The Ashley River Region

Preservation is not just about saving buildings but about saving places. Old buildings, their landscapes and gardens, and their environmental context are all of a piece. Imagine standing at the foot of Drayton Hall, looking down the allee toward the Ashley River. Now imagine that instead of seeing marsh grasses and trees on the opposite bank, you see a shopping plaza and high rise condominiums.

Back in 1994, a parcel of land came up for sale. It was located directly across the Ashley River from Drayton Hall and part of the former Ashley Wood Plantation purchased by John Drayton in 1758 and sold at some point in the late 18th century. The land was zoned for development at 22 units per acre. There were 25 acres for sale. Thanks to a lead gift from Mrs. Robert A. Kennedy of Cincinnati and gifts from over 1,000 supporters in 39 states, Drayton Hall was able to purchase the land, and the owner donated additional acreage along the marsh to ensure the protection of Drayton Hall’s historic view shed in perpetuity.

Engagement in regional preservation or “whole place preservation” is important for a number of reasons. One is that it results in the preservation of the cultural landscape that the historical residents of the site knew. Those people, whose story the site interprets, both shaped that landscape and were shaped by it, so preservation of the surrounding place with its natural resources, house sites, work places, communities, fields, and transportation routes enhances the site’s capacity to research and interpret and to produce programs that enhance visitors’ understanding of the history of the site.

Whole place preservation is also important because it can enhance the visitors’ experience. They need time to make transitions from the contemporary to the historical world, to loosen their minds from their 21st century moorings so they can be freer to receive information and engage their imagination and empathize with past ways of life.

Learn more about Drayton Hall’s commitment to Whole Place Preservation and the Ashley River Region through this case study.

Above:The Ashley River, a state scenic river, at sunset.

Photo courtesy of Drayton Hall.

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