for $1.9 million who sold it on to Patrick Properties in 2008 for $6.9 million. Today, it is both a home and a venue.
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