Loch Dhu Plantation, located near Cross in northwestern Berkeley County, was named for a small pond located on the grounds. In Scottish Gaelic terms Loch Dhu means “black lake”. The house is typical of the style found in the Upper St. John’s Berkeley Parish with two front doors, each opening onto a separate front room. While the reasoning behind the use of two front doors in this area is undocumented, it is surmised that it was a popular design choice during the 1800s, as other early houses in the state have similar examples.
The house is a hipped-roof, two-story clapboard structure with two large front rooms, with a stair hall in the back flanked by a room on either side. Upstairs is four bedrooms separated by a central hall. Two interior chimneys provide fireplaces for each of the rooms.
The house was thought to have been constructed by Robert James Kirk between 1812-1816. The primary crops grown here were cotton, sweet potatoes and corn. The original kitchen building, where enslaved people would prepare meals, still stands behind the main house.
The son of the builder, Philip Kirk, served on the South Carolina General Assembly from 1854 to 1864. He also was a surgeon during the Civil War where he used Loch Dhu as a hospital to nurse wounded soldiers. Those same soldiers are said to haunt the estate today with footsteps being heard up and down the stairs and in the upstairs hallway.
A passage in The Waterman Report, “A Survey of The Early Buildings In The Region of The Proposed Santee and Pinopolis Reservoirs in South Carolina,” states: “The interior of Loch Dhu possesses fairly simple but well designed trim. The woodwork of the drawing rooms has gouged and carved festoons and sunbursts in the friezes of the mantel and main cornices.”
In 1939, this house and many others were threatened with the Santee-Cooper Hydroelectric Project. This project was one that touted its goal as bringing power, by creating Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, to a large portion of the state, that was largely inaccessible, to allow people a better quality of life. It was an extremely controversial project then and today as many people lost their land, homes, churches, cemeteries and sadly, even their lives.
Loch Dhu stands as a testament to survival due to the rise of land it sits upon. A once essentially land-locked plantation is now almost surrounded by the murky waters of Lake Marion. At one time, “a stream and lake formed when a dam was placed across the stream from the Loch Dhu to form a mill pond. This pond was a favorite place for young boys to swim and for older boys to go at night with bateau, gig and lightwood torch for a good catch of fish.”
Loch Dhu Plantation is listed in the National Register:
“Loch Dhu is a two-story clapboard building typical of the early nineteenth century plantations in the upper St. John’s area of South Carolina. It has a square floor plan, high hipped roof, tall, square chimneys, two front doors, and raised, one-story porches. Each front door, which leads into a separate front room, has a rectangular transom. Only the front rooms have decorative trim. Both mantels and cornices in these rooms have gouged festoons, sunbursts, and rope motifs. The rear reveals a modern, ca. 1961, two-story addition that was bricked over ca. 1971. It is not known exactly when Loch Dhu was constructed, but evidence suggests its having been built ca. 1812-1816 by Robert J. Kirk (1786-1828). Kirk was a planter, as his father had been. His son, Philip C. Kirk, later owned Loch Dhu and continued to farm the lands. The Agricultural Census of 1860 records his having 550 acres improved and 260 unimproved, cultivating cotton, Indian corn, sweet potatoes, etc. At this time, Philip C. Kirk was also involved in political affairs in the state, being a representative in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1854 to 1864. The structure sits upon an incline, with the Santee-Cooper reservoir located behind it. Several farm-related outbuildings are included within the acreage. Listed in the National Register September 22, 1977.”