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Proctor Hall showcases history, elegance

Posted: August 31, 2017 1:50 p.m.
Updated: September 1, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Jim Tatum/C-I

Louise C. Proctor Hall, which was built in 1823, was left to the “Ladies of Camden” by owner Louise C. Proctor. The property has been, and continues to be, a venue for a variety of social functions. Events coming up soon include a craft fair Sept. 23-24 and the third annual Haunted Tour on Oct. 13. In addition, Proctor Hall will be on the Junior Welfare League’s Candlelight Tour of Homes in December.

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Louise C. Proctor Hall, one of the most historic and elegant properties in Camden, is undergoing a bit of a makeover these days, thanks to its dedicated board of directors, membership, and a small group of volunteers.

According to the history of Proctor Hall, the home and grounds, located on Lyttleton Street in Camden, was built by local business leader and Camden Mayor Thomas Durham Salmond around 1823. His eldest son, Dr. Edward Anderson Salmond, married and had a son, Henry Cook Salmond. He and his wife had seven children. Their oldest child, born in 1870, was Louise Courtney Salmond and she lived there for most of her life. 

Louise married twice. Her second marriage was to Dr. Frank Proctor, a wealthy ophthalmologist. She was socially active in her community and enjoyed entertaining. According to the history of Proctor Hall, “Upon her death, she bequeathed the estate known as The Cedars to the “ladies of Camden.”

Over the years, the property has been and continues to be available for all types of social functions, especially weddings and formal parties.

“It’s hard to beat Proctor Hall for the sheer ambience,” Ann Boone, president of the board of trustees said. “The grounds are wonderful and the house really lends itself to entertaining.” 

Yet, as beautiful, elegant and old-world as it is, in recent times such activity has declined. There are probably a number of reasons for this. For one, people simply are not hosting as many formal and semi-formal events as in years past. Also, other spaces in the area may have a larger capacity. People may also assume that the cost of renting the grand old property is high.

Whatever has caused the decline, the board and volunteers are working diligently to reverse those fortunes.

Bobbie Tucker, an at-large member of Proctor Hall, also heads up a group of volunteers known as The Visionaries. Their vision is to bring the historic home and grounds not only to its former glory but to bring it to the forefront of the public’s attention. To that end, they have been doing a lot of work sprucing the place up -- painting, polishing silver, procuring furniture and other such important behind-the-scenes tasks.

They have even been able to get new rocking chairs for the large, effusive porch, with Boone, Louise Burns, Tucker and Kenny Newman of Newman Furniture in Camden all donating chairs, she said.

Tucker, while low key, is pleased with the progress they have made, crediting the volunteers, especially 

“It’s such a beautiful place -- and it’s really quite reasonable to rent, yet no one seems to know it’s there,” Tucker said. “We want to change that. We believe if the community knows what we have to offer, what a real gem it is -- and just how reasonable it really is, they will support it.”

Their work seems to be paying off.

 “They’ve really gotten into it, which is exactly what we needed,” she said. “It’s great -- they’ve done so much.”

In addition to the work the volunteers have done, the board has also made some changes. For one, they no longer have a full-time caretaker living on-site. Instead, they are working on repurposing living space upstairs in the house as potential hospitality lodging.

“It’s set up now so that you could spend your wedding night there if you want to,” Boone said. “There’s a lovely suite, plus a smaller room we call ‘the groom’s room’ that can be used to change clothes, etc. But the space could also conceivably be a wonderful place for people to come and stay during events such as the Blues Festival.”

Speaking of events, there are three major events coming up in the near future, starting with a craft fair that will be held on the grounds of the property Sept. 23 and 24. The third annual Haunted Tour, which has become a much-looked-forward to event, is coming up Friday, Oct. 13. 

Proctor Hall will also be a featured property on the Camden Junior Welfare Leagues Candlelight Tour of Homes in December, Boone said.

Of course, they would also like to increase membership. Individuals can join Proctor Hall for $25 per year, which among other benefits, allows a 10 percent discount off rental rates. Patron memberships are $50 per year and include a 15 percent discount on rental rates and Benefactor memberships are $100 per year and include a 25 percent discount on rental rates.

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