Clio Logo
This is a contributing entry for Fort Hill: National Historic Landmark and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

This state dining room, in conjunction with the parlor next door, acted as the formal entertaining space of the home. The skills of the enslaved domestic laborers made this room function smoothly as the Calhouns hosted numerous guests and prominent politicians. The banquet table in the center of the room seats twelve, and both the table and chairs were designed by Duncan Phyfe around 1820. The table comes to Fort Hill from the Calhouns' time living year-round in Washington, D.C. during John C. Calhoun's tenure as Secretary of War. The table is set with a replica of the Jackson-era White House china and features many original pieces of Calhoun silver. On the wall to the left of the entrance sits the Constitution Side Board. This piece is made from paneling of the Officer's Quarters of the U.S.S. Constitution, also called Old Iron Sides, which was built for the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812. This room also features a number of family portraits, two of John C. Calhoun on the walls to the left of the entrance, Floride Calhoun on the wall next to her daughter, Anna Maria's portrait. Above the hearth sits Floride Calhoun's wedding portrait, and finally, Thomas Green Clemson sits on the wall closest to the entrance.


  • Dining Room Table and China
  • Constitution Side Board
  • State Dining Room
  • State Dining Room
  • Replica of Jackson-era White House China
  • Floride Colhoun Calhoun Portrait which hangs in the State Dining Room
  • John C. Calhoun Portrait which hangs in the State Dining Room

Thomas Green Clemson, when he left Fort Hill and its land to the state of South Carolina, ensured that Fort Hill would be preserved and operated by Clemson University. Many of the artifacts found throughout Fort Hill belonged to the Calhoun-Clemson family and many of the family portraits have returned. During the Calhoun family's residency, a portrait of Floride Bonneau Colhoun, John C. Calhoun's mother-in-law, was on display in this room. A copy is placed on the table to the left of the fireplace today.

The Constitution Sideboard was presented to John C. Calhoun, likely after his wartime service as Interim Secretary of Navy and Secretary of War. After Thomas Green Clemson's death, his only grandchild, Floride Isabella Lee, chose this piece as her keepsake from Fort Hill's estate. She would later give it to a Calhoun cousin, whose widow put it up for auction after the Great Depression.

The enslaved African Americans at Fort Hill were the driving force behind the day to day functions of the home and the plantation. Of the many enslaved African Americans who labored at Fort Hill, only a few names of the domestic enslaved were documented by the family in personal correspondence or on other documents, like wills or estate inventories. While these documents may be uncomfortable, as they list African Americans as "property," there is still much which can be learned about the lives of African Americans at Fort Hill.

Nelly was an enslaved domestic worker at Fort Hill. She was purchased in 1848 by Floride Calhoun and worked as the enslaved cook. Nelly appeared in the personal correspondence of Floride Calhoun as her personal enslaved domestic laborer; in one letter, Floride Calhoun stated: "I trust her with the keys, as she has been accustomed to it all her life."

“Educational Resources | Clemson University, South Carolina.” Accessed May 21, 2020. https://www.clemson.edu/about/history/properties/ed.html.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

image courtesy of Fort Hill

image courtesy of Fort Hill

image courtesy of Fort Hill

image courtesy of Fort Hill

image courtesy of Fort Hill

image courtesy of Fort Hill

image courtesy of Fort Hill