R&R NOTE: Historic preservation in Lancaster County, S.C. has always been an important and highly interesting topic for architects, artisans, genealogist and historians. Two of the leaders in this effort, have been siblings, Louise and Lindsay Pettus, long-time contributors and supporters of Roots and Recall. With sites such as Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church, the Battle of Hanging Rock, the birthplace of Andrew Jackson and early settlement routes, Lancaster is a crossroads of S.C. history. Also heavily involved in these efforts have been John Craig and Johannes Tromp, who have tackled the preservation of two houses, farmlands, and gardens. Enjoy learning more about their remarkable efforts below and take time to book a stay at Kilburnie, the Inn at Craig Farm.
With every story of a person or group of people involved in the restoration of an historic home or property, you will find a different journey that got them there but an almost identical sense of passion. You will often note that this person will tell you they couldn’t allow anything or anyone to stand in the way of their own preservation mission.
John Craig and Johannes Tromp have planted roots in several places throughout the world through family, career or travel. The Craig family has roots deep into the soil of Lancaster County, and you could say that today their roots have kept their kin connected to this region in a unique way. For John Craig, his family’s story began in the early 1770’s, when they began working their land in Lancaster County. A home was to be built on their farmland and now many years later that house is standing tall as the historic Craig Inn. As early as 1772, the historic Craig Inn’s main sitting room can be traced to the inn’s beginnings in the Craig family. By 1901, the acreage was used for farming and by 1938, John’s parents had moved in the house. As the family grew through time, so did the home. The dark stained wood floors and staircase lead you to decorated rooms, each with a use and theme. There is a sitting library, an entrance to a back porch overlooking green pasture, big ornate trees and a walking flower garden. Anywhere you turn a corner, you’ll find yourself in a room centered on John and Johannes’s eclectic art collection.
Beginning in 1990, the house had begun restoration to repair and sustain the inn’s original character and bring the house back to its working order. Originally only a story and a half, the inn grew to accommodate more room upstairs, and now the Craig Inn features a spread of rooms for guests upstairs and rooms downstairs that point guests in the direction of the beautiful front porch, to the bright natural light of the beautiful kitchen or to a cozy nook in one of their libraries. Together, John and his brother Bill Craig, an accomplished carpenter, helped to restore the inn’s beauty once again while helping to bring in new guests to find their own haven within its walls as the family before them had.
Both John and Johannes agree there’s an appreciation in saving an historic home and the quest for providing Lancaster County residents and others with a developed and manicured piece of history. This preservation process only continued with the moving of historic property, Kilburnie. After 60 years of being empty with numerous issues such as a collapsed roof and trees growing through the windows, John and Johannes worked tirelessly beginning in February of 1999 to throw themselves into an aggressive 14-month complete restoration of the home. There was a serious timeline to make, you see. At that time, South Carolina Governor, Jim Hodges was planned to come for a visit and the home was to be recognized as an historic S.C. landmark. Through the restoration much was discovered about the home’s history, for the inside and outside were equally important. So there was much to be done in order to accurately replicate its original splendor. This included locating the original fire mantles stolen from the home, making the nail biting decision to move the home to its new location across the street from the Craig Inn, and choosing to leave the back portion of the home (c. 1880) behind due to its fragile state. And to top it all off, they had to find artwork representational of the area and the Craig family to fill the home, which includes many references to Lancaster’s prodigal son, Andrew Jackson. You have to see their art collection in person to truly appreciate their attention to detail and exceptional taste.
Through the restoration of Kilburnie, others came forward to help and be a part of the process like famed southern artist and artisan, Jim Shore. For the second and third floor ceiling discs as part of the original crown molding, Jim created a rubber cast replica of the original ceiling disc and with the combination of resin and crushed pecan shells, helped to shape and mold an exact reproduction for Kilburnie’s new crown molding. You have to see each room, hallway and staircase in Kilburnie to really appreciate the craftsmanship and attention to detail. The main entrance was even an example of craft, for one of the French doors was completely damaged, so the other had to be exactly replicated. From the hanging chandeliers from Venice, to the original wood used to reconstruct the balcony porch floors, it is all a sight to be seen.
Outside of the incredible collection of artwork John and Johannes have acquired over the years to compliment individual rooms or stories associated with the property, one of the pieces I felt most struck by was an antique wooden clock in the kitchen of the Craig Inn. Past the shelves of southern cookbooks that I’d love to curl up and read in the kitchen’s breakfast nook, or the vibrant large Henri Matisse replica that demands your attention near the 200 year old smoothed Cape Fear wood rescued from the sea to make into kitchen counter tops, the antique clock serves as a poetic relic to the historic Craig Inn. The generations of families that have lived, grown up, been born within the home’s walls and contributed to farming the surrounding land, dating back to the 1840’s, have all experienced this ticking clock; and now it continues to tell time for new patrons and guests.
Another point I hope this article helps to bring attention to is John and Johannes’ desire to cultivate a community of visitors to each of the historic sites and the Lancaster Cultural Arts Center located in Lancaster’s historic downtown. The center is housed in the old Lancasterville Presbyterian Church, a Gothic Revival building that was dedicated in 1862 and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Once again, at the Cultural Arts Center John and Johannes’ attention to detail is evident. The performing arts, especially those centered on classical music have found a venue at the cultural center. The stage and original wood floors reflect the natural light projected from the variety of stained glass windows. For the past ten years, renovations have been going steadily through the center, along with new plans to renovate the restrooms and front lobby entrance. The brightly colored stained glass of orange, blue, pink and green will stay and continue to cast a rosy hue upon the pockets of space in the lobby and along the main hall. The seating pews were especially designed by John to mimic a pew bench but also versatile enough to be stack-able and put away when extra performance floor space is needed. The balcony is currently off limits but will soon again be entirely stable to also host seated guests.
As a cultural center, there is much to learn and gather from an evening of music and fellowship there. Guests are invited to take in the interior of the historic structure while also able to wander the cemetery grounds to learn more about the patrons that once sat within the center’s walls for Sunday church services, weddings, christenings and funerals. Once a house of worship, the natural character of the cultural center is still bringing people together now with its new purpose. John Craig and Johannes Tromp carry a need to preserve and protect, while also bringing together a community through the enrichment of the arts. Long after the homes and center have served their purpose in the hands of both men, they hope that they will continue to be a lasting legacy of the Lancaster community and a destination for people all across the world to seek culture, art and a rich dose of history.
Roots and Recall’s contributing team, Austin and Chris Lange are a creative husband and wife duo living in Rock Hill, S.C. They are excited to offer a photo-journalistic approach to Roots and Recall and to the many people around our state that are working hard to preserve pieces of architectural history everyday. The Langes can be reached for any artistic inquiries at email@example.com
Interested in becoming a contributing author, contact R&R at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature Article August – June, 2018