Mrs. Hamilton's house

  • Friday, October 18, 2013

Growing up in a small town, my classmates and I knew where our schoolteachers lived, especially our favorite teachers. One of my favorites was Mrs. Mabel Hamilton.

I was in Mrs. Hamilton's world history class my freshman year at Winyah High School, way back in 1964. Besides being impressed with her kindness, I was most impressed that she could teach and knit at the same time.

At the end of the year, she wrote in my yearbook, “I truly enjoyed getting to know you and to teach you. I shall miss you next year. Love, Mabel M. Hamilton.” I missed you, too, Mrs. Hamilton.

Mabel Mercer Hamilton (1912-2008) was married to Legare Hamilton (1910-1991). They raised their three children at 132 St. James St. Their house, called the Samuel Kirton House, is estimated to have been built around 1830. (Historians may call it the Samuel Kirton House, but it will always be “Mrs. Hamilton's House” to me.)

This wonderful old home has been owned by only four families: the Kirtons from 1830 until 1868, the Edward W. Haselden family from 1868 until 1923, the Henly Chapman family from 1923 until 1941, and the Hamilton family, from 1941 until present day. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton's son, Sam, owns it with his wife, Brooks.

Brooks saw a column I had written about the 1841 fire on Front Street which wiped out Samuel Kirton's store and warehouse, and called me because she was interested in learning more about the first owner of their home. I went to see her and was finally able to view the inside of the home I had loved from afar for so many years.

The door from the front porch opens onto a wide hallway with original heart-pine flooring. The four front rooms that open off the hallway still hold the original fireplaces.

During renovations, Sam and Brooks found bead boarding on walls and ceilings in the rear of the house. They also discovered a beam in the ceiling of the kitchen with the initials “W.P.K.” carved into it. As craftsmen of the day often carved their names or initials into their work, we assume the “K” stands for Kirton.
Upstairs, two bedrooms open onto another wide, heart-pine hallway. My favorite is painted a soothing blue, with original flooring and heart-pine closets and dormer windows with tree-top views.

I think what I like most about this house is that one can imagine what it was like to live there almost two centuries ago. The windows are placed symmetrically on either side so as to catch a summer breeze and the fireplaces are there for warmth in the winter.
There's nothing pretentious about the house and there's nothing pretentious about Sam and Brooks.

Brooks is a Southern girl who grew up in Columbia, went to A.C. Flora High School and graduated from Converse. Sam, like his mother, graduated from Winyah High School.
He then followed in his father's footsteps and graduated from the University of South Carolina.
Sam and Brooks met in 1995 and learned that their parents had been friends at least 75 years earlier. Sam had two daughters and Brooks had two sons.  

They had something else in common. Sam, his sister Molly and late brother “Dee” were all adopted. Brooks and her late brother, “Tommy,” were also adopted.
Both Sam and Brooks are thankful they were adopted into such wonderful families. I hope this might be encouraging for anyone considering adoption.

I want to thank my friend, attorney Sean T. Phelan, for helping me locate and copy a deed I needed from the Courthouse for this column. I owe you one, buddy.

To Sam and Brooks Hamilton . . . thanks for the memories.

I may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or email at djsummey@gmail.com.



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