On Friday of last week, Roots and Recall was asked to provide a presentation at the historic Hart House in Hartsville, S.C. If you have never visited, the house and Kalmia Gardens, they are a delight – their staff professional and welcoming. The purpose in having us to the cultural center, was to continue exploring, the similarities between the Hart House and that of the Jacob Kelley restoration at Kelley Town. We had started the process in February and wished to continue the exploration. I was joined by historian-photographer Bill Segars and preservationist Kyle Campbell. We each carefully examined and measured components of the houses, looked at the architectural and construction features, to help better understand their historic secrets. This was my third visit to the area to review construction details. While on the surface they appear just alike, upon closer examination it is evident that the decorative elements weren’t derived from the same tool chest, but likely the same 19th century pattern book. Only a mile separates the two museum houses, each representing their individual owner’s aspirations and expectations of early 19th century living. Both houses have similar finish work and exude similarities worthy of in-depth exploration and further primary research.
One of the construction features which puzzled each party, was the use of both sash sawn, as well as beautifully hewn floor joists, all looking original to the Hart House, ca. 1820. Peculiarly, the sawn timbers were only found at the front and rear entrances to the main house, approximately the locations of the home’s representative porches. A creditable explanation for sawn timbers being in these two areas maybe that these floor joist areas (perhaps once featured hewn timbers), were originally exposed to the elements, and thus were later replaced with sawn materials by the mid 19th century. Yet the color and patina of the timbers appear much the same as all those from under the house. If you think you have an explanation for why sash sawn timbers were used in these two areas, please share it!
Enjoy looking at both houses on Roots and Recall.
Chronologically and geographically, so close, these two house museums need to be interpreted with enthusiasm as a fantastic “corridor” of early Darlington County history. Individually, they are interesting but collectively they make a substantive statement about local architecture and history. As we witness dwindling numbers of visitors at most historic house museums, rethinking how they are used and interpreted as part of a larger story of settlement, community history and socio – economic development is truly vital! Few historic house museums are able to secure promotional and restoration funding adequate to sustain a level of visitation worthy of economic support. Non-profits and tax supported institutions are all being challenged to sustain these sites which were enthusiastically restored in the 1970s but have now been deemed less interesting than Disney World. Roots and Recall suggests it is time museum administrators and historic preservationists begin joining forces, embarking on new collaborations, to enhance their community impact and thus their economic and political bottom lines. Having the Hart House and the Jacob Kelley house as well as others in the area, collaborate on joint events and foster educational programs to explore local history will pay big dividends for heritage tourism.
Unfortunately following a decade of recession, which has hit cultural facilities extremely hard, they are also now seeing a new budget proposal from the Trump administration, calling for the elimination of tax credits for preservation. One local company informed R&R, they have already seen four significant restoration projects scraped in just the two Carolinas. If you are inclined please read the information provided on this legislation and contact your congressman! See additional data at: https://savingplaces.org/historic-tax-credits
R&R Note: It also came to our attention this week, that at least one local history agency, is waiting for Roots and Recall, to knock on their door and ask to collaborate on efforts to post their collections on Roots and Recall. Please don’t wait around for R&R to knock, start your own scanning of documents and images, send them in electronically. Sadly, R&R simply does not have the manpower needed to travel to all parts of the state and every historical society to engage in these efforts! We are pleased to visit and explain the process and even become partners with institutions, but it is up to the individual society, not R&R to spearhead efforts to post their collections on the website. R&R loves helping facilities share these collections with the public but don’t wait for R&R to call, just this past week over 2,000 items were shared and another preservationist informed R&R that he too has some 10,000 or more images to provide.
Have you looked at the new Feature Article – Taking a Risk, it is a good one!