During the early 1850s, Greek revival continued as a favorite style for plantation houses among the elite in South Carolina. It was not until Matthew Richard Singleton (Great Grandson of original owner Matthew Singleton) broke away from the existing configuration that he decided to change his Lower Richland County plantation house into a stylish Italianate mansion. Singleton, descendant of a planter family with vast landholdings along the Wateree River, Singleton moved to the plantation in 1844 after returning from a tour of duty in Europe as a military attaché. After moving in he began making improvements to the house and grounds which were influenced by his service in Europe, he hired Charleston architect Edward C. Jones to remodel the main house, which in its original appearance was probably a small plain house. By the time it was completed in 1854, Jones had fashioned a Renaissance-inspired residence that evoked the country villas of northern Italy. The house had twenty-nine rooms with a total of 12,000 square feet.
Matthew Singleton was the first owner of the plantation, he died in 1787 and his son John inherited the property. When John Singleton died the plantation was left to his son, Colonel Richard Singleton. During Colonel Singleton’s life he acquired six other plantations located on both sides of the Wateree River. Matthew Richard Singleton was the heir of Colonel Singleton and in 1844 Matthew Richard Singleton married Martha Rutledge Kinloch. They changed the name of the plantation to Kensington to reflect the name of Martha’s childhood home near Georgetown, SC. When Matthew died Martha and their children continued to live on the plantation. Between 1870-1880 Matthew Richard Singleton’s sons, Richard and Cleland Singleton, divided the plantation lands.
In 1981 Kensington Plantation was acquired by the Union Camp Corporation. The main house was unoccupied from about 1940 and in poor shape. Following several discussions with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and other local groups, Union Camp undertook a complete restoration of the property and established a partnership with the Scarborough-Hamer Foundation to provide informational tours for visitors. Kensington is operated as a historic house museum and is open to the public. International Paper ended its partnership with the Scarborough-Hamer Foundation in 2015.
The Kensington Plantation Located eight miles east of Eastover in Richland County on US 601, half a mile past the entrance to International Paper at 4101 McCords Ferry Road