When they moved onto family property west of Lexington, Jerry and Mary Howard named the place Fox Hill.
“We saw foxes every day,” said Jerry Howard, a retired electric co-op executive. “Now, we see coyotes.”
Their country home on 50 acres west of town is set among pasture land and pecan trees.
Across the road, their nephew Chip boards horses. In the backyard is the second-largest white oak in South Carolina, some 300 years old, based on what they were told by a state forestry official.
Suburbia is moving closer to the Howard’s home of 43 years on Counts Ferry Road. Two major grocery stores now do business on the highway toward town. Rocky Creek Elementary School opened three years ago just through the woods.
Still, the couple maintain a rural view. This time of year, they’re liable to spot deer late in the afternoon.
The oldest part of their two-story, brick house was built in 1827. It was expanded over the years and completely remodeled in the 1950s with Colonial touches, such as white columns along the front porch.
Jerry Howard’s father, Columbia department-store owner Wilson Howard, bought the property as an investment in 1963 and never lived there. Jerry Howard bought the house from his father in 1971, moving his young family to the country.
“We wanted to live in the wide-open spaces,” Mary Howard said. “No neighbors.”
The inside of the house is filled with deep colors, solid antiques and intriguing artifacts. Jerry Howard’s collection of tiny metal soldiers, lined in even rows, fill a glass cabinet in the front room.
He’s knowledgeable about the Revolutionary War in South Carolina and the Civil War, recently accepting an invitation to speak at his grandson’s class.
Amy Howard London, a horticulturalist, and her 10-year-old son, Bane, share the home.
The Howards are both active in the civic life of Lexington County. Jerry Howard serves on the Columbia Metropolitan Airport Commission after 16 years on Lexington County Council. Mary Howard is on the board of Riverbanks Zoo. They attend St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
“That’s a big attraction to people coming in – the schools and the churches,” Jerry Howard said. Both promote a sense of community and caring for children and youth, he said.
The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary in September and make time for occasional travel, though they always look forward to coming home to the farm.
Other neighborhoods with lots of open space
Subdivisions and malls have crept into the countryside surrounding Columbia and Lexington, but there are still plenty of areas where people can go to spread out.
Gaston, Swansea and Gilbert, communities just a few miles apart in southern Lexington County, have plenty of open and affordable space.
Folks in Lower Richland say they want to capitalize on farmland, history and the state’s only national park, Congaree swamp.
Cedar Creek, north of Columbia, has an air of the foothills. The land is still held by families unwilling to sell, for the most part.