BOO! Scarecrows surround historic mansion in downtown Columbia - - Columbia, South Carolina |

BOO! Scarecrows surround historic mansion in downtown Columbia

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If you're used to driving past parts of historic downtown Columbia, you may notice something different over the next month. 

Nearly forty scarecrows are staked out around the Hampton-Preston (HP) Mansion off of Blanding Street. This is the fifth year for Historic Columbia Foundation's (HCF) ‘Scarecrows in the Garden' event. It's a contest that asks businesses, schools, local organizations and  community members to submit their own original scarecrow for a chance to win a top prize.

"We've got so many beautiful green spaces, and we thought it'd be fun to fill them with something fun and something that people can build and bring on the site and invite their friends and family to come see," said Ashley Tucker, Marketing Coordinator with HCF.

This is the first year it's being held in the gardens of the Hampton-Preston Mansion. HCF officials say a three phase garden revitalization project was part of the inspiration for the venue change."A lot of people don't realize… they see this wonderful property and beautiful trees, but this was actually pieced back together in the 1970s," said David Simpson, Director of Grounds for HCF.

While the mansion was built in 1818, the gardens on the now four acre lot were once lost. "They were here for over 100 years and bulldozed in 1947," said Simpson. The gardens were first created by Mary Cantey Hampton and her daughter Caroline Hampton Preston when they lived on the estate. While the estate changed hands many times and the gardens remained, they were knocked down more than 100 years later replaced by businesses like a car dealership and a coin laundry mat.

"It was parceled out and sold into many different pieces and had many different owners," said Simpson, "and it wasn't until 1976 that the state tricentennial was held on the property," he added.

Simpson says the state's 300th anniversary celebration spurred organizers to begin piecing the gardens back together. "A lot of people see this and assume, ‘Oh this has been here for a long time', but really it's only been here for maybe 30 years," said Simpson.

HCF says the new design for the garden will include a children's garden, a fountain garden with a historic replica and a welcome garden. "This really was a magnificent property, and we hope we can have even a shadow of that existence," said Simpson.

In the meantime it's currently what's in the shadows of the garden, that foundation officials hope will encourage the community to come take in the grounds.

"When I work in the gardens and I see out of the corner of my eyes, particularly during the scarecrows…when the scarecrows are in the gardens, I'll see something and it will startle me… I have to admit that," said Simpson.

The scarecrows will be up until October 31st. The gardens are free for the public to tour. The public can also vote on their favorite scarecrow. For more information on the HP mansion visit :

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