Friday, November 9, 2012

Preserved vs. Restored

The Cap'n and I have continued our house touring over the past few weeks. There seems to be a bit of history at every corner, and fortunately for us, what wasn't burned in the war is still available for us to enjoy.

There is great emphasis placed on the difference between Preserved homes and Restored homes. For example last weekend we visited two planation homes along the Ashley River: Drayton hall and Magnolia Plantation. Drayton Hall is the only plantation home along the Ashley that was not burned or somehow destroyed in the War of Northern Aggression. After the war, the Drayton family continued to own and occupy the residence until 1974 when it became a  property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Drayton Hall has been Preserved, meaning no changes have been made to the structure by the National Trust. In fact, even the family did not add any modern conveniences, such as bathrooms, to the house.

Here is Drayton Hall, a prime example of Georgian Revival Architecture, focusing on the 3 B's: Big, Bold and Balanced:

A view to the river  from the second floor

The rooms of Drayton Hall are empty of furniture, but as our tour guide promised, she filled them with stories of planation life, family life and the history of our country.  The walls and ceilings themselves have stories to tell, offering glimpses of the original paint colors and intricate carvings:

A family growth chart dating back to the 1800's:

In this photo below, notice the brown area in the center. From chemical studies of the wall, it has been suggested that the discoloration was caused by the oils in human skin. Perhaps this is where an enslaved worker stood, hands behind his back,  awaiting his master's orders:

Here is the lower level hearth where meals were prepared (with sleeping quarters to the right). In summer months the family would sometimes take their meals here where it was cooler, requiring the enslaved workers to rearrange the furniture. The last owner of the house, Miss Charlotta, would often "camp out" on this level, running an extension cord from the caretaker's cottage to operate her fridge.:

I really enjoyed this Preserved home. A few online reviews said it was boring because there was nothing too look at. Instead, it allowed us to use our imaginations and see the layer of years.

In contrast, built in 1808 the Nathaniel Russell Museum in is a Restored  Federal townhouse near Charleston's Battery. According to the Historic Charleston Foundation's website "Set amid spacious formal gardens, the Nathaniel Russell House is a National Historic Landmark and is widely recognized as one of America's most important neoclassical dwellings."

It has been Restored to reflect life in the early to mid-1800's, using replica wallpaper and some period furniture although very few pieces are from the Russell family collection. The most significant detail of the house is the 3 story free-flying Honduran mahogany staircase. Once current renovations to the house are complete visitors will not be invited to climb the stairs - we were lucky to be among the last to do so. Our guide explained that the staircase is getting 'tired.' She led the way up the steps, admonishing us to hold on to the right hand rail!

Hanging above the staircase is a 1786 George Romney portrait of Mary Rutledge Smith, a prominent Charlestonian, with her son Edward.  We were not allowed to take any photos indoors, so this is all I can share. It is a beautiful home, used primarily as a private residence over the years by the Russell family, but also employed as a Catholic girls boarding school for as time.

Preserved or Restored?  There is a need for both -- but for now, I vote for Preserved!

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