Drayton Hall’s Executive Director George McDaniel recounts the recent visit of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Board of Trustees.
January 29th marked a wonderful day at Drayton Hall. It was a gorgeous winter day with a crisp chill and a lovely blue sky, unmarred by a single cloud. Drayton Hall was honored to serve as host for the Board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and staff from Trust Headquarters, including President Stephanie Meeks. Staff and Friends of Drayton Hall planned the event because we wanted visitors to get more than a house tour (as fine as it is). Instead, we hoped our visitors would learn more about the issues and opportunities at Drayton Hall.
Since time management was critical, Director of Preservation Carter Hudgins and I joined Trust visitors and each boarded a bus in Charleston so that while in route we could introduce them to the mission and programs of Drayton Hall. Thus, along the way, the Board saw firsthand the fruits of our conservation work along Ashley River Road. As we entered the site we pointed out the Memorial Arch of the African-American Cemetery, which we dedicated last Fall. Dwight Young, former Trust Senior Communications Associate, wrote an insightful piece about the event.
Upon gathering at the house, I greeted Trustees briefly and Tony Wood, Site Council Chair, welcomed them as well. Stephanie Meeks also made a few wonderful remarks and took advantage of the gathering to honor Drayton Hall’s one of a kind guide, Bob Barker, who’s been with Drayton Hall since the mid 1970’s. As a result of his inestimable qualities, Bob has sold $500,000 in membership sales for Drayton Hall and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
After the welcome, Trustees divided into groups and our guides gave insightful tours of the remarkable house. At strategic stations, the Trustees were given in-depth presentations on specific issues. For example, on the Upper Portico, Carter Hudgins explained structural problems that have been identified with the support systems of the floor and our challenges with the ancient live oaks. In the Withdrawing Room, two members of the Preservation Department, Joyce Keegan and Sarah Stroud, laid out a table of artifacts illustrative of the depth and breadth of our collections with which most visitors were unfamiliar. Emily Pack, Ashley River Region Coordinator, recounted our campaigns to preserve the Ashley River Region, which were recently highlighted in the Forum Journal. In another room, Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, whose ancestors according to family oral history came to to Carolina with the Draytons in the 1670’s, shared their history with Drayton Hall and their thoughts about the importance of historic preservation. All of this combined to give the Trustees a memorable experience and illustrated to them the potential of historic sites, historic preservation, and education.
After Drayton Hall we went a short distance to Middleton Place a Partner Place of the National Trust where, again, Trustees received informative and engaging tours of the distinguished gardens, main house, and stable yards. We enjoyed an excellent oyster roast steamed over an open fire in the traditional method and, afterward, we dined on a wonderful dinner of lowcountry fare. Cliff Hudson, Chairman of the Trust Board, gave an inspiring address while Charles Duell, President of the Middleton Place Foundation, concluded not only with a welcome but with his thoughtful recollections of what the Trust has meant to him over the years, including his tenure as its Vice Chairman in the early 1980’s. Upon looking back on the wonderful evening it has been gratifying to me to have heard the many sincere compliments about Drayton Hall and our work here.
And to savor seeing the fine work of the staff and Site Council in action!
-George McDaniel, Executive Director
Photos by Dan Stewart