End of the year report on our Revolutionary War research in Georgia! The big gators were out on New Years Eve (2013) at Brier Creek. The LAMAR archaeologists are busy finding our Revolutionary War history in the ground. A recent Associated Press news story highlighted our archival research on the Revolutionary War in Georgia, which appeared in many news outlets. We are busy writing grant proposals for other revolutionary War battlefields in the Carolinas. Next week my colleague P.T. and I are giving a paper in Quebec at the Society for Historical Archaeology meeting on our 100+ horseshoes from the Carr’s Fort battlefield landscape in Wilkes County, Georgia. Busy times here in south Georgia. We look forward to writing up some of these stories for the public in 2014. Happy New Year!
Archive for the ‘landscape archaeology’ Category
Gators in Brier Creek
January 2, 2014
A Georgia State University field school and archaeologists have been looking into the grounds where the old Troup Factory mill once stood to piece together its history. The field school director…
Chieftains Museum Redacted
March 7, 2013
And Hey, Why not check out this cheezy abstract? Written by the jerks that produced this redacted report:
“ABSTRACT: Chieftains Museum/ Major Ridge Home, Historic Preservation Report, Historic Structure Report and Cultural Landscape Report
For the purposes of developing this combined Historic Structure and Cultural Landscape Report, the National Park Service, in conjunction with Chieftains Museum, determined additional historical research was needed to find information relevant understanding and interpreting to the building and landscape history. NPS and Chieftains agreed that historical research should be undertaken at the thorough level as defined in NPS’ Cultural Resource Management Guideline (1995:18). In the Spring of 2004, Chieftains Museum entered into contract with Southern Research Historic Preservation Consultants, Inc. to undertake the historical research for this project. Based on a research plan approved by Chieftains Museum and NPS, Southern Research prepared successive drafts of a document presenting the results of their research effort. Southern Research consulted many sources and the results are presented in an edited form in the second and third sections of this report. In general, the results of the research were less than what was hoped for and additional research would likely further benefit the overall understanding and interpretation of the history and current state of the Chieftains property.”
So, it was good enough to lift it wholesale and stick it in sections 2 and 3 of this report, I’ll take that as a positive review!–the lead ghost writer for Chapters 2 and 3.
The History Underneath
May 8, 2012
The LAMAR Institute is proud to sponsor the May 12th event in Savannah!
May 08, 2012
The History Underneath
City explores need for an archaeological ordinance
By Jessica Leigh Lebos
If you own a building downtown and you want to paint it fuschia, there’s an app for that.
Same if you want to demolish it, add a sign to the front or attach a flagpole: You’d have to file an application for approval through the Metropolitan Planning Commission.
It’s because of the city’s rigorous rules concerning the renovation of its old architecture that Savannah remains one of the largest and most glorious landmark historic districts in the country. But you may be surprised that there are no such stipulations for the archaeological sites buried beneath those historic homes and offices.
There was no obligation to examine the old shipyards layered in the banks of the Savannah River as Hutchinson Island was developed, nor was there any archaeological methodology applied to the massive dugout of the underground parking garage near Ellis Square. Those are only two recent examples—there’s no telling how many other sites have been lost throughout the decades.
Fragile remains of Colonial–era homesteads, indigenous campgrounds, slave housing and other historic sites have “literally been bulldozed over” as Savannah has been developed, but the good news is that there is plenty left to explore.
Ellen Harris, the MPC’s cultural resource and planning manager, wants to investigate the possibility of incorporating archaeology into its own zoning ordinance, if not into the complex Unified Zoning Ordinance the commission has been drafting for years.
“The historic preservation of buildings tells only one part of the story,” explained Harris. “The under–represented people, Native Americans, slaves, soldiers—their stories are buried underneath those buildings.”
Digging in old records, Harris found that the MPC had received unilateral support for a code written in the late 1980s that would have required government projects to perform archaeological research before breaking ground, but the initiative fizzled with personnel changes. She hopes to revive the mandate for city and county projects and provide significant tax incentives for private entities.
Acknowledging that an ordinance applied citywide needs current community input before it can be written, Harris has organized a free introductory educational session open to the public. “Perspectives in Archaeology: Digging for the Truth, A Panel Discussion,” will be held at Trinity Methodist Church on Telfair Square this Saturday, May 12 at 2 p.m. A reception will follow.
While research shows that archaeological preservation has economic benefits for cities such as boosted tourism and reduced blight, it can be a scary topic for developers, for whom the discovery of a historic homestead or cemetery can mean the shutdown of a worksite. Harris encourages them to join the conversation.
“This is about dispelling myths and educating the community,” she said. “We’re just beginning to look at what it would take to include archaeology in the code and find out what other cities have done it.”
The nearby city of Beaufort, S.C. has laws mandating archaeological study before any development, and Florida has a statewide network of local archaeology ordinances. But Harris counts Alexandria, VA as the model for archaeological preservation. The city adopted an ordinance in 1989 that protects sites within the city’s center while acknowledging the needs of developers.
Dr. Pamela Cressey, the archaeology guru who helped author the Alexandria ordinance and continues to head the city’s museum devoted to locally–excavated artifacts, will visit Savannah to sit on the upcoming panel.
While Dr. Cressey promises to provide insight into the process that resulted in Alexandria’s ordinance, she counsels that Savannah must develop its own model.
“Every community has its unique characteristics and individual perspectives that will inform what comes out of it,” mused Dr. Cressey over the phone last week. “My goal is to talk about what’s possible.”
It can be challenging to convince people of the value of archaeology, she admits, “because it’s hidden. But down in the ground can be a wealth of materials that can tell us a lot about who lived there.”
Dr. Cressey will be joined on the panel by local architect Neil Dawson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife archaeologist Richard Kanaski and Georgia Southern anthropology professor Dr. Sue Moore. Local historian and filmmaker Michael Jordan will moderate.
Jordan calls the panel “more than just an opportunity for scholars to lecture about what they do. It’s a chance for Savannahians who care about history to start a conversation about what’s worked in other places and what could work here.”
Jordan was present when Lamar Institute archaeologist Rita Elliot excavated the Spring Hill Redoubt, the site of the bloody 1779 Revolutionary War battle now commemorated as Coastal Heritage Society’s Battlefield Park. There Elliot found gun parts and markings for the original fortification wall—factors that add layers to the history of the soldiers who died there. She has also found ditches, flints and other Revolutionary War debris in Madison Square, “steps away from where hundreds of people walk every day.”
Elliot, who will be in attendance at Saturday’s panel, looks forward to a time when Savannah’s buried sites will be as valued as its buildings.
“Archaeology goes in tandem with the preservation of standing structures,” she posits. “That’s how we find the whole story. There is tremendous potential here to expand the horizons of what we know about Savannah’s history.”
Adds Jordan, “Obviously, it will never be feasible to leave every archaeological discovery in Savannah completely undisturbed. That’s not realistic.”
However, even minor construction projects and home renovations “could peel back priceless pages of Savannah’s historic fabric” if policies are in place to preserve archaeological finds.
“That’s why it’s so important for us, as a community, to address the issues of how we preserve the past that’s buried just beneath the surface.”
Perspectives in Archaeology: Digging for the Truth
When: Saturday, May 12, 2 p.m.
Where: Trinity Methodist Church, 127 Barnard St.
Cost: Free and open to the public
The History Underneath
May 8, 2012
The LAMAR Institute is proud to be a co-sponsor of the upcoming discussion on Archaeology in Savannah on May 12, 2012 (2PM) at Trinity Methodist Church on Telfair Square. Interested folks may wish to attend.
The pictured Rita Elliot looks a lot like a Rita Elliott that I know.
An earlier Civil War battle in Savannah, 1779
January 14, 2011
On October 9, 1779 American and British armies clashed on the west side of Savannah, Georgia. The armies and their allies, including Haitian, Irish, Scottish, German, African-American, Polish, and Danish officers and private soldiers, engaged in a deadly conflict that proved to be one of the costliest for the Americans in the American Revolution. The war in the South was pretty much a civil war, as neighbors split between Patriots and Loyalists. Savannah contains the forensic evidence of this battle, as unearthed by archaeologists. Come hear this story on February 1, 2011 in Savannah. The LAMAR Institute is proud to be one of the sponsors of this important work.
Archaeology Press Release January 14 2011by Savannah Under Fire on Friday, January 14, 2011 at 5:35pm
What ever happened to all that Revolutionary War archaeology being done in Savannah? What did archaeologists discover? How can people who live, work, and play in Savannah and Chatham County become involved with archaeological sites? Can preserving sites help the area’s economy and quality of life? Come to an archaeology presentation and public meeting Feb. 1, 2011 to find out and to offer suggestions. Coastal Heritage Society will reveal Revolutionary War discoveries in Savannah stemming from the two “Savannah Under Fire” projects conducted from 2007-2011. The projects uncovered startling discoveries, including trenches, fortifications, and battle debris. The research also showed that residents and tourists are interested in these sites. Archaeologists will describe the findings and explore ways to generate economic income and increase the quality of life of area residents. Following the presentation the public will be invited to offer comments and suggestions about such resources. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to provide input. The meeting is sponsored by the Coastal Heritage Society, through a grant from the National Park Service, American Battlefield Protection Program. It is free and open to the public. Time: 6-7 p.m. Location: Savannah History Museum auditorium, 303 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Savannah, Georgia (same building as the Visitors’ Center on MLK). Date: Feb. 1, 2011. Thanks!!
Donate to LAMAR Institute–Carr’s Fort Project and Beyond
December 30, 2010
Here are some of our active projects that could use some financial support:
- Pre-Civil War Forts Inventory
- Skeletons in The Closet Initiative
- The Lost City Survey
- Native Georgia Landscapes
- Fort Hawkins Archaeological Project
Get Your Archaeology Books? Support Archaeology!
December 30, 2010
Donate to LAMAR Institute using Razoo:
New Archaeology Reports Available
October 13, 2010
Several recent archaeological reports have been uploaded for free public distribution on the LAMAR Institute’s website. These include:
The Search for Redoubt Number 6 at New Ebenezer
Smith House Site, Valdosta, Georgia, GPR Survey
Archaeological Reconnaissance of Civil War Resources on Rose Dhu Island, Chatham County, Georgia
GPR Survey at Behavior Cemetery, Sapelo Island, Georgia
Archaeological Reconnaissance of Pennyworth Island, Chatham County, Georgia
Fort Perry Reconniassance, Marion County, Georgia.
GPR Survey at Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simons Island, Georgia.
GPR Mapping fo the Adler Plot, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia.
GPR Mapping of Lot K-207, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia.
GPR Survey at the Copeland Site (9GE18).
TO NAME A FEW, FOR MORE VISIT:
The LAMAR Institute
Click on REPORTS.
We welcome your comments!
Historian Works to Save Savannah Area Battlefield | WSAV TV
September 28, 2010
LIDAR for Archaeology Workshop
September 13, 2010
The LAMAR Institute announces a 3-day Remote Sensing Workshop for
archaeologists and historic preservationists on the applications of LIDAR for
archaeology. The workshop will include classroom instruction and a demonstration
and test implementation of LIDAR mapping on a portion of the North End
Plantation on the north end of Ossabaw Island.
DATE: February 25-27, 2011
COST: $250 per person (includes boat transportation, 2 night’s lodging, meals,
and educational materials). A non-refundable deposit of $50 per person is required
by December 31, 2010. The balance due will be collected at the workshop.
LOCATION: North End Plantation, Ossabaw Island, Georgia
Registration for the workshop is limited to 20 participants. Invited participants
have been targeted, although this workshop opportunity is open to interested
scholars on a first-come, first-serve basis.
For More Information Contact: dantelliott at gmail.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Daniel T. Elliott, The LAMAR Institute, Inc., P.O. Box 2992, Savannah, GA 31402
LAMAR Institute Aids in Discovery of Confederate Prison Near Millen
(MILLEN, GA., July 31, 2010; UPDATE October 6, 2012) The LAMAR Institute, Inc. participated in a search for Camp Lawton, a military prison built north of Millen, Georgia by the Confederates in late 1864 to house more than 30,000 U.S. Army prisoners. The search for the prison began in December, 2009 with a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey for the southwestern corner of the prison stockade at Magnolia Springs State Park. After getting a feel of the topography and the likely layout of the prison site as generally conceived, some discrepancy in the only available historical maps became evident to the research team. The two maps available for reference seemed less accurate than previously thought. A minimally-invasive evaluation was performed with a metal detector . This tool, augmented along with GPR data, was used to get a feel of whatever prison “footprint” might still be present. Promising areas were immediately identified. One particular area, however, clearly stood out as likely being inside the prison and possibly adjacent to a stockade wall boundary, The discoveries were made south of a small creek documented as running directly through the prison yard. Armed with this new evidence, a quick reassessment of the prison layout was theorized. The long held belief, that the larger portion of the prison site was now the location of the Bo Ginn Aquarium facility and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services fish hatchery, came in question. An unexplored wooded area just west of this facility was now suspected to contain a portion of the Civil War prison. A quick reconnaissance of the wooded tract was made. Our crew believed that this property was within the Magnolia Springs State Park property. This particular tract had changed hands several times in recent years and was currently Federally-owned property under the control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As it turned out, this misunderstanding yielded huge dividends in unmasking the ruins of Camp Lawton, After a very limited and quick evaluation by Georgia Southern University (GSU) anthropologists, the true site of the prison was confirmed. The brick ruins of a documented brick oven complex built fot the use of the prison., was tentatively identified. If this is indeed one of the brick ovens, and the placement of this feature on historical maps was accurate, then the location of the prison shifts further to the west of what was previously theorized. Further testing by GSU confirmed that this was the correct prison site location. Camp Lawton, once thought to be an insignificant Civil War site in our state, now appears to offer a great opportunity for understanding the daily life of Prisoners of War during the War Between the States.
UPDATE!!! OCTOBER 4th 2012—
Here is video from October 4, 2012 showing the deep trench and palisade post remnant along the southern stockade wall at Camp Lawton. Unearthed by Time Team America–at the location where GPR survey by The LAMAR Institute’s geophysical team indicated a large, deep soil disturbance most likely to be Camp Lawton. Other video footage showing the feature is posted on youtube.com.
Dawn of American Industry: Ebenezer Silk
February 27, 2010
Please download and enjoy our presentation, “Dawn of American Industry: Ebenezer Silk” by Daniel Elliott, President, The LAMAR Institute and Rita Elliott, Curator of Exhibits and Archaeology, Coastal Heritage Society. This keynote address was presented before the Georgia Salzburger Society at their Landing Day celebration that was held at the Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2966 Ebenezer Road, Rincon, Georgia, USA on March 13, 2010. Here is the link: DawnofAmericanIndustry_EbenezerSilk
Maxeys Dump: An Archaeological Wonderland
December 23, 2008
In Late 1977, I took a solo drive in my hand-me-down Ford on an overcast Sunday evening from Greensboro to Maxeys, Georgia. Nature called and I stopped to listen along the dirt and gravel road at a kudzu jungle in thick piney woods. After listening to the message, I realized I was without any sort of cleaning apparatus. Through the dead kudzu, I spied a glint of white, only a few yards distant. Waddling to the spot, I finished my job–so much relieved. Then, my eyes told my brain what I had done. I had cleaned myself with the newly pressed sleeve of a 19th century man’s dress shirt. It started to drizzle as I glanced around at the pile of trash from whence I had procured the much needed rag. It was a dump-truck load of stuff, rising some 4 feet above the plain. Jars, books, clothes, jagged broken glass, plates, hats, and bric a brac galore. It continued to drizzle and darkness descended. I opened my trunk and filled it to the brim. I made a final glance around and realized that I had only scratched the surface of this veritable goldmine. Driving away, I vowed to return.
I made my way speedily back to the fieldhouse next to the funeral home, where I was the house mother, and I began unloading boxes from my trunk into the dining room. My fellow archaeologists, dumpster diving buddies, and curiosity collectors gazed in amazement. Where from this find, they inquired. Eyes were wide as I distributed my newfound wealth. Tomorrow, I will take you tomorrow.
The next afternoon, tired from a day of digging, we piled into Paul’s baby blue econoline van and drove back to the dump. Crunching glass and giggles, we filled the van to capacity with all sorts of tattered and slighly damp treasures. There were books and letters and tiny shiny things. A woven coverlet fragment for Leslie, gifts for the whole fieldhouse family. Joel grabbed stacks of letters and threw them in his duffle bag. Paul and I did the same. It was a sensation. And we made a few more trips in the days following as the pile dwindled and the mildew set in.
Months later, Jerald and Lisa returned to the dump on another pilgrimage, only to find another fresh pile. Dresses and hats from bygone days, enough loot to fill Jerald and Lisa’s haunted house on Wildcat Creek. It became the stuff of legends.
Decades passed, then I learned from Lisa, that the old Durham place, the source of the dumped material, had been robbed, around the time of my initial discovery in 1777. Was this the dump for the stolen items that could not be easily fenced?
The Maxeys’ Dump was a most exciting find. It was a living archaeological site that several presently active archaeologists were immersed in. We observed the deposition, the plunder, and the decay. Or at least part of the decay, as I have not returned to visit the site in over 25 years….
Calhoun, Charles H., Sr., 1965. “Dr. Lindsey Durham, A Brief Biography.” and “The Durham Doctors, Biographical Sketches.” Privately published booklet, 53 pp.
Gay, M., 1892. Life in Dixie During the War, edited by J.H. Segars, Reprinted by Mercer University Press, Macon [See pages 303-304 for Durham discussion].
Lavender, Billy, compiler, 2005. A Pioneer Church in the Oconee Territory. A Historical Synopsis of Antioch Christian Chjurch. I-Universe. 436 pp. ISBN: 9780595797257
December 23, 2008
Crowfield and Broomhall were two 18th century Goose Creek rice plantations in Berkeley County, South Carolina. In 1987 Garrow & Associates, Inc., under my direction, conducted archaeological survey of both plantations for Westvaco. The work was underfunded and fast paced. Concurrent work at Broomhall, directed by Steven Byrne was never fully documented. After I completed the survey report, we were contracted to prepare a National Register of Historic Places nomination for Crowfield Plantation. This document was completed and submitted to Westvaco, who promptly filed it away and it was not submitted. That ended the Garrow & associates chapter of Crowfield and Broomhall research. Major portions of these two important and unique 18th century treasures were subsequently trashed by the development project.
The mantle was taken up by several other researchers, including: Robert S. Webb Associates, the Chicora Foundation, and Dargan Associates (landscape architects). Several more studies ensued. I summarized the work done in a short LAMAR Institute report, which is available online at the LAMAR Institute’s webpage:
The reports by Robert S. Webb Associates were produced in very limited quantity, despite their substance and signficiant findings. The Chicora reports on Crowfield and Broomhall plantations are OUT OF PRINT, except for one short study of the gardens at Crowfield, which I have uploaded here as a .pdf file and it is also available at this website:
The other reports by Chicora Foundation are available through Interlibrary Loan.
Ms. Barbara Orsolits, M.H.P. , whom I met in early 2008, created this webpage about Crowfield, as part of a larger study of historical landscape archaeology in the South Carolina low country:
Advances on the Internet have provided easy access to additional information on Crowfield, Broomhall, and the Goose Creek plantations. For example, Leiding’s 1921 Historic Houses of South Carolina is available from Books.google.com as a .pdf. It includes a discussion of Crowfield.
And this information about Crowfield is from an 1845 publication (Southern and Western Magazine and Review, by William Gilmore Simms, pages 283-284):
N. B. A few errors, attributable to hurried preparation for the press, occurred chiefly in the notes to our first number. In note on page 210, paragraph 7, line 1st., for “Isaac Marion, his brother, settled in Georgetown, at least as early as 1742,” read “Isaac Marion, the General’s eldest brother, married and settled in Georgetown, at least as early as 1742.” In note on p. 217, line 2d., for “Mrs. Sarah Cutler, of New-York,” read “Mrs. Sarah Cutler, of Massachusetts.” In note on p. 215, par. 2d. line, in relation to the present ownership of Crowfield, for “but now the property of Mrs. Middleton Smith,” read “but now the property of Henry A. Middleton, Esq ” We were led into this error by confounding Crowfield with Bloomfield, the adjoining plantation of Mrs. Middleton Smith. In line 34 of same note, for “Dr. Geddings’ map of Crowfield,” read “Dr. Geddings’ map of ‘The Elms.'” Crowfield was originally the property of the Hon. Arthui Middleton,* who conveyed it Nov., 11,1729, to Wm. Middleton, who, it is said, had a country-seat of the same name in England. During the revolutionary war, he sold it to Rawlins Lowndes, Provost Marshal under the colonial government, and President of the State of South-Carolina after the Declaration of Independence. After six years’ possession, Rawlins Lowndes, and Sarah, his wife, on the 16th March, 1784, conveyed it to John Middleton, whose heirs sold it to the present proprietor. It is said to be a place of great beauty, presenting numerous remains of the great labour and lavish expenditure of money, which the wealthy colonial planter bestowed on his villa or country-seat, when the law of primogeniture gave us a landed aristocracy and kind of hereditary nobility. It is no longer in cultivation ; but it is well worth the visit of the antiquarian, and of all who delight to recal the memories of the past,—and especially the grandeur and magnificence of colonial times. R. Y.
* We find on record an indenture of lease and release, dated November 10 and 11,,1729, between the Hon. Arthur Middleton, of Berkley county, and William Middleton, of the same county, by which deed the former conveyed to the latter two tracts of land in the Parish of St. James’, Goose Creek—the one containing one thousand four hundred and forty acres, (Crowfield,) bounded north and northwest on lands of Matthew Beard and Andrew Allen, south on lands of Benjamin Marion, west on lands of Mr. De La Plain, deceased, east and south-east on lands of Thomas Moore and Benjamin Gibbs: the other containing 103 acres in said parish, bounded north-west on land of Mr. De La Plain, deceased, northeast and south-east on land of John Gibbs, and south on land of Francis Guerrin. The Will of Arthur Middleton, of Berkley county, is dated June 7,1734, and proved Dec. 7, 1737, before William Bull, Governor. It mentions his wife Sarah, and his sons William, Henry and Thomas,—and devises, inter alia., half of his lot No. 199, in Charlestown, to his son William, to be divided lengthways, and the other half to his son Henry; and his brick tenement and part of his lot, bought from Andrew Allen, to his wife. The witnesses to the Will were Tim Mellichamp, Jane Mellichamp and Thomas Corbett.
Interest in the history of the Broomhall plantation continues, as noted in a recent Charleston Post and Courier news story:
Site of former Broom Hall plantation commemorated
The land that became Broom Hall was granted to Edward Middleton in 1678 and later conveyed to Benjamin and Jane Gibbs. When Benjamin died, the land was left to Jane, who later married Peter Taylor, who developed the estate until the mid-18th century. The property was later owned by the Smith family and their descendants, who rented sections to freedmen after the Civil War. The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co. used the land to harvest pine trees in the 20th century with the property finally being developed residentially after 1980.
A historical marker noting the site of the former Broom Hall plantation was erected in Crowfield Plantation.
The marker can be seen in the small park off Westview Boulevard near the Bloomfield neighborhood.
“The Crowfield Plantation Community Service Association is proud to share in this great endeavor with (Goose Creek) Mayor (Michael) Heitzler in educating and recognizing the historical value of our great city,” association manager Missey Lewis said.
And a 1994 article from the New York Times:
A Historical Colonial Garden Is Recovered From the Rough
On a recent misty morning here in the Carolina low country, golfers teeing off at the 14th hole of the Crowfield Golf and Country Club were mindful that their golf balls could stray into an archeological dig.http://crowfieldhoa.com/cpcsa-historical.html
A team of garden archeologists, wielding root clippers, trowels, and whisk brooms between the 14th and 17th fairways, was investigating what has come to light as the earliest picturesque, or natural, landscape garden in America. Twelve miles north of Charleston, the 23-acre garden was created at Crowfield Plantation by William Middleton in 1730. The land, including the golf course, is owned by the Westvaco Corporation, the paper packaging and chemical company.
“Crowfield is clearly the oldest ornamental landscape garden we know of in this country,” said Jonathan H. Poston of the Historic Charleston Foundation, “and though now a ruin, its above-ground features are relatively intact.”
Crowfield’s extensive ponds and canals predate by 10 years the famous green, stepped terraces and butterfly lakes of Middleton Place, the nearby garden that belonged to William Middleton’s younger brother, Henry. William Middleton eventually inherited the family’s property in England and returned there in 1754.
Thereafter, Crowfield was sold to a succession of mostly absentee landlords. Crowfield’s survival, even overgrown, was partly due in this century to its inaccessibility along back logging roads cloaked by 2,850 acres of swampy timberland that Westvaco bought in 1930.
Westvaco eventually decided to build a planned community for an estimated 15,000 people around Crowfield. For the future homeowners to qualify for Federal Housing Administration financing, Westvaco was required in 1986 by the National Historic Preservation Act to make an archaeological survey of the site.
Westvaco then proposed saving 15 acres of the historic garden as the centerpiece of the golf course. Several holes on the course, which opened in December 1990, act as a natural buffer between the community and the garden. (This arrangement may be a trend; the Desert de Reiz, a 1770’s garden outside Paris, has also been preserved within a new golf course.)
The existence of a 1730 American garden in this style shows that the wealthy English in the Charleston area were in the mainstream of the British fashion in gardens, and without the time lag usually associated with colonial culture. And the style of that day was turning toward the natural over the formal and developed into the English-style landscape. (The earliest documented formal colonial garden is at Bacon’s Castle in Virginia, dating to 1680.)
Although it is not known who designed Crowfield, English landscape designers were advertising in Charleston newspapers at that time, and colonists had access to books like Stephen Switzer’s 1718 “Ichnographia Rustica” and John James’s 1712 “Theory and Practice of Gardening.”
William Middleton was 19 years old in 1729 when his father gave him the 1,500-acre plantation that was named for Crowfield Hall, the family’s English seat in Suffolk. The Middletons, who were prominent in colonial government, were part of the Charleston community that had originally been sugar planters in Barbados in the 17th century. Born in the American colony, William cultivated the rice that was called Carolina gold because of the high rate of return that made the low country planters so wealthy.
In May 1743, on a visit to Crowfield, Eliza Lucas, a young colonist who pursued an interest in local agriculture, described the garden at its height in a letter to a London friend. She wrote of the plantings, the perspectives, and the “large fish ponds properly disposed which form a fine prospect of water from the house.” This letter, the only reliable documentation of the way the garden appeared at the time, has been crucial to the restoration project.
Massive oaks draped in Spanish moss still line the old avenue to the ruins of the plantation house. The moon pond at the entrance, 200 feet in diameter, lies just before the house. The house was abandoned in the early 1800’s, and it has succumbed over the years to fire and earthquake, as well as vandalism to its handsome Flemish-bond brick work.
Some old magnolia trees are positioned behind the house near the section of the bowling green that has survived the golf course; in all, about eight acres of the original gardens were lost to development, the archaeologists’ report said. And in the middle of the wilderness area, which may have had symmetrical plantings, a 15-foot-high hill, or viewing mount, indicates that the garden’s features like the ponds and the terraces were meant to be surveyed from above. All of these features are more visible now, after Hurricane Hugo felled many trees in September 1989.
The “fish ponds” that terminate the view are more precisely a central rectangular lake, framed on three sides by long canals. “There are few, if any other, gardens in America with authentic mounts or canals,” said Rudy J. Favretti, a consultant on historic landscapes from Storrs, Conn. It is conceivable that the ornamental lake and canals were also part of a system to irrigate the rice fields.
In particular, Crowfield’s plan, which included a Roman temple, resembles such English landscapes of the late 1720’s as the water garden at Studley Royal in Yorkshire or the bowling green and serpentine walks at Claremont in Surrey.
In the most recent stage of garden archeology, conducted in April by Michael Trinkley of the Chicora Foundation, a non-profit heritage preservation organization, Westvaco acted with the advice of its consultants, Hugh and Mary Palmer Dargen, Charleston landscape architects who specialize in historic preservation.
Although the archeologists uncovered two brick foundations of garden structures, perhaps summer houses, and such artifacts commensurate with wealth as fragments of Chinese porcelain and glass goblets, the real work, as Mr. Trinkely saw it, “was to try to determine pathways and to study soil stains and topographical features that will guide in the garden’s rehabilitation and restoration.”
During this dig, the team analyzed earth berms that elevated the garden and separated it from the cultivated fields. Team members were also able to determine areas where shallow top soil indicated grassy areas rather than deeply rooted flower beds.
Current plans call for the garden to be turned over to the homeowners’ association when the houses encircling the golf course are completed. But Charles Duell, a Middleton descendant and president of Middleton Place Foundation, said he hoped that Westvaco would “donate a conservation easement on the property” to a consortium of preservation groups. This group could then control further archeological research and restoration. So far, the site has been open only to researchers.
Although Crowfield is now only a beautiful ruin with classic water features, it is evidence of how the first settlers transported high style to the New World. “It is the Mona Lisa of early American landscapes,” Mr. Poston Said.
The New York Times, Thursday, June 23, 1994