Sandlapper Slept Here. . . .

Songbird Manor, Winnsboro


by Dan Harmon

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Sandlapper Slept Here" is a column that appears in each issue of Sandlapper Magazine, featuring bed-and-breakfasts and historic inns throughout the Palmetto State. Here's an example. If you find it interesting, you may want to peruse our back issue listings for information about previous columns.


Susan Yenner is simply pragmatic. "I came here," she says, "because this house was here. I was looking for a house on the East Coast. (The only problem with Texas is it's in the middle of nowhere; I'm an East Coast person.) I really had something Victorian in mind."

What she found, after checking out properties in Charleston, Beaufort (SC and NC) and Richmond, VA, was not Victorian, but it appealed even more. This stately William Morris-style house in Winnsboro quickly caught her eye with its abundance of bay windows and porch columns, its wrap-around verandah, its imported pressed-brick exterior and its grand staircase. Local businessman Marcus W. Doty spared no expense when he built the home in 1912.

Look more closely. Beveled glass windows in the front. Carved ceilings. And Winnsboro blue granite is used for the lintels above the windows and doors, as well as for the porch foundation - 18 inches thick, there.

Susan retired early from GTE in the Dallas area and went B&B shopping. "I'd been away from the small town for so many years. I've found that a lot of buyers of old homes in South Carolina are from out-of-state like me. There's something that draws us here. I'm not sure how to describe it."

For someone looking for a B&B venue, Winnsboro has basic advantages, notably its proximity to the developing I-77 corridor. Susan's find, which she named Songbird Manor, beckons from its locale within the town's historic district, surrounded by pecan, azalea, oak, plum, peach and apple trees.

Susan has become not only a happy citizen but a visionary hoping to bring Winnsboro broader recognition for its history. "The historical attractions of Winnsboro are impressive," she says, "but they don't seem to be well-known outside the area." One example: A nearby school building was Cornwallis' headquarters during the Revolution.

Among her own home's claims to immortality is that it was the first house in Fairfield County built with indoor plumbing. "I'm sure people in those days wondered why in the world Mr. Doty would want to have that inside the house."

You'll find mostly oak wood inside. Chestnut sliding doors close off the double parlors. The floors here are inlaid with Honduran mahogany trim.

"When I got here, the woodwork was all painted white," Susan says. "I took a heat gun to it. The smaller windows took me six hours each, the big windows eight. The sliding doors took, what, four days? I thought I was never going to get that done."

One parlor, known as the "gentlemen's parlor" in the time of Doty, has a wide-screen TV and plenty of reading material. Its woodwork and walls are dark and rich. In the parlor opposite you'll be dazzled by such items as an elegant heart-shaped Venetian mirror and an antique gaming table (which guests are welcome to use).

Throughout the lower floor, the carved ceilings are breathtaking. "Typical of the period," Susan points out, "they did all the elaborate work downstairs, and the upstairs were very plain."

But not too plain, today. The central hall on that floor is 12½x45 feet - the size of some mobile homes. More books are found in a seating area at the front. You can walk through a triple-hung window onto the flat porch roof.

Overall, the house encloses about 6,000 square feet.

Bay windows in each of the two central guest rooms occupy the entire outer walls. Three of the baths feature 1910 clawfoot tubs. Original switch-button light controls are still in use. The decor throughout is interesting and tasteful; in my room were numerous Civil War books and pictures. Get Susan to show you the beaded boardwork in the rear guest bath.

She leaves coffee and tea on the upstairs buffet for guests. Breakfast, accompanied by classical music, when I stayed was banana pancakes with cinnamon rum syrup and pecan topping. Susan prepares various muffins and breads. "It depends on what people are in the mood for - although sometimes I don't give them a choice." She laughs. "I haven't had anybody complain, so far."

Songbird Manor (116 N. Zion St., Winnsboro, SC 29180; (803) 635-6963) has five guest rooms, each with private bath, $65; $110 for a two-room suite. No smoking inside. Children older than 12 okay. No pets.


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