The living room, like every other room in this house, sparks a flood of memories for the Hoefer sisters. On their first visit to their beloved family home since selling it eight years ago, they share not their own memories but those of a little girl named Lottie.
On seeing the house with her parents for the first time, Lottie Folline, 8, walked out to the gardens and pool behind the house and proclaimed, “If I lived here, I could be a princess. And I could have a princess wedding.”
Perhaps Lottie could sense that “The Duchess’ Palace,” a name bestowed by the late Judge Bratton Davis and continued on by the Hoefer siblings, was a place where magical moments had happened. For more than 50 years, the house had been a gathering place for some of the state’s best-known leaders, the site of many glorious weddings, and the childhood home of a woman who would make South Carolina history.
By HGTV standards, something even more magical had occurred after that. The “new” owners, Lura and Read Folline, did not gut, renovate, and opt for an open floor plan. “We really weren’t going to change anything,” Lura says.
So when Lura invited the former residents to revisit, their mutual love for the house made conversation flow as if they were all lifelong friends.
A House for the Hoefers
The Hoefer sisters include Lilla Hoefer, a retired city planner; Christina Hoefer Myers, a senior director of development at the University of South Carolina; and Jean Hoefer Toal, former chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court and the first woman to serve in that position.
When Lilla and Pete Hoefer (the three sisters’ parents) bought the house on Adger Road, these now-accomplished ladies were young girls. Their parents needed room for them, as well as their sister, Ann, and their brother, Herbert, plus space to entertain friends.
After a few renovations, the family moved in during the summer of 1957. And from that moment, the house was on its way to becoming a character, not just in Hoefer family lore, but also in the history of Columbia and South Carolina.
Herbert “Pete” Hoefer was a successful Columbia businessman. Lilla, his wife, was known as an entertainer extraordinaire. Most days and nights, their home brimmed with children and friends, including some of the state’s most influential people. Among them, the sisters remember the late Sen. Ernest F. Hollings. “Fritz Hollings loved this house and the parties Mama threw,” Jean says. “I can see him in that living room right now, speaking in that big voice of his.”
“It was always filled with laughter, music, and interesting conversation,” Christina says.
They also reminisce about outdoor wedding parties as all three of them had their wedding receptions there. Christina recalls the new carpet installed before Jean’s wedding, which was ruined by mud when a downpour drenched their plans. “It was a toad choker,” Christina says of the rain that August day. As the guests and their muddy shoes trekked through the peach living room, she recalls, “Mama just stood there and beamed.”
“It’s just a thing” was their mother’s reaction when anything was ruined during one of her parties, though the elder Lilla had filled the rooms with antiques and art she had collected for the home she decorated with creativity and attention to every detail.
When their mother died in 2006 (their father died in 1989), the children were not ready to sell the house. “We were going to keep it for a while as a clubhouse,” Lilla says. In 2008, Jean’s daughter, Lilla Toal Mandsager, was married at St. Joseph’s Church and her reception — as well as that of other family members throughout the years — was held in the Adger Road backyard in full-blown Hoefer style.
Finally, the Hoefer siblings realized they might be ready to let the house go.
A New Family, a New Chapter
While the Hoefers were looking for a buyer, Lura and Read were looking for a house. It was love at first sight. “It reminded me of my grandmother’s house,” says Lura, regarding their first visit to the house.
For the Hoefers, it felt like a bit of a miracle — and not just because they had found a buyer. The house sits on a large lot, almost an acre, in a popular neighborhood. “We were so concerned that someone might buy it for the lot and tear the house down,” says Jean.
The Follines seemed to understand what made the place special and loved the house the way it was. On the day they closed, Lura brought a card from her three young children — Read, George, and Lottie. They had drawn pictures on construction paper for the Hoefers, each writing a favorite aspect about their new home.
A Rejuvenation and a Reunion
Sitting in the living room now, Christina is struck by how simple changes make the room seem larger. “Mama had fabric in those inserts,” she says of the walls that once were peach, now painted a neutral mushroom gray.
“They’ve really rejuvenated it,” says Jean.
As they walk room to room, the sisters admire how Lura’s thoughtful updates make the most of the house and preserve a bit of their mother’s style. In the dining room, their mother had wallpapered the ceiling with a gold medallion pattern. Not only did Lura keep that ceiling wallpaper, but she also updated the adjacent foyer to play off the dining room’s signature feature.
“There’s a wonderful relationship between the foyer wallpaper and the dining room ceiling,” Jean says as Lura encourages her to lead the tour. Christina describes how the dining room walls had first been painted celadon green in her mother’s day and then covered later with a Chinoiserie wallpaper. Lura has painted the dining room a neutral color similar to the living room. It is another way to let the ceiling be the star.
And while Lura installed a new chandelier over the long dining room table, the original chandelier now hangs in Lilla’s home.
That staircase is another element carrying serious Hoefer history, reaching back to Pete Hoefer’s childhood home at 1624 Pendleton St. in Columbia. The Pendleton Street house, built in 1905, was eventually torn down to make way for the construction of what is now the National Advocacy Center at the corner of Pendleton and Pickens. Before the house was demolished, their father had the chance to rescue some its most beautiful features — the impressive balustrade, the banister rails and newel post, massive paneled pocket doors that became wainscoting in the back foyer, and a fireplace mantel that was incorporated into a bar. The architectural treasures continue to enhance the Adger Road home.
From the waxed brick flooring in the family room to the garage-turned-guesthouse by the pool, every detail prompts memories from the sisters and an appreciation for the way Lura has gently nudged the house into the present.
“I always liked studying in this room,” Jean says of the pecky cypress paneled study, while her sister Lilla remembers it as the place she played music, like Chubby Checker albums, and learned to do the game Twister.
“The walls had a gray wash then,” Jean says. “You’ve painted them white.”
“I’m sorry,” says Lura.
“No, no, I like it,” Jean reassures her. “It fits what you’ve done with the house.”
The guesthouse, now a favorite spot for the Follines’ children and their friends, had been a short-term home for all the Hoefer siblings at various stages in their life. Jean stayed there while she was attending law school. Christina remembers living there in the weeks prior to getting married. “Mama would scratch on the window screen in the mornings and tell me she was gathering roses from the garden for my wedding,” Christina says. “She collected them for weeks and put the buds in cold storage. And on my wedding day, the house was filled with roses.”
A Charmed House and a Happy Ending
After so many parties, weddings, family gatherings, and cherished memories, it is fair to wonder if the sisters were not taking a risk to revisit the house.
“It brings back nothing but wonderful memories,” Jean says.
“I am thrilled,” says Christina.
“Mama would be so excited,” adds Lilla.
Christina offers perhaps the ultimate compliment about her mother and Lura after the tour: “Y’all would be friends.”
While everyone is chatting on the patio beside the pool, Lottie comes home from school. She is now a high school senior about to leave home for college like her brothers. They ask if she remembers wanting to be a princess when she first saw the house 8 years earlier. Lottie is not sure.
They remind her of the day her parents closed on the house. Lilla had purchased, as a sort of staging prop, colorful inflatable rings that looked like Lifesavers to float on the pool. When 8-year-old Lottie saw that inviting scene, she jumped into the water with all her clothes on. Lottie laughs. She does remember that.
“We love this house so much,” Lottie tells them. Lura points to a small plaque on the garden gate. It was posted there by Mrs. Hoefer. Lottie immediately recites the words from memory: “One that opens the door upon a beautiful garden has a mind at peace and a heart that cannot harden.”
From the pineapples symbolizing hospitality that the three sisters’ mother commissioned for the driveway posts to that small sign displayed on the back garden gate, the care the Hoefer family invested in the house has not been discounted or overlooked. “I appreciate it all, so much, every time I turn into this driveway,” Lura says. “When we bought it, people told us this will always be the Hoefer house. And I’m totally okay with that.”