The Governor Thomas Bennett House: Charleston, S.C.04-04-14 | News
The Governor Thomas Bennett House: Charleston, S.C.

Moonlighting Landscape Lighting Systems

The Gov. Thomas Bennett oak is the focal point of the garden. There were three existing up lights. The new lights are two 5-watt LEDs with 40-degree spread, and one 5-watt LED with 30-degree spread. There are also three Hadco down lights mounted in the tree to light the center of the oak, and one to highlight the main limbs, all 5-watt LEDs with 40 degree spreads. The Copper Moon path lights use 2.4-watt LEDs.


Built in 1825, the Governor Thomas Bennett House on 69 Barre Street in Charleston is an architectural masterpiece of that era, noted for its ornamentation plasterwork, and free-flying staircase, only one of two in the city. Now, 188 years later, the venerable home is among the favorites in Charleston, South Carolina historic district. The home has been beautifully restored, and plays host to some of Charleston's most extraordinary weddings and social events.

A native of Charleston, Thomas Bennett Jr. served as governor of South Carolina from 1820 to1822. After his term, he returned to Charleston where he built what is now this notable home, the Governor Thomas Bennett House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After much time and dedication had been devoted to the interior of the home, Moonlighting was called upon to aid in the restoration of the outdoor lighting. There was an existing outdoor lighting system prior to Moonlighting getting involved, but it was in great need of attention. The director of the Thomas Bennett House, Linda McCormick, expressed that maintenance costs were an issue, and that the overall lighting layout was not capturing all of the beauty the garden had to offer.


The crape myrtle grove of six trees is lit with four up lights in between the trees and one directly in the middle with the intent of lighting the entire canopy. The front two crape myrtles and the rear two crape myrtles are down lit only. The up lights (existing fixtures) are lamped with 5-watt LEDs with 40-degree spreads. The down lights have Vista fixtures with 4-watt LEDs and 60-degree spreads.

Conversion to LEDs
As Moonlighting was not the original lighting installer, several hours of diagnosing and researching the existing wiring was required, plus determining how much lighting could be reused. To help manage costs, Moonlighting elected to reuse some of the existing fixtures. As maintenance costs were a major concern, and the largest overall cost of light maintenance is constant bulb replacements, Moonlighting included in the design the conversion to LED. By doing so, the maintenance costs would be lowered significantly, as would energy consumption. Although conversion to LED would alleviate bulb replacement maintenance issues, regular maintenance is still advised for LEDs to ensure fixtures remain properly aimed, clean and free of debris and any vegetation that might be hinder the lighting effects.

After several site visits during the daytime and night hours we were able to construct a design that would reflect the beauty of this historic garden. The design reflects the aesthetic beauty of what the garden offers, ranging from mature live oak trees and palm trees, to lush crape myrtles and Japanese maples. Another emphasis to the design was circulation. While aesthetics are important to lighting design and pleasing to the eye, it's critical to assure visitors and guests can easily and safely navigate around the Thomas Bennett House and the gardens at night. The existing fixtures were originally mounted with shallow mounting stakes that were not designed to withstand any kind of foot traffic or contact, thus causing them to be knocked over. We incorporated some of those fixtures into that design, but used custom mounts designed by Moonlighting to hold the fixtures in place and prevent them from being knocked out of position. The intent over time is to transition from the existing fixtures to one Moonlighting normally installs.


The ivy-covered wall is washed with Universal fixtures with Dauer 2.4-watt LEDs. The crape myrtle (left) is up and downlit with the existing fixture lamped with a 5-watt LED (30 degree spread), and a Vista downlight fixture with a Brilliance 4-watt LED (60-degree spread). The fig tree (right) is downlit with a single 4-watt LED (60-degree spread). The pulled back image shows the same area, but with a view of the house lit with three existing fixtures, relamped with 4-watt LEDs (40-degree spreads).

FX Luminaire fixtures were used for both uplighting and downlighting. These fixtures house 5-watt LEDs with 40-degree spread for the larger trees, or 5-watt LEDs with 25-degree spread for palm trees. Vista fixtures were used for some downlighting as well, typically housing 4-watt LEDs with 60-degree spread, or 5-watt LEDs with a 40-degree spread. Copper Moon was used for path lighting (2.4-watt LED lamp).Lumierre and Hadco fixtures were used for mounted downlights that were purposely aimed. Lamps for these were 4-watt LEDs with 40-degree spread, or 5-watt LEDs with a 40-degree spread. Universal fixtures were used for wall washing and housed a 2.4-watt LEDs. The LED lamps were from Dauer and Brilliance.

All the installation work was completed with hand tools and ladders to avoid damaging the gardens' mature plantings. We make it part of our daily practice to work with "light feet," working carefully about the gardens to make sure nothing was disturbed or damaged. One of our pillars of business is to always leave a garden better than we found it.


In the Fountain/Crescent Garden a Hadco down light fixture in a large oak illuminates the fountain with a Dauer 4-watt LED with a 40-degree spread. The crescent garden hedge is lit with a 12 Universal wall wash fixtures (2.4-watt LEDs). The two Vitex trees, also known as Chaste, Hemp, Sage and Indian Spice, are each uplit with two 4-watt LEDs with 30 degree spread (existing fixtures).

Moonlighting is a design/build firm. Mike Rollins, president, is a landscape architect by trade; Doug Wickenhoefer, vice president, is a licensed electrician. Moonlighting has the capability of presenting the design on paper, then translating every aspect of that design successfully in the field.

After almost a full week of installation, several aspects of the design were worth noting: A live oak tree that flanks the main garden, most often used for wedding ceremonies, now stands proudly lit. A grove of crape myrtles separating the main garden from the side yard and the secret garden is now lit with a combination of up and downlighting, helping make a nice transition between the gardens.

Since the completion of this project, Moonlighting has been called back several times to further enhance other areas of the garden, to begin phasing out the older fixtures and replacing them with a fixture now to Moonlighting specifications. Moonlighting received great feedback from Linda McCormick, director of the Governor Thomas Bennett House, as well as several of the end-users that have since attended events at this location.


Five-watt LEDs illuminate the benches in the Secret Garden. The bench at left uses a single Hadco down light fixture, while two FX Luminaire fixtures light the bench at right.


Comment Form is loading comments...