The Grand Dame of Bluffton, Rose Hill Mansion, drips with period grandeur. The Gothic style Lowcountry plantation house was erected by cotton magnate and town founder, John Kirk, in 1858. It retains much of its original charm and architectural features from the columned porch and gabled peaks with cathedral-style windows to the Spanish moss-draped leafy grounds. Though the residence has a storied history—including a devastating 1987 fire, its role as a setting for several B-rated movies and a John Mellencamp music video, as well as rumors of hauntings that make it a popular Halloween season stop—its restored antebellum artifacts keep visitors streaming through this portal to the past.
Still operated as a private residence (and popular wedding venue with rentable carriage house for overnights), day visitors can take a one-hour guided tour of the first floor. On the tour docents will highlight original Kirk memorabilia—furniture, paintings and heirlooms—restored after the fire and visit the gentleman’s room and parlor with its 1870 Shaw grand piano. One of the highlights is the entrance hallway with its chandeliered curved staircase; its banister connects to the railings that ring an overlook from the second floor. Following the tour, visitors can enjoy locally made cakes and jams, peach tea and lemonade in the historic dining area.
The mansion is located at 199 Rose Hill Way in Bluffton, South Carolina, 25-miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia and ten miles inland from Hilton Head, South Carolina. Tours are offered daily Monday through Friday at 2pm and advance booking is essential. Tickets are $25 for adults at $5 for children ages 6-12. Because of the many fragile and historic artifacts on display, children under 6 are not permitted.