For years, I called it “The Saddest House in Sumter.” The imposing foursquare structure at 41 Haynsworth Street had already begun to look a bit neglected when I moved to the historic district in 1990. Over the years it was indeed sad to see the porch begin to sag, the upstairs gallery collapse—and one winter day as I sat on my front porch, I looked across and noticed a hole in the roof that I think I could have walked into (well, being me, I’d have fallen into it). Although I hate to see any wonderful old home go to rack and ruin, this one in particular seemed a shame—the Haynsworth-Baker-Bultman house has such a rich history!
A half-dozen or so years ago, a couple (rumored to be from Charleston) purchased it from the Bultman family and began extensive renovations, repairing the foundation, replacing the HVAC system, the roof and the gallery. All of us in the neighborhood were excited to see this work in progress, but then it stopped and a “For Sale” sign appeared in the yard. More years passed, the deterioration continued, and I figured it would only be a matter of time before the structure was condemned as unsafe.
That’s when the Baileys stepped in. Right before the 2011 holiday season, the house came to life with lights and activity as the new owners, Julie and Bubba Bailey, moved in and got to work immediately. In the months that have since passed, it has been a joy to watch this old house become a home again.
Now, on September 6, the public is invited in for a glimpse of Sumter’s history. Because most of our old homes are privately owned, this is a rare opportunity to get an inside view of our historic properties. The Baileys are opening the downstairs for a tour so that visitors can have a look around (the house is still a work in progress), and also be treated to a presentation by local historian Sammy Way.
Admission at the door is a $5.00 donation, and proceeds benefit the Main Street Society. The Main Street Society is a thriving organization of individual members, whose mission is “to encourage the support of Sumter’s citizens, industries and businesses in the continuous revitalization of Downtown Sumter.”
What is it that makes this house so interesting? In a recent interview with The Item, Julie Bailey said that she had “found that a lot of the information that’s been commonly accepted can’t be true.” She is working to set the record straight, researching the history of the families who have lived in the home, exploring ancestry resources and federal census records.
Here are a few of the things that we do know:
- It is one of the oldest homes in the city, built sometime between 1835-45 by Henry Haynsworth, who served as Sumterville’s Postmaster from 1833-64. The original house was a raised Greek Revival cottage, with two rooms on either side of a central hall. It was renovated in the 1870’s to create a two-story Victorian colonial, while retaining some of the original Greek Revival overtones.
- Henry Haynsworth’s nephew, George Edward Haynsworth, was the Citadel cadet who fired on the Star of the West in Charleston Harbor in January 1861, the first shot of hostilities that led directly to the Civil War being declared in April of that year.
- Apparently, the house was vacant for some time during the 1930’s and was briefly converted to a children’s home.
- In 1937, Dr. Frederick R. Baker purchased the home and completed the first major restoration.
- The house was sold in 1946 to Dr. Robert Bland Bultman (1906-1980), and remained in the Bultman family until 2005.
Members of the Main Street Society can tour the home September 6, 2012 from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m., and the public will be admitted from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m. for a $5.00 donation to the Society. If you are interested in joining the Main Street Society, please visit the website. Membership levels start at $25 for an individual. For more info on the Open House, please call (803) 436-2640 or toll-free, 1-800-688-4748.
As with any old home, there are also plenty of stories that may be apocryphal—one is that the reason for the peculiar “jog” in North Salem Avenue as it crosses Haynsworth is that the street was the original driveway for the house. It is also possible that Union musicians quartered in the house during the occupation of Sumter in Potter’s Raid (1865). It will certainly be interesting to follow as Julie Bailey works to uncover the history of this unique home.
Some of the information in this post appeared originally in an article in The Item (Sumter, SC) on August 26, 2012. The article is available online to subscribers at http://www.theitem.com/news/local_news/article_e3960a22-17a4-5f0b-a4d6-7f4784422ea4.html.