Drayton Hall’s multi-talented project assistant Joseph Mester has written an excellent piece in the Charleston Gateway visitor guide about Drayton Hall’s African American Cemetery. The article describes the beginnings of Drayton Hall and the origin of the site’s cemetery, which we refer to as a “Sacred Space.” Enjoy!
For the past four years, Drayton Hall has represented the Ashley River Historic District in a regional planning effort administered by the Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Council of Governments (COG). The plan would guide our elected officials to the best means of keeping our rural and natural areas protected while fostering intelligent growth in our urban and suburban centers. Planners generated models that were used in rounds of public feedback—culminating in the final draft of “Our Region Our Plan.” The Plan, complete with futuristic visualizations of corridors and growth centers, is being presented to all of the different jurisdictions throughout the lowcountry this April.
While Our Region Our Plan is not a mandate, it offers a working guide for decisions about roads and development that will inevitably be made in order to accommodate the estimated 200,000 people moving to the tri-county area by 2040. Towns, cities, and counties now will have a more integrated picture of their role in the quality of life and economic vitality of the entire region. Decisions about roads and developments in Hollywood affect the residents of West Ashley, and decisions made in the downtown corridor affect residents living all around the peninsula. Most importantly, this Plan prompts the different municipalities and regions to cooperate with each other. A total of five jurisdictions have the power to determine how the land and water around Drayton Hall are managed, so we especially value cross-jurisdictional cooperation when it comes to addressing issues that impact our historic resources.
Thankfully, Our Region Our Plan also draws from other successful models in the country to demonstrate that we can keep our rural areas rural while growing dense urban centers. By using forward thinking zoning policies that preserve the characteristics that we all cherish in our rural lowcountry areas, we can preserve our irreplaceable landscapes. Up-and-coming sustainable developments, like nearby East Edisto, exemplify the kind of settlement patterns that will keep our beloved historic district what it is, so future generations can enjoy it.
So what will keep this Plan from just collecting dust on the shelf? The chair of Our Region Our Plan, Councilman Larry Hargett, kept the answer simple. “You and I and our elected leaders will determine this. COG is just here as a reminder.” The political will of citizens has to be a driving force behind the way that our streets, communities and highways are constructed. We have a powerful voice and we have to use it. For this reason, Drayton Hall has continued to stay involved in grassroots planning efforts over the years in order to voice support for opportunities to enhance the rural character of the district, such as establishing public parks at Ashley River Road’s northern gateway in Dorchester County.
As is evident in many areas throughout the country, badly planned development destroys the quality of the places where people live, work, and play. The decisions that control this type of growth happen in planning commission and council meetings. We know from this plan that it is possible to preserve our local resources and accommodate for the increases in jobs, housing, and other infrastructure that the area will require. Our Region Our Plan can now be used by citizens to advise our officials in taking advantage of this varied set of solutions for guiding development and investment.
Want to help Drayton Hall in our efforts to preserve this beautiful place? Become a Friend of Drayton Hall, or contact our Conservation Coordinator Eugenia Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your voice matters!
Although this post is a few years old, it explains what exactly we do when we close our doors to the public for our annual closed week. Although there might be some pizza parties and ice cream served, it’s not all fun and games- read on the see what we do when you’re not here!
For one week a year, Drayton Hall closes its doors to visitors so that we can complete a top-to-bottom cleaning of the inside of the house, make any large-scale repairs, and take care of other maintenance that is difficult to do when visitors are on the site. This year, we trimmed up trees along the driveway and throughout the grounds, cleaned windows, walls and floors inside, painted the bathrooms, cleared brush at the African-American cemetery, and made great progress on repairs to the historic mortarwork of the main house. Take a closer look here.
Visitor Services Manager Kate Ruhf explains more in this video on YouTube.
Matt Webster, Director of Preservation, also describes how the historic mortarwork is repaired in this YouTube video.
We’ve been excited about this for a while- so glad to see that the Charleston Library Society’s book bindery is attracting well deserved national attention!
Drayton Hall was proud to support the National Day of Listening! Haven’t heard about it yet? Head on over to Story Corps’ website to check it out and get in the know by clicking here. Our Executive Director, George McDaniel, has been a proponent of oral history for a long time- he loves getting out of the office and sitting down with people near and far to hear their story. We sat down with him for a cup of coffee yesterday and asked him some questions and heard why he decided to participate.
Q: Hi George! Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk about Story Corps, and why you feel so strongly about recording oral histories. If you don’t mind sharing, can you tell us what you decided to record for the National Day of Listening?
A: Of course I’ll share. I decided to sit down and really tell the story of my experiences in Vietnam from 1969 and 1970. I hadn’t ever taken the time to write down any of those experiences, and I wanted to record them for my sake, my kid’s sake, and for posterity. I only have a few pictures of my time there and I was beginning to worry that the story would be lost if I didn’t record it.
Q: Why is it important that these stories be recorded? Couldn’t you just email them to your kids or write them down somewhere?
A: You could do that- from my perspective it isn’t really important how you record them but that you record them at all. But when you record something, hearing that person’s voice really gives you a sense of the person themselves- oral histories have a power to them because of that. You get a fuller picture of that person, you hear their own pacing. It’s also an easier process- recording something in this way allows the story to flow more freely than trying to write it down, and it comes out more naturally. Just sitting down to answer these questions is a whole lot easier than writing down my thoughts on paper.
Q: You’ve done so many oral histories over your long career. Are there any seminal moments you’ve had that really stick out when someone was telling you a story?
A: Although there are many, I’d say the best involve Richmond Bowens (for new readers, click here to learn more about Mr. Bowens). One day we were out doing an excavation of his home site on the property, the actual site where he was raised as a child. According to the 1910 census report, there were 11 people living in the house at the site where we were digging. It said that the house was headed by his grandmother and that there were aunts, uncles, and cousins living there. During the excavations of the yard, the archaeologists had found very little debris or any remnants of material culture from the site- the most basic explanation and interpretation for this would have been that this large family lived in abject poverty. But Richmond was there and was able to tell us that the census taker had been mistaken- it was only he , his mother and father that lived in the house there. Furthermore, his mother was a stickler for cleanliness. At least once a day the yard was swept clean and their house was always neat as a pin. My other really special memory from that day was when we found a piece of a cut glass bowl during the dig. Richmond immediately recognized it as one of their nicer pieces that had held candies and goodies at Christmastime. This example shows how oral histories really give history a human dimension, and tell a more complete story.
Q: In this fast paced high-tech world, how important are efforts like Story Corps?
A: So important. They’re documenting the variety of the American experience by heading to different regions and getting a really good demographic cross-section. It’s also important because it prompts people to tell their stories to family members and others after they record it. After I did my recording, I was inspired to tell friends and family who I’ve never opened up to before about my time in Vietnam. In this way, Story Corps serves as a catalyst to get people talking. It creates storytellers who tell their experience to people. Then those listeners are prompted to become storytellers as well and tell their stories. It serves a great purpose.
Q: How important have oral histories been in interpreting Drayton Hall?
A: Oral histories have enabled us to record the history of this site from a variety of perspectives. We’ve talked to so many members of the Drayton family and the enslaved families that lived and worked on this site. We are also talking about starting to do oral histories of longtime staff members like Bob Barker who worked here from the first year the site opened to the public and just recently retired. We’re getting to a point where we need to start thinking about the history of the site and the history of the organization that runs it. One of the more powerful oral histories that we have from the Draytons is Charlie Drayton’s reflection on deciding to sell Drayton Hall to the National Trust after seven generations of ownership. (To see parts of the clip, click here. Fair warning: have a tissue handy) We also spoke to his daughter Anne Drayton Nelson about that decision, and she reflected on her Dad’s decision, calling it the courageous, right thing to do. Oral histories are powerful stuff.
George, thanks for sitting down with us, and thank you for preserving so much history for future generations!
More than 60 friends gathered in Drayton Hall’s raised English basement and on the lawn outside on Sunday, October 21, to pay tribute to the man who for more than three decades was Drayton Hall’s senior interpretive guide. Fortune favored A Tribute to Bob Barker with sublimely beautiful fall weather. Halfway through the two-hour event, guests were invited into the basement for the singing of Happy Birthday to Bob (his birthday is October 20), a welcome by Drayton Hall Executive Director George McDaniel, and a series of brief, but heartfelt tributes from McDaniel, Charlie Drayton, Janie Clayton, Jill Foster, Merrill Benfield, and Gene Brown, who served as master of ceremonies. Regrettably, Booie Chappell, one of Bob’s longtime colleagues in the ranks of interpretive guides at Drayton Hall, was unable to attend due to ill health. Besides Drayton Hall, sponsors for A Tribute to Bob Barker included Carriage Properties LLC, Drayton Real Estate, Lois Lane Properties, and Thomas and Denzinger Architects, all of Charleston.
During his remarks, George McDaniel announced that Drayton Hall has created The Robert E. Lee Barker Endowment Fund for Interpretation. The event program explained the purpose of the fund as follows:
In recognition of and gratitude for his remarkable service to Drayton Hall and the greater Charleston community, and wishing to establish a lasting tribute, Drayton Hall created the Robert E. Lee Barker Endowment Fund for Interpretation in the fall of 2012. Annual income from this named endowment fund will honor Bob and help facilitate and enhance the interpretation of Drayton Hall throughout all future years. Tribute gifts to this fund may be made out to Drayton Hall marked Barker Endowment Fund and mailed to 3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29414.
Scroll below for some pictures that captured the spirit of this very special afternoon:
A few weeks back, Drayton Hall welcomed a group of distinguished guests onto our grounds and into the main house for a very exciting project- filming a segment for the PBS documentary “The African Americans: Many River to Cross.” The group included a PBS film crew and the host of the series, scholar and historian Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. (Read more on Mr. Gates impressive background here: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~amciv/faculty/gates.shtml )
Mr. Gates brought to the site a good friend of Drayton Hall’s, Dr. Bernard Powers of the College of Charleston, to interview for the series. (Learn more about Dr. Powers here: http://history.cofc.edu/about/faculty-and-staff/powers-bernard.php) The documentary is focusing on the history of rice cultivation in the Lowcountry, which was a defining period for Drayton Hall and this part of the South.
We were also so excited that sisters Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, descendants of the enslaved at Drayton Hall and members of the steering committee for our African-American cemetery, welcomed Mr. Gates to the site. They presented him with a special gift that commemorated his visit to Charleston and to Drayton Hall- a DVD with excerpted passages from the oral histories of descendants that were recently filmed here, as well as a fanner basket, Carolina rice, and our famous rice spoon. Mr. Gates was delighted and enjoyed speaking with Catherine and Rebecca who are gifted oral historians of African-American history at Drayton Hall. Click here to see a video of their behind-the- scenes meeting.
Dr. McDaniel, our Executive Director, was thrilled that our site was chosen for such an important documentary. “It was an honor to have historian Skip Gates at Drayton Hall for the program he’s producing on African American history. Dr. Gates has done so much to promote history in general, and specifically, to engage the public in family history and African American history through his work in public television. The selection of Drayton Hall as a site for his interview with Dr. Bernard Powers illustrates the qualities of this historic site, and it was great to have Dr. Powers, who has been involved with so many of our projects. “
Although visits like this require lots of hard work by our talented staff, they are always worth it, as they merge seamlessly with our mission to educate the public and support historic preservation. The series will premiere on PBS in the fall of 2013.
Drayton Hall is absolutely thrilled to be involved in the Jubilee Project, a collaborative and fascinating project that includes celebration, education and inquiry related to the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement - read the official Jubilee Project flyer below and follow the links to learn more. We hope you’ll mark your calendar and join us on some of these dates!
To mark the publication 150 years ago, on September 22nd, 1862, of the Emancipation Proclamation, the College of Charleston’s program in the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) is pleased to announce the launch of the Jubilee Project, 2013. As a spin-off from the CLAW program’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Jubilee Project is a collaborative academic and cultural project extending across the College and City of Charleston, the Carolina Lowcountry, and beyond. The project celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of public education in South Carolina, and commemorates other key events both of 1863 and of the Civil Rights movement in 1963. The coincidence of the anniversaries of these two significant events also prompts us to ask what happened in the intervening century, and to what extent emancipation and equality of opportunity have been achieved up to this day.
Partners in the year-long project include colleges, historical sites, and city, county, and state agencies up and down the coast and across the state, from the Penn Center on St. Helena’s Island, to various Charleston sites, to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. In addition, university and college partners will include Claflin, Clemson, Furman, and South Carolina State, as well as the University of South Carolina. The Project’s formal opening will take place on New Year’s Eve, 2012, with a special City of Charleston sponsored New Year’s celebration followed by an Emancipation Day Parade in downtown Charleston on New Year’s Day, 2013. The Project’s closing event will take place on November 19th, 2013 (the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, in which President Lincoln spoke of “a new birth of freedom”) at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Public commemorations and exhibitions between those two dates will address historic events such as the Battle of Gettysburg and the attack on Fort Wagner, as well as key moments in the Civil Rights era, such as when Clemson admitted its first African-American student in Spring 1963, and when both USC and Charleston County public schools followed suit in the Fall.
Jubilee Project highlights also include an exhibition of Civil Rights era photography at the Gibbes Museum, an exhibition of African art at South Carolina State University, the southern regional conference of the American Studies Association, the annual conference of the African Literature Association at the College of Charleston, and a performance by the Fisk Jubilee Singers at the Avery Research Center.
In addition to these one time public and academic events, the Project aims to have a lasting impact on the way in which South Carolinians think about the history of emancipation and educational access. To that end the Project will collaborate with the Lowcountry Digital Library (lowcountrydigital.library.cofc.edu) in developing long-term digital history projects and online archival collections. We also welcome public participation in the Project. If you or an organization you represent have a suggestion for an event that you would like to stage or would like to be involved in or affiliated with the Project in any way, please contact Simon Lewis at 843-953-1920, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
For information about individual events, please call the event organizer directly. For further information on the Jubilee Project as a whole, please call Simon Lewis at 843-953-1920, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. A complete listing of Jubilee Project events and partners is available at the Jubilee Project website: www.jubileeprojectsc.wordpress.com
This wonderful article was published yesterday in the Post and Courier- it really epitomizes the spirit of “preservation in action” here at Drayton Hall. As Robert Behre explains, maintaining a historic site is not a static endeavor- its an ever changing, dynamic experience and we’re always evolving our strategies to keep up with best practices in the world of historic preservation. Read on to learn about our latest project:
BEHRE COLUMN: At Drayton Hall, adding strength by subtracting
- Robert Behre
- Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 12:08 a.m.
UPDATED: Monday, September 17, 2012 1:11 p.m
Ever since it acquired Drayton Hall a generation ago, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has lavished the utmost care on preserving all of the plantation home’s historic fabric.
That’s why it might come as a shock that workers are now ripping out its piazza ceiling.
“We’ve got some construction going on,” Carter Hudgins Jr. says recently as preservation technician Trish Smith and Kendy Altizer peel ceiling boards from the joists, creating a small cloud of dust each time.
Despite Drayton Hall’s status as one of America’s first and finest examples of Georgian Palladian architecture, it has much in common with Charleston’s other old homes: It needs regular maintenance, especially on the piazzas, which bear the brunt of the searing sun and driving rains.
Hudgins, director of preservation and education, says structural engineer Craig Bennett is reviewing the soundness of the piazza, and while his report isn’t done, it’s clear that portions of the piazza are holding moisture and beginning to rot.
“The paint is actually holding the boards in place,” Hudgins says of the second-story piazza floor and first-story piazza ceiling. “It’s sealed up and it’s deteriorating the planks.”
That’s why the current plan is to leave the ceiling boards in storage and the joists exposed for several months, possibly longer, until Hudgins, Bennett and other members of Drayton Hall’s team settle on a long-term fix.
In other words, Drayton Hall’s most famous facade will have a work-in-progress look for a while, particularly up close, but leaving the unpainted joists exposed should extend their lifespan by allowing them to dry out faster after a soaking rain.
“That should breathe a lot better, letting the moisture work through the system,” Hudgins says.
Ripping off the ceiling also will expose the piazza structure, reveal how it evolved over time and help experts decide how best to fix it.
What’s there now is at least the second version: Where the ceiling already is gone, one can see patches in the main house’s brick where earlier joists tied in.
Also, earlier images of the house provide clues about how this piazza was modified several times during the 19th century.
The current ceiling that’s being removed is a sort of dropped ceiling, installed sometime in the 1880s or 1890s several inches lower than the original (the ceiling on the piazza’s second floor is thought to be much older; the house’s roof has offered better protection for it over time).
Workers also have chiseled off some cracked stucco from the sandstone lintels to review their condition. Fortunately, Hudgins says, the cracks were simply failing stucco, and the massive stone supports are intact.
The real challenge lies in the basement, where a series of concrete and rebar beams, installed in the early 20th century, are failing and thereby undermining the support for the piazza’s first floor.
Workers soon will install support cribbing in the basement to prop up those beams until a long-term fix is found.
While the National Trust’s goal has been to preserve Drayton Hall’s fabric as is, if those concrete beams are causing damage elsewhere, they will need to go. But if they go, what should be put in their place?
There are more questions than answers at this point, but executive director George McDaniel says Drayton Hall wants to be pro-active in fixing its structural issues.
“We want to avoid what has happened at sites like Mount Vernon and Monticello, where they’ve had to replace timbers with steel,” McDaniel says.
It’s unclear what will be the ultimate solution to the piazza’s structural problems, what it will cost and when it will restore this house to its previous look, but in the meantime, Hudgins hopes visitors can look past the missing ceiling and appreciate the additional construction that now can be seen.
“You might think, ‘Uh, the bones of the house. That’s ugly. That was never meant to be seen,’ but it also allows guests to see how the house was constructed,” he says. “Drayton Hall always has had layers. This allows the guests to see more of those layers.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly identified the sandstone lintels. The Post and Courier regrets the error.
Click here to see the article on the Post and Courier website.
Three years ago, in August of 2009, the Drayton Hall Preservation Department was faced with a back-log of artifacts to process from the 2008/2009 archaeological field work; over forty bags of artifacts sat waiting to be washed. Having noticed the enthusiasm that our Drayton Hall Friends displayed over all things archaeological, the Preservation Department created an opportunity for the Friends of Drayton Hall to volunteer alongside the Drayton Hall Preservation Department staff. “Preservation Wednesday” was the result and is a hands-on experience open to Friends of Drayton Hall.
In the three years that have passed, our Preservation Wednesday volunteers have washed thousands of artifacts, learned the differences in ceramic types, enhanced their archaeological vocabularies, separated and bagged clean artifacts and helped sweep the cobwebs out of Drayton Hall. They also get an occasional behind-the-scenes peek at the larger archaeological collections and come behind the ropes during archaeological excavations for a closer look.
When we began this volunteer program, the Drayton Hall Preservation Department had no idea what a success our experiment would become. It has been a delight to get to know such a wonderful, dedicated group of Drayton Hall Friends! In addition to their continual support of the ongoing preservation efforts at Drayton Hall, they are willing to literally get their hands dirty (make that very dirty!) in order to keep the many Drayton Hall archaeological projects moving along.
During the past year 22 volunteers have contributed 174 volunteer hours to Drayton Hall’s Preservation Wednesday program—2 more hours than the previous year and that was even with breaks in February and July! Over the past three years we have had the pleasure of having 36 different individuals volunteer for Preservation Wednesdays for a grand total of 610 volunteer hours! Upon marking our third anniversary recognition was given to three volunteers who have each volunteered over 50 hours each to the Preservation Wednesday program- Mrs. Jackie Bowe and Mrs. Leilani DeMuth each volunteered 52 hours, and Mrs. Rita Wilkie volunteered 54 hours.
Our “Preservation Wednesday Stars” were presented with reproduction plaster stars, modeled after the stars found in the cast-plaster ceiling of the lower great hall of Drayton Hall. These stars are created by students from the College of the Building Arts for the Drayton Hall gift shop. Each and every volunteer at Drayton Hall is incredibly valued and the members of the Drayton Hall staff are continually thankful for all of the work that is accomplished with such enthusiasm and enjoyment!
If you are a Friend of Drayton Hall and are interested in participating in future Preservation Wednesdays, please contact Sarah Stroud by e-mail (Sarah_Stroud@draytonhall.org) or by phone 843-769-2637. If you would like to become a Friend and participate, you can join on-line through our website.