BY JOHN MCDERMOTT
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Mansfield Plantation, a Georgetown County National Historic Landmark that in recent years was operated as a bed-and-breakfast and reception venue, is back in the hands of a family that owned it for more than 150 years.
Asheville-based Mercedes-Benz dealer John Parker and wife Sallie Middleton Parker, a Charleston native, purchased the 980-acre property, which had been listed for $6.25 million.
Mansfield was established in 1718, said Parker, president of Skyland Automotive. His ancestors purchased it in 1758 and the property was handed down from generation to generation.
"A lot of plantations were lost during the carpetbagger years and Reconstruction, but we managed to hang onto it through all that," said Parker.
Not for long. Parker said his grandfather and his grandfather's siblings sold Mansfield in 1912 to Charles W. Tuttle of Auburn, N.Y., who used it as a winter home and hunting club.
Exactly why they decided to sell is a mystery. Tuttle sold Mansfield in the 1930s, and it changed hands again in the 1970s, when Columbia transportation mogul Wilbur Smith bought the property.
Parker, who purchased the former rice plantation from the late Smith's daughter, Sally, said he has been smitten with the property ever since he and some friends paid an unannounced visit in 1964 during a water skiing outing on the Black River.
"It's been a lifelong quest of mine to bring it back to the Parker family," he said Friday.
Parker said he still has original portraits of some of his relatives who lived at Mansfield.
"They're going to be returned ... after 94 years," he said.
Parker, an avid hunter and fishing enthusiast, said he and his family sold a weekend home on the Isle of Palms to help finance Mansfield, which they plan to use as a recreational getaway. Also, he said, he is investigating the best way to protect the land from future development.
Chip Hall, who brokered the Mansfield transaction, said he has asked other brokers whether they know of any other plantation buyers who have purchased their former family homesteads.
"I cannot find a soul who has ever heard of anything remotely like this happening," said Hall, president of Plantation Services.
It takes a village
The Beach Co. has added to its retail holdings east of the Cooper, purchasing Village Pointe Shopping Center for $5.3 million.
The Charleston-based real estate company said it bought the complex based on the prime location -- just off U.S. Highway 17 on Houston Northcutt Boulevard -- the strong tenant mix, and the historically high occupancy rates. The anchor tenant at Village Pointe is a 30,000-square-foot Harris Teeter supermarket. Other businesses include a Starbucks coffee shop and Max & Moritz, a German-style restaurant.
"It was just a good investment," said John Darby, president and chief executive of the Beach Co., which also owns Food Lion-anchored Brookgreen Town Center on Coleman Boulevard and the newly expended retail village in Seaside Farms.
Darby said the Village Pointe deal did not include the Gwynn's department store site or the Eckerd's pharmacy, which are owned separately.
The seller was the Spartanburg-based partnership, Bypass 17 Associates, that developed Village Pointe in 1987.
Moreover, he said, he's not concerned about newcomer Whole Foods Market cutting into his new main tenant's business. The Texas-based organic grocery chain opens this week in Bi-Lo's former space in Patriots Plaza, across the street from the Harris Teeter in Village Pointe.
"Different market, different concept," Darby said "I think they'll complement each other."
The North Charleston outpost of regional engineering firm B.P. Barber & Associates Inc. getting a new home.
The firm recently broke ground on a two-story, 16,000 square-foot office building in Riverview Corporate Park, near Leeds Avenue and Interstate 526. It is scheduled for completion in November. Trident Construction Inc. is the contractor and Bell Architects of Mount Pleasant is the architect.