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Arson damages distinctive home on Lake Murray

Firefighters battle a blaze at Brantley Manor.
Firefighters battle a blaze at Brantley Manor.

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Thanks to John and Megan Madden for sharing their personal video of the fire:

A blaze that damaged one of the Midlands' most distinctive homes was arson, Richland County officials said Monday.

The fire occurred at a 15,000-square-foot mansion on Lake Murray - bought for $3.5 million two years ago - that was being torn down after many of its interior treasures were sold.

The cause "doesn't appear to have been anything natural," said Monique Mack, a sheriff's spokeswoman.

Utility service to the dwelling was shut off and nothing done by workers who began razing it last week appeared to have caused the fire, she said.

The blaze was reported by neighbors about 9:30 a.m. Sunday and put out by Columbia and Irmo firefighters after nearly two hours.

Its partial demolition "added to the danger" in extinguishing the flames, Deputy Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said.

Damage is estimated at $1 million, he said.

Demolition is set to resume Tuesday.

Modeled after an English country estate, the residence is on a quiet cove in Ballentine.

The home, built in the late 1980s, is popularly known as Brantley Manor, after its builder.

The home once was filled with antiques, paintings, statues and other decor associated with English nobility.

"It's a one-of-a-kind property," said Susan Crosby, a Realtor in the Irmo area whose brother owns it.

The gated home is largely invisible from the road but visible on the water, making it a favorite attraction for boaters.

"It's been an icon on the lake," said Joy Downs, a leader of the Lake Murray Association who lives nearby. "It's sad to see it go."

The home's owner, Atlanta insurance executive Charles Crosby, declined comment.

His sister said he bought the home two years ago as part of a plan to return to his hometown.

The family grew up playing on the 47,500-acre lake, she said.

Demolition began after Crosby concluded the home was "too quirky" to modernize, his sister said. "It was decided it was better to take it down and start over."

Many artifacts and decorations were quietly sold on consignment, she said.

Over the years, the house was studded with features like stained-glass windows, church pews, an onyx mantle and religious icons.

The home had 4 1/2 kitchens, 13 bathrooms, seven bedrooms and seven fireplaces. Outside was a 3,000-square-foot guest home, along with tennis courts, basketball court, swimming pool, boat dock and fishing pier.

Charles Crosby, who graduated from the University of South Carolina about 30 years ago, bought the mansion after a previous owner's plans to convert it into a bed-and-breakfast inn didn't materialize.

Gene Brantley, the businessman who built it, said the demolition of his one-time dream home is not sad for him. Times change, he said.

Crosby plans to put up a new home on the site, his sister said.

"It's not going to be a castle," Susan Crosby said. "But it's going to be nice."

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