UNION — A house that was once visited by the president of the Confederate States of America and another whose owners spent four years renovating it are among the six stops on the Union County Healthcare Foundation’s Christmas Tour of Homes this Saturday. The tour is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Cross Keys House
One the stops on the tour will be the Cross Keys House, 163 Old Buncombe Road in Union, which is owned by the Union County Historical Society.
The house was built between 1812-1814 by Barham (Barrum) Bobo. It is noted as one of the finest examples of Georgian Colonial architecture, the four-storied structure boasts nine fireplaces. It is partially furnished in period pieces.
The house became part of Civil War history on April 30, 1865 when Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his military escort stopped there and ate lunch during their flight south following the fall of Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy. Davis’ visit to the Cross Keys House is reenacted at the house during the annual Living History Event held at the historic site the last weekend in April.
Members of the historical society will be on site during Saturday’s tour to answer any questions.
Directions: Travel east on Highway 49 about 12 miles from the Union Court House. Turn left onto Jones Ford Road immediately past the Cross Keys Volunteer Fire Station. At the first stop sign the house is immediately on the right.
In addition to the house itself, a log cabin built in 1805 will also be open for the tour.
A mansion whose owners spent four years restoring and have decorated with antiques and art acquired over the years is also on Saturday’s tour.
The Nicholson Mansion, 2403 Cross Keys Highway in Union, has been owned by Patrick and Lynn Mornane since 2006, but sits on the site of a plantation that was established before the American Revolution.
Fairforest Plantation, named after nearby Fairforest Creek, was established in the late 1760’s by Col Thomas Fletchall, one of the most prominent loyalists of the Revolutionary War era in the backcountry of South Carolina. He was arrested and jailed in 1775 for breaking the Treaty of 96, released a year later, and returned to the plantation to find his home looted.
Several years later, Fletchall fled to Charleston, only to be later exiled to Jamaica, where he died in 1789 and never again would return to the plantation. After the war, the plantation was sold at auction to one of Fletchall’s adversaries, fierce patriot Gen. Thomas Brandon. Gen. Brandon lived here until his death in 1802.
Emslie Nicholson (1863-1939) banker, industrialist and mill owner, built Nicholson Mansion on the old plantation site in 1923. Architecturally designed by Robert and Co. of Atlanta, the structure is a Tudor Revival but built with local Fieldstone. The unique masonry work was no doubt inspired by Emslie’s father, a Scottish mason who moved to Union in the early 1800s.
Relics from the old plantation era include two rows of 200-year-old cedar trees which lined the original driveway, plus a millstone from Fletchalls grist mill on Fairforest Creek.
Since purchasing the mansion in 2006, the Mornanes have spent the last four years restoring and furnishing the home. They have combed antique stores and visited auctions to find the perfect pieces for each room. The art featured throughout the house has been collected from their travels.
All three floors of the mansion will be open for viewing during the tour.
Tickets for the tour are $15 per person and are available Wallace Thomson Hospital, WBCU Radio Station, Paradise Home Center, Midway BBQ, Forest Street Grill, and Lockhart Cafe.