Scouts' U.S. plantation sale nets $2.2 million for cash-strapped group

Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:37pm EDT
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By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A historic Southern plantation in the United States sold for $2.2 million at auction Friday, giving some financial relief to the strapped local Girl Scout council that has owned and used it as a camp for girls for almost five decades.

The camp in South Carolina is one of dozens of Girl Scout camps in 28 states that have closed, been sold or are for sale as chapters across the United States face financial struggles, according to Save Our Scout Camps, a group fighting efforts to sell camps in Iowa and Illinois.

Friday's sale of Camp Low Country, about 35 miles from Charleston will let the Girl Scout council meet its financial obligations to Girl Scouts USA and keep its charter, said Loretta Graham, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina.

"We plan to keep Girl Scouting in South Carolina for 100 more years," she said.

Charleston businessman Michael Bennett, a hotel and resort developer and contractor with Bennett Hospitality and Bennett Hofford Construction Company, made the winning offer among about a dozen interested bidders in an auction on the plantation grounds.

Camp Low Country sits on 152 acres of the former Richmond Plantation, a sprawling 18th- and 19th-century rice plantation.

Shuttered since 2011 for budgetary reasons, the property includes an old-brick manor house, guest houses, stables, carriage houses and dog kennels built in 1927 by New Yorker George A. Ellis, a founder of E.F. Hutton and Co., and his wife, a chewing gum heiress.

The property was on the market for two years at an initial price of $7 million, but its value was appraised at $3.7 million before the local council announced the auction on July 1.   Continued...

The manor house that is part of the former Richmond Plantation, a historic property of 152 acres near rural Cordesville, South Carolina is shown in this handout photo taken July 12, 2013, during a "farewell" visit by former Girl Scouts. REUTERS/Cathy Miller/Handout via Reuters