A Brief History of The O’Donnell House
The O’Donnell House was built circa 1840 by Major John Haynsworth and his wife Mary Magdalene Hortensia DeLorme. The two story Italianate design home was originally constructed on 20 acres of land located in “Sumterville” and was bordered by Main, Liberty, Sumter and Dugan Streets (3 blocks from its present location).
In 1860 the executors of Mary Haynsworth’s estate sold the house for $2500 to William Bogin, the local owner and operator of a successful mercantile located on the west side of Main St. near the home. William and his wife, Johanna, resided in the home and raised three daughters and a son there. It was during this time that Mr. Neil O’Donnell (a young Irish immigrant) made his way from Charleston to Sumter to be employed by Mr. Bogin at the mercantile. Upon the death of Mr. Bogin in 1887, Neill O’Donnell assumed the responsibility of operating the successful mercantile and also married Miss Kate Bogin, the 2nd of the three Bogin daughters. The house was willed to Mr. Bogin’s daughter, Kate.
Near the turn of the 20th century, Neill and Kate had the house moved to its present location on East Liberty Street. In 1905, the O’Donnells hired nationally renowned architect Frank Pierce Milburn to make extensive alterations to the house. Milburn transformed the flat-roofed, two story house into a Neo-Classical Revival Architecture showcase with massive ornamentations. The renovations included the addition of a third floor as well as a rounded portico supported by four massive Corinthian columns on the façade of the house. The newly renovated home reflected the O’Donnell’s social status in the Sumter community. At this time, Neill O’Donnell owned and operated the thriving mercantile, O’Donnell and Company and later served as president of the Sumter First National Bank from 1910-1930. Mr. O’Donnell was also instrumental in the establishment of Tuomey Hospital and served on the Board of Trustees from 1913 until his death in 1937. (Note: Mrs. Ella Tuomey and Mrs. Kate O’Donnell were the 1st and 2nd born daughters of Mr. and Mrs. William Bogin.)
As the O’Donnell’s had no children, the house was willed to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy after their deaths in the late 1930’s. The sisters took residence on the 3rd floor of the home and taught kindergarten and primary school on the first floor. The home was also used as an infirmary and orphanage during this time.
In 1961, the Sisters sold the house to Kell Brunson, who converted the house to a funeral home. The west wing was added at this time. The house remained a funeral home until 1988 at which time it was offered for sale. After five years on the market (1993), the property (and home) was to be sold to the Bi-Lo Corporation. The buyer proposed to demolish the house and build a grocery store and parking lot on the property. A group of concerned citizens nick-named C.O.P.S. (Crazy Old People of Sumter) were able to orchestrate the purchase of the house and property with a cooperative loan by private citizens. The house then became the offices for Santee Senior Services, a private non- profit group seeking to meet the needs of the elderly of Sumter County. It was during this time that the house became a popular venue for receptions.
In 2004, the Santee Senior Services relocated their offices and Mr. Don Cann took residence at the house with the intent to purchase. However, after about 1 year of residency, Mr. Cann was unable to purchase the house as planned. The house then became the temporary location of the Sumter County Library while the main library was undergoing renovations. When the library moved back to its renovated facility, the house was offered for sale. Mr. Danny Jefferson purchased the home in 2007 and later opened the Sumter Antique Mall in the west wing (chapel) of the house.
In 2009, Wayne and Wanda Hunter purchased the home from Mr. Jefferson with the intent to restore the home to its former glory and rent the facility as a venue for parties and receptions. The renovations included a transformation of the west wing chapel into a spectacular ballroom with smooth ceilings replacing lay-in ceiling tiles, Swarovski crystal chandeliers replacing fluorescent tube fixtures, tile, granite and Brazilian cherry flooring replacing a dark carpeting, wainscot paneled walls replacing pegboard walls. A wide piazza was also added on the west end of the house with access to the ballroom. Renovations to the 1840 portions of the home included electrical rewiring, refinishing of plaster walls and ceilings, refinishing of wood floors and painting.
Since the reopening of the home in December of 2009, more than 100 special events have been held at the home including more than 50 weddings and/or wedding receptions. In the future, the Hunters plan to continue restoration of the 2nd and 3rd floors of the home for use as a Bed and Breakfast.
Want to see a floor plan of the renovated space? Click here.