Sarah Hannah Newman’s Community of Scholars research project – “Cultural Influences on Colonial Architecture in South Carolina” -- sprang to life in her mind during a class she took last spring.
“In Dr. (Philip) Racine's South Carolina History class, we studied the development of the plantation system in South Carolina, which included information about the settlement of the state. I was intrigued by the seemingly unusual pattern of settlement and wanted to create a Community of Scholars project which would allow me to further explore the colonial history of the state while combining my interests in history as well as art history.”
It’s a pretty involved subject, and a passionate one for many who follow the state’s rich history.
“While conducting my research, I found that there is still great debate about the cultural influences on some extant structures in South Carolina, including Mulberry Plantation,” says Newman. “Scholars have a multitude of varying opinions about the possible sources of influence on the architecture at this Lowcountry mansion. While I was able to draw some of my own conclusions about Mulberry, it is difficult to purport definite findings regarding this home when there is still so much debate amongst scholars.”
Newman’s research involved a lot of travel. Fortunately, South Carolina isn’t Texas or California.
“In order to gather my information, I traveled to all eight houses of study,” she says. “While I was not able to enter Mulberry Plantation or Middleburg Plantation located in Berkeley County, I was allowed remarkable access to the other homes of study, including Thorntree House (Kingstree), the Heinrech Senn and Lawrence Corley log cabins (Lexington), the McCreight House (Fairfield), the Guillebeau House (McCormick), and the Bratton House (York County).
“I was guided through the Bratton House by the restoration architect for Historic Brattonsville, and I was able to talk with the restoration architect for the McCreight House, as well. In addition to visiting the houses, I traveled to numerous local libraries and archives as well as the Carolinian Library at the University of South Carolina.”
She also leaned on her fellow scholars quite a bit.
“I worked alongside Dr. Karen Goodchild and Amy Chalmers,” says Newman. “My interactions with this group were immeasurably helpful as I carried out my search for often difficult information to retrieve. It was extremely beneficial to have scholars in the art history field with whom to bounce around ideas and questions.
“In addition to working with Dr. Goodchild and Amy, I also benefitted from my interactions with the fellows from a variety of disciplines ranging from English to chemistry to philosophy. Scholars from other disciplines posed questions that I might not have considered due to their different perspective. Having the opportunity to discuss my project with these faculty and students drove me to be a more thorough and articulate researcher. Additionally, the other fellows' enthusiasm for their own projects as well as those of the others was a great motivator and source of encouragement.”
So as her senior year approaches, the question is what to do with all of this research she has gathered?
“I will be continuing my research about colonial South Carolina in the fall in an Honors Project under the guidance of Dr. Anne Rodrick,” says Newman. “My research this summer will be of use to archivists and researchers investigating the homes included in my study or general information about South Carolina architecture and its settlement.
“Additionally, my study is useful when examining the architecture we see across the state today. One of the later houses I studied, the Guillebeau House, showed a mixing of cultural influences due to the proximity of French Huguenot and Scotch-Irish settlers. As the settlers spread out from the townships they spread their architectural traditions, and a blending of styles gradually took place. This mixture of architectural styles is evident in historic as well as modern homes.”