This unusual but elegant home along Broad Street in Camden is known as Greenleaf Villa. It is the town’s only surviving Charleston-style “double house.” A double house is a house two rooms deep and two rooms wide, separated by a central hallway. The layout is typically repeated upstairs, and porches run the length of the side of the house so they’re facing a garden rather than the street. The house was built between 1803 and 1820, depending on the source.
Originally, this house was known as the Samuel Flake House for its builder. After 1826, ownership transferred to Dr. Joseph Lee, a cousin of Robert E. Lee. The house served as a hospital during the Civil War and it is said that the home was set on fire by Union soldiers but was saved by Mrs. Lee, her neighbors, and slaves who ran a bucket brigade to extinguish the flames.
Much like Aiken, Camden functioned as a winter colony for wealthy tourists during the first two decades of the last century, and in the 1920s, Greenleaf Villa served as an inn. Bernard “Harry” and Sadie “Miss Minnie” Baum owned the home, which doubled as a boarding house, until 1927. Up to that time, guests referred to it as simply “the Baum place.” When Ruth Richards, a decorator from New York, purchased the house from the Baums, she dubbed it Greenleaf Villa. She ran a tea room and antiques shop here for two years before opening it again to lodgers. The inn was said to have been as elegant as the Villa Margherita in Charleston.
Harry and Sadie Baum owned the house as early as 1913-1915.
In 1931, Ms. Richards expanded the inn to offer supper on Thursday and Sunday evenings. In 1936, during the heart of the Great Depression, she converted her home to a boarding school for girls. Mrs. J. B. Zemp served as the headmistress. Since 2016, the house has been occupied by Travis’ Salon, a popular upscale hair salon.
Greenleaf Villa is listed in the National Register as part of the Camden Historic District:
Architecturally and militarily significant, Camden was a center of activity in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and its architecture reflects the two centuries of its growth. The city was named in honor of Lord Camden, British champion of colonial rights. In 1774 wide streets were laid off in a grid pattern. The town expanded northward as shown in a 1798 plat. The plat set aside six parks which formed the basis for the city’s present 178 acres of beautiful parkland. Most of the original town was destroyed by the fire of 1813. This accelerated growth northward to the Kirkwood area, north of Chesnut Street. Originally, the houses in this area were summer cottages, but by 1840 Kirkwood was a year-round residential area of handsome mansions and elaborate gardens. Many of the mansions were built around the cottages, which still survive at their core. Contributing properties are mostly residential but also include public buildings, a church, and a cemetery. Camden’s architecture is classically inspired and includes examples of Federal and Classical Revival, in addition to cottage-type, Georgian, Charleston-type with modifications, and mansion-type houses. Several of the city’s buildings were designed by noted architect Robert Mills. Listed in the National Register May 6, 1971.
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