The Hafner or Hefner family of North Carolina, first came to the forefront of architectural and artisan research in the early 1960s when one of its members was recorded as having constructed a house in upcountry S.C. Perhaps a few individuals who owned handsome “Hafner Built” houses knew of their contributions but it was not until Roots and Recall’s co-founders, began keeping a log of artisans across the state, that numerous examples were documented. Not only did the early 19th century family members construct vernacular style houses but these men were followed, by younger members of the family, who also made their living as carpenter – contractors.
The Samuel Blair house near Sharon, S.C., burned by vandals ca. 2012, was one of the family’s earliest known examples to proclaim their artistic talents, followed shortly thereafter by the Atkinson Plantation home outside of Chester, S.C. These two houses are remarkably similar in size and decorative embellishment. Neither can be considered the finest of upcountry S.C. plantation houses, but they each possess remarkable and lasting architectural merit of the vernacular style commonly found throughout the region. Each was originally constructed as a Carolina I House, with an extended rear kitchen and work area. Their decorative double front doors with matching transoms, whimsical mantel pieces and classic staircases all were routine elements of style utilized by the Hafner group. Interestingly, the mantel pieces in the parlors of each house exhibited Germanic swirls and motifs, combined with formal Empire style casings.
What sets this group of family artisans apart in many ways, was their commitment to excellence and their routine use of Germanic symbols for nearly a century. Enjoy view a few of the “Hafner Built” sites across the pages of R&R:Atkinson House, Samuel Blair Plantation, Ross House, and the Hafner Family Home.
We are indebted to the late Mr. J.L. West, author and historian, for his assistance in contributing to this body of knowledge. Do you know of any antebellum artisans in SC?
Remember, next week’s From the Porch will feature Carolina Vernacular II, watch for it!
The preservation of data on individual artisans such as the Hafner family are vital in tracking and recording regional building styles. Though few outside of upcountry S.C. may have ever heard of the family’s prolific work, they in many ways represent one of perhaps hundreds of similar family groups. The SC Artisans Database is full of such information. R&R would like to know far more about these individuals and their contributions, not only here in the Carolinas but also those artisans who moved South and West. Members have mentioned the use of the Carolina I House style in Gainesville, Florida and use of the Carolina Rain Porch in Mobile, Alabama. You too can assist by posting comments on artisans and western movement.