Hitchcock Woods - Aiken

Hitchcock Woods

courtesy of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation

Located in the heart of Aiken, South Carolina, the Hitchcock Woods is one of the largest urban forests in the nation. With 2,100 acres of forestland and 70 miles of sandy trails, the Woods are a haven for hikers, equestrians, dog walkers, runners, bird watchers and nature lovers and history buffs.

The extraordinary beauty of the Hitchcock Woods with its stunning variety of ecosystems is protected forever by a conservation easement held by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. In addition, the Hitchcock Woods has been designated as a South Carolina Heritage Trust site.

 

History

The Hitchcock Woods was originally part of a larger tract of land purchased by Thomas Hitchcock and William Whitney in the 1890s. Later, in the 1930s, the Hitchcock Foundation was formed to preserve, protect, and maintain the remaining acres of the original tract for the benefit of the general public and future generations.

The history of Hitchcock Woods is inseparable from the glamorous history of Aiken as a health resort and “winter colony” for wealthy families from the northeast with names such as Hitchcock, Whitney, Vanderbilt, Grace, Knox, Post, Goodyear, Eustis, Bostwick, Dolan, Astor, and Pinkerton. Attracted by Aiken’s temperate climate and loamy soils, these prominent families built magnificent homes in Aiken to house their families, staff, dogs, and horses during the winter months.

Arriving by private railroad car at the beginning of the season, the winter colonists spent their time in Aiken playing golf, court tennis, and bird hunting. They were also accomplished equestrians, polo players and avid fox hunters. Aiken provided the perfect setting for the sport of foxhunting thanks to the lush longleaf pine ecosystem that covered 95% of the southern landscape at the time.