From Historic Caretaker’s House to Interpretive Exhibit: Illustrating the Lives of African Americans at Drayton Hall

by Cameron Moon, Preservation Coordinator, the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust

As work begins on the new visitor center, preparations to repurpose the historic caretaker’s house into an interpretive exhibit are underway. While the postbellum period and the 20th century are not periods of primary significance at Drayton Hall, these years were pivotal for the preservation of the property. Phosphate mining became the major industry in Charleston after the Civil War, relying on the labor of freedmen who remained in the area after Emancipation.

Drayton Hall was first leased to a mining company in 1866, and tenant housing was subsequently built on the property to house the miners and their families. These families formed a community during Reconstruction, and many of them remained on the property through the first half of the 20th century, caring for the landscape and the main house while the Drayton family was gone. As we revisit our interpretation of the site with the construction of new facilities, our primary goal is to interpret a complete story of Drayton Hall, striving to illustrate the lives of the enslaved people, women, and African Americans.

Unlike the colonial and antebellum periods where documentation of the enslaved workforce is scarce, evidence of the postbellum African American community is available through census records, oral histories, photographs, leases, maps, and architectural remains. We plan to use the caretaker’s house to interpret the postbellum period and the 20th century at Drayton Hall, allowing us to exhibit this documentary evidence for the first time to interpret the lives of the people who lived at Drayton Hall from the 1860s until the 1940s.

Old Nancy Notes in front of pole fence

Old Nancy Notes, Drayton Family Servant, undated. Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

One of the residents of Drayton Hall during this period was Nancy Notes (referred to as “Nanny” by Richmond Bowens). According to Bowens, she worked as a nurse for the Drayton children, Charles Henry II, Charlotta, and Bessie, in the early 20th century. It is possible that Nancy Notes was enslaved by the Draytons. The name “Nanny” appears on an inventory of slaves from c.1857. The name of Nancy Notes’ husband on the 1880 U.S. Census, Quash, is also listed on this inventory. While further research may verify if Nancy Notes and “Nanny” are the same person, her position as a nurse for the Drayton children suggests she had an existing relationship with the Drayton family prior to living on the property after Emancipation.

Diana Roberts, Drayton Hall servant

Diana Roberts, Drayton Family Servant, undated. Courtesy of the South Carolina Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Another woman we believe lived at Drayton Hall during this time was Diana Roberts. According to Richmond Bowens, she lived in one of the few identifiable houses along MacBeth Road today, referred to as the Roberts/McKeever House. It was a two-room framed house with an end chimney, brick piers and shingle roof. Diana does not show up on any census records from 1870-1940. However, a photograph labeled “Diana Roberts, Drayton Family Servants” exists in a collection of Drayton Hall photographs housed at the South Caroliniana Library. In the photograph, she stands at a wooden gate in front of a framed house, which matches the description Bowens gave of houses along MacBeth Road. The house behind her also matches the architectural remains of the Roberts/McKeever House on MacBeth Road today. The end chimney survives, as do the brick piers and other wooden framing elements. Further investigation will help us learn more about Nancy Notes, Diana Roberts, and the African American community that lived at Drayton Hall after the Civil War through the first half of the twentieth century.

We are excited to share this ongoing research with visitors, as this period of time was pivotal for the preservation of Drayton Hall, and it is a story that has often been left untold, until now.

Camerodrayton_hs_06n Moon is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning and a minor in Anthropology. Her honors thesis chronicled the adaptive reuse of the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street and its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. Before joining the DHPT staff in September 2014, she worked for Edgewood Builders, where she learned construction, preservation and restoration techniques at Medway Plantation and houses in the historic district. Cameron is currently working on ongoing Drayton Hall conservation projects as well as converting the museum shop, housed in the former caretaker’s house, into an interpretive museum space.


The Past & Future of Drayton Hall


Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program Presents The First in the Spring 2017 Wells Fargo Distinguished Lecture Series

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 – College of Charleston — Addlestone 227 — 5:00pm


Guest Speaker Carter C. Hudgins, President & CEO, The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust


Within studies of American architecture and material culture, Drayton Hall (c.1738) is regarded as an icon of colonial identity that reflects an intimate connection to popular European design, sophisticated craftsmanship, and the wealth of South Carolina’s plantation economy. Complementing Drayton Hall’s architecture is a remarkable collection of surviving furniture, ceramics, artwork and artifacts that exhibit distinctive patterns of 18th century consumption, taste and intellect.

Drawing from surviving resources, this presentation will explore the 18th century formation of Drayton Hall and the values that led to its survival. This will be followed by a discussion of Drayton Hall’s future, including a vision to transform the site by improving the visitor experience and expanding our stewardship of the past.






What Is It?



by Corey Heyward, Wexler Curatorial Fellow

The two objects seen here are broken fragments of tobacco pipes. Made of kaolin clay, pipes were imported from England and were a common accessory during early America. They easily break and therefore are rarely recovered from archaeological sites in one piece. However, even with the smaller fragments, we can still learn a great deal.

These two examples both exhibit maker’s marks, consisting of the maker’s initials, impressed onto the pipe bowl by the manufacturer. The bowls appear to be stamped and impressed with the initials “TD,” which was a common mark throughout the colonial period and into the 19th century.

“TD” likely refers to either Thomas Dormer (1748-1770), who was a pipe maker in London by 1763, or the Bristol pipe maker Thomas Dennis (1734-1781). American-made pipes with the mark “TD” were later manufactured in the 19th century, however we used stem bore measurements, which correspond to production dates, to confirm that at least one of these pipes was made likely around 1720-1750.


dscn4140Corey Heyward, the Wexler Curatorial Fellow, first interned in Drayton Hall’s Preservation Department in the fall of 2011 during her sophomore year at the College of Charleston. After completing her junior year abroad at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, Corey returned to Drayton Hall during her senior year to write her bachelor’s honor essay on the site’s delft tiles. Her in-depth research provided new information about their manufacturing dates and origins,  the specific decorative patterns and their possible locations throughout Drayton Hall. Corey completed her M.A. in Anthropology, specializing in Archaeology and Museum Training, at George Washington University. From the beginning of her graduate work in 2014, she also interned in the archaeology laboratory at George Washington’s Mount Vernon where she was trained to use DAACS, assisted in archaeological fieldwork and learned to produce high quality archaeological photographs.

The Wexler Curatorial Fellowship is a two-year, full-time fellowship position generously funded by Deborah and Peter Wexler. The Fellowship helps catalog the Drayton Hall archaeological collection using the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) under the  direction of Archaeologist and Curator of Collections, Sarah Stroud Clarke.






Interpreting African-American History: Best Practices from the AASLH Annual Meeting

Rikki Davenport By Rikki Davenport, Curator of Education

On September 19th, I had the honor and pleasure of chairing and presenting a panel discussion at the 2014 American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Annual Meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota. The meeting’s theme, Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts, focused on the opportunities that arise when people come together around common goals and interests. In light of the theme’s importance, AASLH devoted a cover story to it in its magazine, History News. Among its highlights is a feature about Drayton Hall’s campaigns to preserve the Ashley River region and how, by forging partnerships, we have helped to change a once hostile culture and build support for historic preservation.

For this conference, the AASLH planning committee selected session proposals that aligned with the theme of supporting partnerships and networks that help organizations preserve and present good history. My session, “Diversity in Education: Innovative Strategies and Best Practices,” illustrated how staff members at three sites in Charleston, SC, supported each other to provide quality programming and research accessibility in African-American history.

Curator of Education Rikki Davenport presented "Diversity in Education: Teaching About Slavery, Innovative Strategies, and Best Practices" with (left to right) Mary Battle, Shelia Harrell-Roye, and Nichole Green.

Curator of Education Rikki Davenport presented “Diversity in Education: Teaching About Slavery, Innovative Strategies, and Best Practices” with (left to right) Mary Battle, Shelia Harrell-Roye, and Nichole Green.

My co-presenters included Shelia Harrell-Roye, Education Outreach Coordinator, and Dr. Mary Battle, Public Historian, both from the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African-American History; and Nichole Green, Research and Program Specialist, from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The four of us were brought together by our shared interest in African-American history, the desire to tell a more complete story of our site and its inhabitants, and our belief that strong partnerships with the proper institutions can make us all better at what we do. Our connections with each other ran deeper when we realized that we were all past participants in the Yale Public History Institute, a program that brings together graduate students, historians, and public history institutions to explore and develop ways to interpret African-American history and culture for the broader public. Nichole and I attended the summer of 2013, while Shelia and Mary attended this past summer. Perhaps our strongest bond is our shared connection to Drayton Hall. I began my tenure at Drayton Hall in the spring of 2007. At that time, I worked with Shelia, who was the Visitor Services Manager as well as an interpreter/educator. I called upon Nichole at the Old Slave Mart Museum to provide a professional development program for my staff and learned that Nichole began her public history work in Charleston as a Drayton Hall interpreter. Mary, while never a Drayton Hall staff member, conducted some of her doctoral research at Drayton Hall.

Charleston, SC is a popular destination for tourists and school field trips. Charleston offers superb food, beaches, historic forts, plantations, and carriage rides. It also offers a plethora of options for visitors to learn about the history of the city and its people. The majority of historical and cultural sites in and around Charleston strive to tell a more complete story that includes the lives of enslaved people and the struggles and contributions of its African-American inhabitants. However, sites often struggle with presenting good history when they are faced with obstacles such as time constraints, limited resources, or visitors with preconceived ideas about slavery. Our objective with this panel was to provide participants with successful strategies that they could modify and apply at their own site to better present African-American history. Each of the panelists supported the objective with their own unique focus. I discussed student education programs, Shelia focused on partnerships with high school and college students, Mary presented ways to access digital documents for researching, and Nichole explained how she dealt with visitors who had little and/or erroneous knowledge of African-American history. This session offered me the opportunity to illustrate how Drayton Hall provides students with an experience that requires critical thinking, building on prior knowledge, and developing empathy while teaching content standards. All of this is done while telling the story of real people who were present at Drayton Hall. I stressed the importance of logistical, organizational, and well-prepared museum educators.

A field trip can be a stressful event for teachers who have to supervise all the students, make sure they have their lunches, and ensure they are being taught accurate information. At Drayton Hall, every moment of the field trip is planned and organized from the time the school buses arrive to the time they depart. Students are always with a museum educator, all of whom hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and have extensive training in teaching. We often hear feedback from teachers and parents that we have the most organized field trip they have ever experienced and that our museum educators are very knowledgeable and work well with children. I explained how, with proper planning, in only a few hours, museum programs can provide students knowledge and the desire to learn more. It is my hope that all of those who attended our session will recognize that designing quality programming in African-American history is time-consuming but well worth the effort, especially when that programming has the potential to inspire children to preserve history and enable them to make connections to their own lives.

As a result of our session, Shelia, Mary, Nichole, and I are making plans to keep the discussion alive. We are in the process of developing a blog for museum professionals to discuss their challenges in presenting African-American history. This format allows others to share their successes and assist their colleagues. Since our discussion began at the AASLH Annual Meeting, we will spread the word about our blog though the AASLH membership as well as organizations and universities to ensure the blog has experts in the field assisting those who need support. We are very excited about this venture and the potential it has to highlight our sites on a national level and promote the work that we all do to make history relevant.

As Minnesota is the homeland of the Dakota people, AASLH collaborated with the Association of Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums (ATALM) to provide historical and cultural expertise of the area. Additionally, the ATALM, instead of hosting their own annual conference, merged their conference with AASLH. Their contribution to the AASLH Annual Meeting was apparent in the large number of sessions dedicated to tribal history and interpretation. AASLH certainly modeled the session theme with this wonderful collaboration that benefited both organizations.

I did manage to squeeze in a few visits to area sites including the Mill City Museum, The Minnesota Science Center, and the Minnesota Historical Society. One of my favorite things about being a museum professional is getting to go through those doors that say STAFF ONLY or NO ACCESS. While my plan to be “accidently locked” in the 48,000 square foot collection storage area of the Minnesota Historical Society did not work out, I did get to see state-of-the-art collection storage and envision what we hope to have at Drayton Hall with the building of the planned interpretive center.

Executive Director George W. McDaniel with keynote speaker Garrison Keillor.

Executive Director George W. McDaniel with keynote speaker Garrison Keillor.

Drayton Hall’s Executive Director, George W. McDaniel, also attended the conference and participated in a number of sessions. He enjoyed seeing former colleagues, such as Jim Vaughan and Max van Balgooy, who used to work in the National Trust’s historic sites department, as well as Craig Tuminaro, former director of education and interpreration at Drayton Hall. A memorable moment was his chance to talk with keynote speaker Garrison Keillor, who signed his new book for George and wished him a happy birthday.

I value my work with Dayton Hall and the opportunity to serve as the Regions 5 Chair of the AASLH Award Committee. Both of these organizations have shaped my professional career in museums and help me to do my job better. Good history, that’s what AASLH and Drayton Hall are all about.

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