The Wilson Era
In 1902, Richard T. Wilson, Jr. a wealthy New York banker, purchased Palmetto Bluff and an era of lavish entertaining was born. Though originally intended to be a hunting estate, because Wilson’s wife Marion was such a New York socialite, they began construction of a grand mansion to be the centerpiece of the property in 1910. The four-story home that overlooked the gorgeous May River became what is now the Village Square and included a ballroom, library, servant’s quarters and numerous guest bedrooms – perfect for entertaining guests from the New York and Newport social scenes. Guests would arrive by steamship or railroad and stay for weeks at a time, enjoying Mrs. Wilson’s lavish parties and all the amenities that the land had to offer.
On March 26, 1926, the great mansion caught fire, and R.T. Wilson’s idyllic retreat was reduced to ashes. After being led away from the roaring flames twice, a distraught Wilson was unable to face rebuilding. Months later, the property was sold to J.E. Varn, and Wilson, who returned to New York City, passed away a mere three years later.