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Former Hobkirk Inn sells at auction for $770,000
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Alicia and Michael Mrozowskic, of Hughesville, Md., try to use an old, large key to open the front door of their new home on Wednesday at 1919 Lyttleton St. in Camden. The key -- found in 1995 after missing for 65 years -- used to fit the large door of the home when it was known as The Hobkirk Inn. The Mrozowskics bought the house at auction for a total contract price of $770,000. (Provided by Lisa Cobb Moore)

It’s not every day that a man spends $770,000 on a gift for his wife to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary. That’s exactly what Michael Mrozowskic did Wednesday when he became the winning bidder for the home at 1919 Lyttleton St. in Camden that once housed the Hobkirk Inn. It marked one of the few times, if ever, that a home -- especially one with such history -- has sold at auction in Camden.

Mrozowskic and his wife, Alicia, currently live in Hughesville, Md., southeast of Washington, D.C., on a horse farm they are selling in order to move to Camden.

“We’ve been looking for the last two to three years up and down the East Coast for a place to move,” Mrozowskic said. “We wanted to live in a small town and found Camden. It’s beautiful, walkable and has horses.”

Mrozowskic’s winning bid was originally $635,000. Chris Pracht Auctioneers and Tommy Rowell Auctions added a 10 percent premium, bringing the original total bid to $698,500. A few hours after the auction closed, Pracht informed the Chronicle-Independent that the Mrozowskics agreed to a negotiated increase bringing their total contract price to $770,000.

At one time, the home and property had been on the market for $1.5 million.

The sellers, Rikki and Frank Campbell, who once also owned the TenEleven Galleria on Broad Street, recently moved to a vineyard in France. The house was virtually empty when bidders arrived for the 2 p.m. auction. The Campbells took their furnishings with them, allowing whoever would own the home next to give it their own touch.

The house totals more than 9,500 square feet, with 6,500 of that being heated/cooled space plus an approximately 3,000 square feet of basement and garages -- an unusual configuration for a Southern home.

Its history goes back 162 years to 1857 when Col. William Shannon built the home. Shannon was killed in the last “legal” duel in South Carolina, known as the Cash-Shannon Duel, in 1880. Shannon named the property Pine Flat.

Afterward, Shannon’s widow sold the home to the operator of the Haile Gold Mine, F.W. Eldredge. He lived there with his wife and then converted it into the Hobkirk Inn in 1844. It would serve as such until 1940, according to a chronological listing of Camden’s history prepared by the Camden Archives and Museum for the city’s official website.

It would go through several private hands before being purchased by the Campbells in 1995 for $329,000 from Louis F. Sell.

On Wednesday, while Pracht greeted potential bidders, the man who would serve as the auctioneer for the day, Tommy Rowell, explained how things would work.

“This is going to be a verbal auction, but online, too. We’re actually going to simulcast this,” Rowell said. “I find that when people are going to be making the purchase of a lifetime, they want the experience of being here, but we’re online for folks who can’t.”

Rowell called auctions a “unique marketing tool” for properties like this one.

“We put out the information, and people bid competitively. There’s no minimum bid, but the owners have the option to accept or reject the bid,” he said, adding that there had been a good community response and that he and Pracht were glad to represent the Campbells in selling their former home.

Although neither he nor Pracht mentioned exact dollar figures, a fact sheet available to bidders and other attendees stated that the property had undergone a “significant 10-month professional renovation” exceeding $750,000 and called the former inn “basically a 160-year old ‘new’ house.”

Those renovations included having the exterior completely repainted and installing: automatic sprinklers in the entire yard, sod in the rear yard, a new gravel driveway at the rear of the home exiting onto Greene Street, a new security system, hardwood decking around the front fountain, a new outside brick side staircase exiting the sunroom, new wood staircase and door on the rear exiting a mud room, a significant number of structural supports, a vapor barrier throughout an unfinished part of the basement, new plumbing, new wiring upstairs, new air conditioning units, and three attic fans. In addition, the laundry and mud rooms, kitchen, sunroom and library have all been renovated or upgraded. The entire upstairs portion of the home was completely gutted to the studs and redone, including four bathrooms; all closets have been reconfigured, a pull-down attic stairs installed, and eight windows replaced with historic replica wood sashing.

A carriage house on the property has had the exterior repainted and a structural repair of its foundation.

In addition to the large square footage of the interior, the home boasts more than 1,000 square feet of covered porch area, seven fully-functional fireplaces, a large kitchen with a 60-foot commercial range, commercial freezier, ice machine and walk-in refrigerator. There is also a bar/butler’s pantry with floor-to-ceiling glass wine storage with an approximately 1,000-bottle capacity, a second dishwasher and commercial ice machine.

All six of the bedrooms are considered “brand-new” with recessed lighting.

The 3-acre lot also boasts a number of mature trees, and a concrete circular driveway around the fountain; another fountain can be found in a side yard dating back to the 1940s. The carriage house is a rented one-bedroom apartment with significant storage space. There is also a two-car garage, and the basement features a separate tool room.

Wednesday’s auction started at 2 p.m. with explanations of how things would work and the conditions by which bidders were expected to agree to in purchasing the property. The proceedings lasted less than half an hour with Rowell rapidly calling out bid amounts, which started at around $600,000. Bids increased slowly, allowing Rowell to pause every now and then to talk -- in a normal voice -- a little more about the house. Calling out bid amounts again, Rowell’s colleagues, along with Pracht, walked through the front room being used for the auction urging attendees to enter the bidding or those who had already done so to increase their bids.

Just before 2:25 p.m., Rowell closed the bidding, naming Michael Mrozowskic as the winner to a round of applause.

One of the items presented to the Mrozowskics was a large, old key. Early in the auction’s proceedings, Pracht explained its significance: It fit the original, large doors to the Hobkirk Inn, but had disappeared for decades. It was given to the Campbells in 1995 after being missing for 65 years.

After the auction was over, the Mrozowskics ceremoniously “used” the key to reopen the front doors, a humorous and fitting anniversary gift … and entry into their new home.