Building Description Rose Hill Plantation House, Bluffton South Carolina

Rose Hill, on the Colleton River in Beaufort County, is a two-story, frame, Gothic Revival residence built ca. 1858-60 for Dr. John Kirk. The completion of the house was delayed by the Civil War, and Rose Hill stood incomplete until 1946 when Mr. and Mrs. John Sturgeon purchased Rose Hill and engaged architect Will is Irvin to complete and restore the house. The absence of alterations or modernizations in the years between the Kirk and Sturgeon occupancies and the compatibility of Irvin's work with the original design and fabric provide for exceptional historic integrity in the property.

Rose Hill is a two-story, cruciform, Gothic Revival building with a brick foundation, vertical board-and-batten siding, and a steeply pitched gable roof sheathed in standing-seam metal. The facade (south elevation) has a projecting arm of the cruciform plan composed of a first-story porch and a second-story porch room. The porch has Gothic clustered piers carrying an arcade of pointed arches with board-and-batten spandrels and a bracketed cornice. The main entrance beneath the porch is framed by clustered-pier responds. Similar clustered piers separate the double doors and the sidelights. Cusped arches rise from the piers and responds in the interior of the porch and in relief above the entrance.

The porch room of the second floor features a central traceried Gothic lancet window with wooden muntins and tracery, quarrels, and a hood molding with a crocketed finial. The roof of this arm of the cruciform is a steeply pitched gable with deep overhanging eaves, sawn rafter tails, and the fragments of a pendant and pinnacle at its peak. The original sawn vergeboards have been removed. At the sides of the projecting porch room, gabled half-dormers with paired four-over-four sash and quarrel overlights pierce the eaves of the roof.

To the right of the entrance arm is a projecting one-story polygonal bay with paired four-over-four windows with hood molds in each of the three outer facets. A gabled half-dormer with paired, six-over-six windows and quarrel over-lights is on the second story of the house above the polygonal bay. To the left of the entrance arm is a one-story porch with a concave metal roof sheltering three bays of the facade. This porch originally had grouped chamfered piers supporting its roof, but these were replaced with wrought-iron supports in 1946-49. The window sash of the first floor is eight-over-eight with four-panel wooden skirting beneath each window. Two gabled half-dormers on the second story have paired four-over-four windows and quarrel overlights.

A one-story solarium with a three-faceted west end and foundations and siding compatible with the original fabric extends from the west elevation of the house. This solarium was built in 1946-49 replacing an existing one-story wing of similar but smaller form. The solarium has three bays facing south with hood molding matching the hood molds of the original windows. The second floor of the west elevation has a central tripartite window with a nine-over-nine window flanked by six-over-six windows. Each element of this window has a pointed-arch head. Paired four-over-four windows are on either end of the second floor of the west elevation.

The east elevation of Rose Hill has, on its first story, a paired four-over-four window on the left and a projecting polygonal bay on the right with single six-over-six windows in each of the three outer facets. The second story of the east elevation has a central tripartite window similar to that of the west elevation but without the pointed-arch heads. Paired four-over-four windows are at the ends of this elevation as well.

The rear (north elevation) of Rose Hill has a projecting two-story arm, completing the cruciform, and a one-story masonry addition dating from 1946-49. The windows of this elevation are paired four-over-four sash. The second story has half-dormers with quarrel overlights. There are secondary entrances on the east and west sides of the two-story wing and another entrance on the masonry addition.

A covered walkway on the northeast corner of the house leads to a 1949 garage which has a steep gable roof, board-and-batten siding, and windows similar to those of the main house. Some of the porch posts from the southwest porch of the main house appear to have been reused on the porch of the garage.

Interior: Rose Hill has a cruciform plan arranged around a central domed stair-hall. Entrance is from the south porch into the hall which is oval-shaped and has an open stringer staircase rising at the north end of the hall and following the curve of the wall to the second-floor gallery. An elliptical dome rises above the hall with a double Bacarrat chandelier suspended from a medallion at the dome's apex. The hall has wooden floors and millwork, and plaster walls and ceilings. The millwork is unique in each of the five major first-floor rooms. The stair-hall has Georgian millwork and trim; an elaborate cornice with brackets and Greek key motifs is prominent, while the staircase has turned balusters and arabesque brackets and the gallery reveal has a Vitruvian scroll frieze. A door at the north end of the hall is curved to correspond to the curve of the walls. The hall originally had sliding doors with arched portals opening into the library at the east and the living room at the west. These sliding doors were replaced by hinged doors in 1946-49.


To the left of the entrance hall, in the southwest corner of the house, is the drawing room. This room has Georgian proportions but the millwork has a Gothic Revival character with the door and window surrounds displaying a clustered-pier motif. The mantel in the drawing room is white marble with dark marble Ionic columns and was installed during the 1940s restoration.

A formal dining room is located in the northwest corner of the house behind the drawing room. This room has original Georgian millwork enhanced by a Georgian-style mantel and overmantel installed during the restoration. The walls feature antique Chinese wallpaper, believed to date from the eighteenth or nineteenth century, which was installed here in 1946-49. The light switch plates and heating ducts have been hand-painted to match the design of the wallpaper. The solarium opens to the west, accessible from both the dining room and the drawing room.

To the right(east) of the central stair hall are a library and a den. The library features a polygonal Bay opening to the south and millwork with Georgian detail. The den has a polygonal bay opening to the east, Georgian-style millwork, and pine paneling.

A rear hall opens from the north of the main hall leading to a service stair and other auxiliary rooms in the north arm of the cruciform. The 1946-49 pantry and kitchen addition is adjacent to this wing.

The rooms of the second floor open onto the oval gallery beneath the dome. There are two bedrooms in the east wing, two bedrooms in the west wing, a sun-room in the south wing above the first-story porch, and other bedrooms and service rooms in the north wing. The ceilings of these rooms are coved, reflecting the slope of the main rafters and the auxiliary braces that rise from the central longitudinal partition. Bathrooms and closets have been fitted into the alcoves beside the fireplaces of the second story and into the irregular corners created by the adaptation of the oval hall to a rectilinear plan. The northwest bedroom has been partitioned to allow for another bathroom.

The dome of the main stair hall is lath and plaster on a wooden framework with the chandelier suspended from its center to light the first and second floors of the hall. This dome was built in 1946-49. In the roof structure above the second floor, the original dome is intact. This unfinished dome is tall and rises to an open eye that was originally filled with stained glass. The framework, lathing, and the frieze at the eye of the dome with its hexagonal panels are intact although the stained glass is gone. The original dome was never plastered.

The roof framing of Rose Hill utilizes circular-sawn rafters with pegged joints and auxiliary bracing chords rising from the central partition in the east and west arms of the cruciform.

Rose Hill is meticulously maintained today. The house is in excellent condition. The exterior siding was sandblasted ca. 1980. Rose Hill is the center of a large, planned community of residences and recreational facilities. The house itself will be preserved in the midst of about twelve acres of woodlands and marsh.