Oral history Helps Recover Past at Drayton Hall

“This is a place where their ancestors walked. You’re not just in a museum looking at artifacts in a case.”

Today’s Post & Courier highlights the ongoing work in oral history research at Drayton Hall that will be presented tomorrow at the South Carolina Historic Preservation Conference. Dr. George McDaniel, executive director of Drayton Hall, and Toni Carrier of Lowcountry Africana will both be giving presentations. Their sessions will highlight the history of African Americans at Drayton Hall after the Civil War and building a rapport between the site and descendants, both white and black, of those who once lived there. A number of those descendants will speak Tuesday.

Click here to read the full article.

Lowcountry Oyster Roast at Drayton Hall

HCF Oyster Roast April 10, 2011 pics 020

Held in conjunction with Historic Charleston Foundation’s Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens, the oyster roast and picnic features the unique culinary pleasures of the Carolina Lowcountry including local steamed oysters, an authentic Lowcountry buffet supper, plus beer, wine, and soft drinks.oyster shells

Admission includes a professionally guided tour of Drayton Hall’s main house as well as an Easter Egg Hunt for the younger crowd.

Friday, April 18 
4:30 – 7:00 pm

Tickets are $45 for adults and $20 for children ages 6-12; children under 6 are free. For tickets, please call Historic Charleston Foundation’s events office at 843-722-3405 or visit www.historiccharleston.org.

Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series: S. Max Edelson to Present on April 17th

We are pleased to announce that Richard and Jill Almeida have graciously underwritten the third installment in the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Richard is a member of the Drayton Hall Site Advisory Council and both Richard and Jill are active with a number of organizations in the Charleston community.

Max_Edelson 96 dpi

The April event will feature S. Max Edelson’s presentation Mapping Carolina: Cartography and the Quest for Empire in the Colonial Southeast. Edelson is an Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, where he co-directs the UVA-Monticello Early American Seminar. His research focuses on colonial British America and the Atlantic world. His first book, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Harvard, 2006) examines the relationship between planters and the Lowcountry environment as the key to understanding a society that was as repressive as it was prosperous. His forthcoming book, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence (Harvard, 2015), examines the importance of cartography to the American empire.

Edelson follows our March presenter and acclaimed Cornell University faculty member, Mary Beth Norton, who presented Beyond Boston: The Fate of the Seven Tea Ships of 1773. All presentations are digitally recorded, with video posted on the Drayton Hall YouTube channel and linked under the speaker’s bio on the Distinguished Speakers Series website. The fall 2014 series will bring another trio of notable speakers to Charleston on September 18, October 16, and November 20, 2014.

Know Before You Go

All Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series programs will begin promptly at 7:00 p.m. and will be hosted by South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street, downtown Charleston.
Doors will open by 6:30 p.m., seating is limited, and a dessert reception will follow. This program is free to Friends of Drayton Hall and their guests.
Please contact Steve Mount, Director of Philanthropy, at 843-769-2601 or smount@draytonhall.org with any questions.

March Madness History Edition

Yes, we historians have our own version of March Madness. The Junto is hosting a bracket poll on the best early American history book since 2000. It started off with 64 and now only 2 remain…Rebecca Goetz’s The Baptism of Early Virginia and Michael Jarvis’ In The Eye of All Trade are both in the championship game. Drayton Hall will be rooting for Michael Jarvis, who spoke at our inaugural Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series (video here). Go vote for Jarvis!

A Tribute to Miss Sally

At the close of Women’s History Month, we would like to pay tribute to Sally Reahard, an important benefactress of Drayton Hall. Miss Sally, as she preferred to be called, passed away a decade ago, but her love and support for Drayton Hall can still be seen on the site today. The following tribute is written by Drayton Hall Executive Director George W. McDaniel, who knew and admired Miss Sally and worked with her closely.


By George W. McDaniel, Executive Director

How to characterize Miss Sally? She was her own person, to be sure. She was an original, sui generis. I think most would agree that she was astute and lively. She cut to the chase, and always presented herself well. She didn’t suffer fools or idle chit-chat. She loved to talk, but it was about things of substance, whether history, preservation, conservation, or about forks in the road and which one to take.

A young Miss Sally conveying her love for the outdoors and her joie de vivre spirit.

A young Miss Sally conveying her love for the outdoors and her joie de vivre attitude.

Miss Sally grew up in Indianapolis and went to Sweet Briar College in Virginia. In the small world that this is, she was two years behind my mother, who’d grown up in Atlanta. She remembered Mother well and sent me pictures from the Sweet Briar annual of Mother and also of herself and of my mother’s friends who’d gone to Sweet Briar. Some were classmates of Miss Sally, one, in fact, being my next door neighbor growing up in Atlanta and two others, my “aunts” by affection, one in Atlanta, the other in Augusta, Ga.

The pictures capture Miss Sally’s personality. I wish you could have known her. When I visited her, I encouraged her to visit Charleston since she had so many friends here and had done so much for the city and its museums, historic sites, and conservation organizations, but she refused. She had a number of friends here from her visits in the 1930s and had made new ones, thanks to the fact that she was a wonderful and frequent letter writer and telephone caller. She corresponded with many Charlestonians, subscribed to The Post and Courier, and even wallpapered one of her rooms with scenes from Charleston. She talked to different people and got different points of view on topics related to Drayton Hall. As a result, you had better be well grounded when you talked to her. She really liked Chris and Booie Chappell, who live here on the property, and they were constant correspondents. She also thought highly of Bob Barker and George Neil, the assistant director when I arrived, and my predecessor Letisha Galbraith. She loved our preservation mission, especially in regard to the main house, as well as our efforts to conserve the Ashley River.

Miss Sally

Her devoted and skillful attorney, Gene Wilkins, gave her excellent advice, and together they crafted a strategy for philanthropy. They thought things through, and just as she sought to invest her financial assets wisely to reap a good return, so too she sought to invest her philanthropy wisely. Gene was her right hand man, her candid and thoughtful sounding board, who was not afraid to speak his mind, which she appreciated. During her lifetime, she gave away millions of dollars to non-profits, small and large, especially in Indiana, Michigan, and South Carolina, to organizations whose work she believed in. Upon her death, she left an estate totaling c. $180 million, and she gave it all away.

As you walk around Drayton Hall, you can see things today that are a product, as a whole or in part, of her and Gene’s strategy of philanthropy—things one might take for granted. They include, but are not limited to the following:

• Drayton Hall itself (she gave the leadership private gift)
• water from North Charleston supplying our fire hydrants, the site having had no fire hydrants in the event of fire
• the replacement terne metal roof on the main house, which saved Drayton Hall during Hurricane Hugo
• stabilization of the historical paint and plaster in the main house
• the current administration building
• the Miss Sally Cottage, where the Chappells live
• the preservation department building, tractor/equipment shed, and related site work
• two sets of rip rap on the Ashley River: one at the end of the allée and the other being longer in length and upstream
• the land across the river
• the re-engineered road and parking lot with its sand/shell/gravel mixture (not just sand and gravel, as earlier, which had consistently wash boarded and rutted deeply)
• annual donations each year of c. $50-60K for general operating support
• an endowment bequest of $16M

Miss Sally and George McDaniel

As you can see, all of these things were essential. No frou-frou. When I gave a eulogy at her funeral, I talked about these essential things, and in the interests of time, chose to accent the rip rap, the pile of rocks, seemingly non-descript, but absolutely essential to the preservation of the mid-18th century garden house, one of the oldest sites of a garden house in the South, if not the nation. Each year we’d been losing about 1 foot of the soft riverbank due to erosion caused by wakes from speed boats. We’d won support from the US Corps of Engineers for the installation of rip rap, but had to have a 25% match for the total cost of $280,000. George Neil, assistant director at the time, and I presented the case, and Miss Sally stepped up and provided $70,000 for the match. What a difference she made! To get a sense of just how close the threat was to the garden house, walk out to the live oak behind it. You would have been standing above the river, for the root ball was barely supported by the earth beneath it, so deeply undercut had the riverbank become. Thanks to Miss Sally, that site, so important to garden design, social history, and horticulture, has now been preserved and exemplifies what she has done for us today and for future generations.

That’s the kind of person she was—she wanted action that made a difference to the good. So next time you get a chance, please take a walk to the garden house and out to the live oak, look down and around at the entirety of this remarkable site, and say a word of thanks to Miss Sally.

Vitruviana Symposium Examines Classical Architecture in Charleston

Vitruviana LogoVitruviana 2014 is the third in a series of annual Charleston symposia examining the development of classical architecture and design in America through the lens of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Vitruviana is a collaborative effort co-hosted by Drayton Hall, The Preservation Society of Charleston, the Center for Palladian Studies in America, the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Clemson University and the College of Charleston, Historic Charleston Foundation, The South Carolina Historical Society, and the Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program at the College of Charleston.

The symposium begins April 11th in downtown Charleston with a full day of lectures at the Charleston Museum, to be followed on the 12th with an optional guided walking tour exploring many of Charleston’s urban spaces.

Titled Vitruviana in honor of Vitruvius (c. 80 -15 BC), the author of De architectura, the only major book on architecture to survive from classical antiquity, event speakers include Carl Lounsbury of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Jonathan Poston of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Virginia Architectural Historian Calder Loth, Bernard Herman of UNC Chapel Hill, Faye Jenson of the South Carolina Historical Society, and designer Jenny Bevan. The optional guided walking tour on day two will explore Charleston’s Courthouse, the Exchange Building, St. Michael’s Church, City Hall, the Customs House, and others. Discounts are available for members of Drayton Hall, The Preservation Society of Charleston, The Center for Palladian Studies, and Historic Charleston Foundation.

For more information, please visit the official Vitruviana website or contact Carter Hudgins, deputy director of Drayton Hall, at (843) 769-2717 or chudgins@draytonhall.org

Oral Histories: Continuing a Legacy

by George W. McDaniel, Executive Director

One of the wonderful things about working at a historical site is that one never tires of the questions it can raise. As is well understood today, one cannot research or interpret the history of a southern plantation without understanding the history of the people, both black and white, since both made the plantation possible. To deny one is to deny a complete and accurate  history of the site.

We are fortunate that members of the Drayton family left documentation and material culture that help us understand and present how their history evolved over time. But history of this site didn’t stop in 1865 or 1900, and our charge is to tell that more complete story. The exciting thing about the more recent past is that there are persons who can share their insights and personal reflections with us and add important human dimensions to the story. The Bowens family is an example, and to understand their heritage Drayton Hall has been actively involved in the research of archaeology, material culture, written documentation, photographic evidence, and oral history.

Richmond Bowens, born at Drayton Hall in 1908, sat in his rocking chair on the Museum Shop’s porch during the 1990s where he would recall his 23 years of life growing up on the property between 1908 and 1931 when Drayton Hall was still privately owned.  The rocking chair is part of Drayton Hall's collection.

Richmond Bowens, born at Drayton Hall in 1908, sat in his rocking chair on the Museum Shop’s porch during the 1990s where he would recall his 23 years of life growing up on the property between 1908 and 1931 when Drayton Hall was still privately owned. The rocking chair is part of Drayton Hall’s collection.

When I arrived in 1989, I was fortunate to meet Richmond Bowens. Born here in 1908, Richmond was the grandson of freed slaves and a remarkable resource for oral history. He loved history and also loved sharing history with others. He was very careful in explaining history as he remembered it, and did not venture forth in conjectures about things he did not know. We recorded his recollections as he walked the grounds, touring the cemetery where his ancestors were buried and the site of the tenant house where he lived as a child. Historian Charles Joyner from Coastal Carolina University and its media staff videotaped him in the mid-90s as he advised the excavation of his tenant home site, and the film was shown on the History Channel and on SCETV as well as at professional conferences as a model for interdisciplinary research.

Richmond was the gatekeeper at Drayton Hall and took that job very seriously. He welcomed people to the site as an ambassador, and also stopped people who tried to slip in without paying! In the early 1990s, he transitioned from the gate to the museum shop where he served as our unofficial “historian in residence.” He shared his recollections with visitors so that they could closely relate to the world he was describing, and presented photographs, census reports documenting his family, and actual stalks of rice and ears of corn so he could explain agricultural practices he knew growing up here. According to his family’s history, his ancestors came over with the Draytons in the 1670s from Barbados, so his history parallels that of the Draytons in America. As a result of all this, people would sit on the bench by his rocking chair and talk to him for hours.

In 1998, Richmond passed away and is buried in the cemetery here among his ancestors.  To continue his legacy, we began Connections: From Africa to America and infused his recollections into that program. We’ve also recorded descendants’ stories of life here in the 20th century in order to better answer those many questions a southern plantation site may generate.

Richmond Bowens’ legacy is continued by his cousins Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell as well as other descendants. The two sisters grew up in downtown Charleston and visited Drayton Hall from time to time. When Richmond was working here they came to visit him, and he shared his knowledge with them. They too are deeply concerned about the preservation of history and have helped Drayton Hall in a range of significant ways over the years to learn more about the history on the site and of specific individuals, as seen in the interactive DVD tour of the landscape.  For more insights into their thoughts about Drayton Hall,  I recommend watching the video produced by C-SPAN that features Catherine and Rebecca in the African American cemetery at Drayton Hall, which is available via this link.

Click the image above to watch the video by C-SPAN and American History TV. Featured in this video are interviews with Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, descendants of both freed and enslaved African Americans at Drayton Hall.

Click the image above to watch the video by C-SPAN and American History TV. Featured in this video are interviews with Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, descendants of both freed and enslaved African Americans at Drayton Hall.

In Case You Missed It: Distinguished Speakers Series Presentation by Dr. Michael Jarvis

As part of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series, Dr. Michael Jarvis gave this presentation on February 20, 2014 on “Shaftesbury, Bermuda, and the Settlement of Carolina, or the Other Important B-island in South Carolina’s History.”

Acclaimed Cornell University faculty member Dr. Mary Beth Norton will present the next installment in the 2014 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series on March 20. Click here for more information.

Dr. Mary Beth Norton to Present at Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series in March

Acclaimed Cornell University faculty member, Dr. Mary Beth Norton, will present the next installment in the 2014 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series.

Mary Beth Norton

Dr. Norton will be presenting her lecture “Beyond Boston: The Fate of the Seven Tea Ships of 1773.”

Dr. Norton is the Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History and a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University, where she has taught since 1971. She has received four honorary degrees and has held fellowships from the Rockefeller, Guggenheim, Mellon, and Starr Foundations, as well as from Princeton University and the Huntington Library. She is currently working on a new book on the period immediately preceding the outbreak of fighting in the American Revolution. Known for her cutting-edge research and scholarship, spirited narratives, and ability to engage students of all ages, Dr. Norton will speak about her recent research into the Colonial Tea Party resistance movement.

Following on the heels of Michael Jarvis’ February presentation, which drew nearly 100 guests to a conversation about the connection between colonial Bermuda and the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series complements the important work underway on site and has stimulated a dialogue about trade and the early years at Drayton Hall.

The spring 2014 series will conclude with an April 17th presentation by S. Max Edelson, University of Virginia, entitled Mapping Carolina:  Cartography and the Quest for Empire in the Colonial Southeast, a program generously underwritten by Richard and Jill Almeida. The fall 2014 series will bring another trio of notable speakers to Charleston on September 18th, October 16th, and November 20th.

Know Before You Go

All Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series programs will begin promptly at 7:00 p.m. and will be hosted by South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street, downtown Charleston.
Doors will open by 6:30 p.m., seating is limited, and a dessert reception will follow. This program is free to Friends of Drayton Hall and their guests.
Please contact Steve Mount, Director of Philanthropy, at 843-769-2601 or smount@draytonhall.org with any questions.

Charleston Art & Antiques Forum Celebrates 300 Years of Georgian Design

Post & Courier Article

Click the image above to read the full article in The Post & Courier.

In yesterday’s edition of The Post & Courier, columnist Robert Behre highlighted Drayton Hall and the Charleston Art & Antiques Forum. The forum’s theme, By George!, celebrates 300 years of Georgian art and design. The Georgian period takes its name from the four British King Georges who reigned from 1714 to 1830, and crosses the Atlantic to include the presidency of George Washington.

The upcoming Charleston Art & Antiques Forum aims to shine new light on the Georgian era, and Carter Hudgins, deputy director of preservation at Drayton Hall, will be one of its 11 speakers (and the only one who will focus his talk on the Lowcountry).

“We’ve traditionally said Drayton Hall’s style is Georgian-Palladian, but I prefer to use neo-Palladian.” Hudgins says. “Georgian is the period of history, and neo-Palladian is the style representing 18th century interpretations of the 16th century architectural works inspired by classical Rome that were put forth by Andrea Palladio.”

Drayton Hall has been named as one of the 2014 beneficiaries of the Charleston Art & Antiques Forum. A portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales will benefit Drayton Hall’s Collections Fund to help Drayton Hall acquire and conserve additional Drayton objects and artifacts to be shared with the public in exhibits, programs, and future facilities.

Click here to read the full article.