The Campobello Monk Institute, a reminder of days gone by

Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 9, 2015

The Monk Institute in the early 1900s.

The Monk Institute in the early 1900s. In later years it served as a bed and breakfast inn, and is now up for sale.


By Linda List
Several months ago, while exploring Campobello, I discovered a magnificent brick  house, a little off the beaten path on Depot Street. I contemplated knocking on the door and inquiring about a possible tour.

One day I discovered a for sale sign in the yard and knew I might not have another chance to glimpse the inside. My friend, Jeaneen, at Country Peddler in Campobello, provided me the owner’s name and contact information.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Bob and Candy Payne were excited to show me their enchanting mansion. A move to Charleston has prompted the sale. But first let me give you some background information.

The Reverend Isham Woodruff Wingo, a Baptist minister who graduated from Furman, originally built the house as a boarding school, the Monk Institute, back in 1896-97. Approximately 40 students at the school studied music, art, Latin, French, German, and Greek.

The boys who boarded there actually made all the bricks in a brickyard in Campobello. The building is three stories and the walls are four bricks thick.  Eventually the school was closed in 1912, but had other lives in the years that followed.

A doctor took over the residence and opened an office in the front rooms and a birthing room upstairs in one of the present day bedrooms. This was still the early 1900s and the house was not equipped with water or electricity. Water would have been brought in from a well and oil or kerosene lamps provided light. As I wander through the house, now all beautifully updated, I ponder what it would have been like to give birth inside these walls by oil lamp.

Candy and Bob take me to the third floor attic, the dormitory for the boys.  I close my eyes and am transported to a time of darkness when boys were bunked down in their beds, calling to each other and discussing the day’s events, with moonlight glowing through the large windows.

Eventually the house was abandoned and for many years stood forlornly attesting to a bygone era. In 1987 while searching for antiques, Sandy Quisenberry came upon the building in near ruin with broken windows and covered in kudzu inside and out.

“We had to crawl through a window to get inside, but I fell in love with it,” Sandy exclaims. “I felt so much warmth and love here. I convinced my husband that this was it and we began the restoration.”

Because the house had been completely abandoned, it was a long process and continued over many years. “In time, it became our home. We had house tours at Christmas with seven Christmas trees on display. The tours always benefitted a charity,” Sandy remembers. “But my husband was transferred to Virginia and it became time to sell the house.”

It was at Christmas time when Bob and Candy came upon the house.  Bob had retired from a navy career that had them living in Naples, Italy.  They had frequently entertained dignitaries from around the world while living in Naples.

“Opening a bed and breakfast seemed like a perfect new career for us.  We were searching for the perfect place and the restored Monk Institute, now a charming home, was what we were looking for,” Candy tells me.

“We like old things.  Plaster had been removed from many sun-fired brick walls and the fireplace, bead board covered walls and ceilings, old rafters and windows on the third floor where the boys slept, all ‘spoke’ to us of it’s history and days gone by,” she continues.

“We were busy with guests coming from as far away as California. We hosted two weddings here.  The time came when I felt I had cooked enough breakfasts and we decided to close as a business and just enjoy the home,” Candy continues.

And Bob adds, “Being in the navy, I have always enjoyed living by the water. So we’ve decided it’s time to sell and move to Charleston.”

Candy tells me, “I want to pass the baton to the next person who will treasure and preserve the history.”

I thank them for the tour, give the dogs a pat and wave good bye. I also gained much  information a few days later while visiting with Sandra Quisenberry, who is now back in Campbello.

If you are driving on Rt. 176 to Campobello, take a detour back in time, down Depot Street and visit some history. Curve to the right by the church to discover the former Monk Institute, now an exquisite, charming home. And stop in Country Peddler and say “hello” to my friend Jeaneen.