1400 Westminster Drive
The oldest property in Forest Hills, this Georgian Revival style home was built for Benjamin Livingston Lindsay Abney (1859-1921), a prominent Columbia lawyer and counsel for the South Carolina division of Southern Railway. Abney purchased approximately 80 acres of land in 1903 from Wade Hampton III’s estate and another 10 acres adjacent to the tract. He built a handsome two-story brick residence on the east side of what is now Westminster Drive. The ruins of Diamond Hill, the once stately home of Wade Hampton III that was burned by Union soldiers, were visible from the front portico of Abney’s home. Abney renamed the property Abney Park.
Abney was an attorney of extraordinary power and influence in his time. He was born in 1859 in Edgefield District. He attended Newberry College and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1879. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1880; practiced law in Edgefield for a year; and then moved to Columbia to join his brother, Col. John R. Abney. Abney and his brother became “preeminent railroad lawyers.” Benjamin Abney held his post as South Carolina division counsel for the Southern Railway for over 25 years, giving lawyer and contemporary David W. Robinson a reason to dub him the “most outstanding lawyer in Columbia at the turn of the century.” His extensive private law library, numbering over ten thousand volumes, resided at his Abney Park residence until his death, when it was bequeathed to and became the foundation for the University of South Carolina Law School Library.
A bachelor, Benjamin Abney died in 1923 without heirs. Joseph Walker & Company purchased Abney Park from his estate in 1925. A 1923 plat confirms that the house was the sole dwelling in Abney Park. Joseph Walker designed the first phase of his Forest Hills development on the western half of Abney’s tract, and in 1935, used the eastern portion of the tract for Forest Hills No. 2. Walker retained the Abney House as the centerpiece of the road that would be named Westminster Drive.
The Benjamin Abney House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 as one of 215 contributing homes in the Forest Hills Historic District. It is now the residence of Lucille and Jim Cantey.
To learn more about Benjamin Abney and the history of Forest Hills, go to www.nationalregister.sc.gov/richland/S10817740139/index.htm and scroll to the bottom of the page to view a complete copy of the National Register nomination.