April of 1916 marked the first year for the historic Centennial Aiken Horse Show nestled in the heart of Hitchcock woods and lined with beautiful pine fencing for spectators to sit behind to view the activities of the day!
Hitchcock Woods was founded by Thomas Hitchcock, a well known sportsman from the Northeast, and Willam C. Whitney, a prominent banker in New York and a close friend of Thomas’. While both avid horse lovers, their interest in Aiken was actually sparked by Thomas’ wife, Louise Eustis.
During the 1800s, Aiken became a popular destination for winters and health recovery. Patients from the north with lung ailments would trek south to Aiken to seek healing from the dryer, warmer environment. Louise Eustis was one of the many travelers that came to Aiken ill, but she left in good health! Since her recover, she would continue to spend most of her winters in Aiken. After her engagement and marriage to Thomas Hitchcock, she convinced him to follow her to Aiken on a couple of trips and he fell in love with its charm as well!
Thomas Hitchcock and Willam C. Whitney saw the benefit of bring their horses south for the winter and loved the soil. They would later purchase 8,000 acres of land which would be called Hitchcock Woods. 2,000 of these acres are dedicated to horse sports.
In 1816, Aiken launched its first horse show! With over 100 years (and counting) of celebrating the annual event, the tradition is stronger than ever. The Hitchcock convinced their friends to visit and one by one, the community of Aiken continued to grow and it became a popular winter retreat for people within society of the north and their horses. Over time and still today, the Centennial Aiken Horse Show attracts people from all over the world.
Not only is this event a horse event, it’s a social event as well! White linens sprawled across wooden tables with lovely meals and time spent with community, the event still carries a very similar tradition in the heart of Aiken!