South Carolina, with Virginia and Maryland, was an old and rich Southern “plantation,” with luxurious architecture from its beginnings, but as the state developed it became two cultures, the low-country of aristocratic planters and an up-country of democratic small farmers, with patterns of culture and architecture that were very different from each other.
In the 18th century, Charleston was the metropolis of the Old South, the fourth largest city of colonial America. In this volume we visit the most lavish colonial mansions–Drayton Hall, generally regarded as one of the first Palladian houses in the land; Middleton Place, now in ruins but surrounded by romantic rice fields and gardens; the Miles Brewton House, the finest surviving colonial mansion in Charleston; and the Nathaniel Russell House with its elegant fanlights, spiral stair, oval rooms and lavish plaster decoration. In the up-country, we visit the newly restored Milford Plantation, with its monumental Corinthian portico glistening in the morning sunlight behind shadowy, moss-hung trees.
But there are many surprises as well: Archdale Hall, an early Palladian mansion even earlier than Drayton Hall; The Elms, a Jefferson-style country house with octagonal rooms; and James Frazier’s fabulous Gothic octagon. We learn about Charleston “single” houses, tabby (a concrete-like mixture of oyster shells and sand), pisé de terre (walls made of beaten earth), buildings made by the book (copied from architecture pattern books) and the influence of Northern builders and architects. We also survey in detail the work of America’s first native-born professionally trained architect, South Carolina-born Robert Mills.