On February 8th, 2017, Dr. Carter Hudgins, Director and CEO of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, delivered the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program’s first Wells Fargo Distinguished Lecture of 2017 entitled “The Past and Future of Drayton Hall.”
The lecture traced the development of Drayton Hall from its beginnings in the eighteenth century by using the wealth of material artifacts found on the site and recovered from archives and collections from around the Lowcountry. Through meticulous archeological and historical study, the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust hopes to reconstruct the lives of the estate’s residents, including John Drayton and the many enslaved people who worked his surrounding plantations.
The work of Dr. Hudgins and his team have uncovered a surprising history, and many artifacts discovered at Drayton Hall are found nowhere else in North America, including rare black Delft ceramics, one-of-a-kind patterns from China, and other rare products from around the world, showing that Drayton participated in global trade networks. However, according to Hudgins, John Drayton also placed a high value on domestically produced products and native landscapes, and many of the furniture pieces were made right here in Charleston at the workshop of Thomas Elfe. The gardens also represented the Lowcountry’s unique style, and while the design was inspired by the grand English estates, Drayton utilized native plants and trees and worked with the low-lying shape of the Ashley river area to create a distinctly local landscape. According to Dr. Hudgins, the Drayton Hall site is a convergence of different cultures and histories as represented by a particularly important piece of recently discovered ceramic that was produced and used by enslaved people of African descent. The artifact strongly reflects the blended ceramic techniques of Europe, West Africa, and southeastern Native America.
Dr. Hudgins also discussed Drayton Hall’s plans to build a visitor’s center and fulfill its goal to become a premiere archeological site dedicated to researching, documenting, and preserving the Lowcountry’s unique history. While Dr. Hudgin’s research has uncovered a tremendous amount of material history, he said they have barely scratched the surface of what the Drayton site can teach us about eighteenth-century Charleston and the lives of those who inhabited the area.
Many College of Charleston students and faculty attended the talk, and Dr. Hudgin’s research also attracted a number of interested members from the community. For more information on Drayton Hall’s preservation efforts, please visit www.draytonhallreimagined.org