Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Chimneys

Currently, out of twenty five, there are nineteen standing chimneys in various stages of ruin located among large oak trees next to a large field.  The collection of chimneys are the remains of a slave quarter complex of plantation owner Robert Stafford. 

The housing complex deteriorated after the Civil War and legend grew that Stafford had burned down the complex.  Archaeological studies at the site dispelled the legend as there was no evidence of ashes indicating that the houses were not burned.

Since the chimneys are a valuable resource to understanding the African-American experience on Cumberland Island, the park staff has implemented a strategic plan to preserve and stabilize the chimneys. Archaeological investigations were conducted in 1979. The link below will direct you to the details of that research. 

The chimneys were built by using tabby bricks and wood lintels.

The complex comprises of three parallel rows of chimneys that run on a north-south axis. At the north end, there is an intersecting double row that runs east-west.

The location is in an area of a private retained estate and is not accessible to visitors to the island.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Hall

Plum Orchard's entrance hall is most likely the only public room left intact from the original design of the house in 1898. I can not verify it because there are only a handful of architectural plans located on the internet.

Boasting woodwork of oak, the room is designed around two columns and an elegant stairway which is set in the back of the hall.

There are two fluted Ionic columns on pedestals and two pilasters at the walls supporting a detailed entablature spanning across the room which is continued around the walls as the cornice.   

Stair landing above the inglenook

Wallpaper detail

Pilaster capital, cornice, and ceiling stencil design

Details of the ceiling

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gibbs the Pirate

Below is an article that was published in the Southern Reporter newspaper on July 9, 1850 with the claim of treasure having been found on Cumberland Island.  I’ll let you decide whether there is any truth in it or not.

Below is another article about the discovery that was published in the Florida Republican newspaper on July 11, 1850.

Discovery of Treasure

Correspondent of the Savannah Republican
St. Marys, June 27, 1850

Circumstances of a somewhat: singular character having occurred in this vicinity lately, I have concluded to narrate them to you, as they may lead to the detection of some roguery. The circumstances I am about to mention assume a more singular character than they would ordinarily wear, from the widely known confession made by “Gibbs, the Pirate," just before his execution, many years ago of a treasure hid on Cumberland Island beach, the locality of which he particularly described, but which divers and sundry very laborious and industrious diggings, at different times, have never been able to discover. Somewhat over a week ago, a young gentleman coming from Savannah to visit his friends here, made the acquaintance of two gentlemen on board the steamer St. Matthews, who represented (apart) each other to be wealthy. One of them stated that he was from New Hampshire, that he had an interest in a gold mine in Virginia, had come out to visit it, but did not say what had brought him further South. He said he had met at Wilmington the other gentleman, but had never known him before. The other party represented himself to be from Virginia, stating that he knew the father of his friend well, that he was immensely wealthy, &c. The young gentleman from Savannah casually mentioned and pointed out to them the Dungeness place on Cumberland, somewhat famous about here for the beauty of its locality, grounds, &c. They expressed a desire to see the place, in such a manner as an entire stranger would do to see a place of interest. They therefore stopped in St. Mary's, and the three visited Cumberland together. While there on the beach, one of them, saying he would look for shells, left the party and disappeared on the sand hill nearby, where he was gone some time.

His friend shortly went for him, and the two were gone perhaps twenty minutes longer on the same spot, which will shortly be alluded to again. On returning to St. Marys, one of them to the next steamer to Savannah, intending, he said, to telegraph his partners in regard to his gold mine, and also to see or write to Mr. Nightingale to negotiate the purchase of Dungeness. The other man remained here, and shortly after the open boat of a schooner, in Cumberland Sound, came for him. Yesterday some negroes left in charge of the Dungeness place, reported to the collector of this port that a schooner had laid off the place some three days, but was now gone, and they had discovered a complete path, made by tramping backwards and forwards of men's feet, form where the vessel was anchored to this spot on the beach – – where the men first alluded to had disappeared – – and here, on the sand hill, they found a very large hole dug, a very strong oak stick which had been used as a pry, and a broken spade. The collector of the port and a party of gentleman went yesterday to the beach, and found everything as the negroes had represented. There was but one digging, and the party had evidently known exactly in what spot to dig in for whatever it was that they sought. The collector had taken measures to ascertain if the head winds have prevented the schooner from going over the bar at St. Andrews, and if so, will promptly inspect the vessel to ascertain what these singular movements mean. The schooner is the Belknap, Capt. Dexter, of Charleston. The hole dug is some eight or ten feet deep, and thirty feet around the top. They had cut through palmetto roots, in excavating. The negroes represent that they had not worked by day, and that a good road ran parallel through the wood to the path they had made, but they had avoided the road. Hurrah for Mystery, Piracy, and Gold!
Yours, &c.,        St. Marys


Charles Gibbs is the pirate referred to in the above article. For more information on him, click on the links below:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Architectural Elements of Plum Orchard's Entrance

My enjoyment and love for architecture doesn't ever seem to go away. I thought it would be fun to dissect the front entrance that the architects Peabody and Stearns designed for George and Margaret Carnegie's Plum Orchard. Throughout history, architects and builders have continued to revived Greek architectural styles and combined them within their own designs. Certain styles and themes have emerged from the Greek styles that Peabody and Stearns have adapted to their own design for Plum Orchard. Below is a quick view.

Common to the period in which it was built, the portico is supported by the facade and four columns that are in the Ionic order. Visually, columns are an important design element in a Classical Revival house. Open to the air, piazzas are located to each side of the portico. Derived from portico is the word porch.

Across the top of the portico is a triangular gabled pediment with horizontal and raking cornices that follow the slopes. The area where the fantastic ornamental shaped embellishments and the bulls eye window are located is called the tympanum.  Notice the partial seashells at each end of the pediment. This flowing and almost moving design may indicate that the architects possibly had the nearby seashore in mind.

The entablature is the horizontal ornamental section that is located below the pediment and resting on top of the capitals of the colonnade below. The entablature is made up of three sections that consist of a cornice (top), frieze (middle), and the architrave (bottom),

The crowning projections of the cornice and eaves has many decorative molding of which the two most distinguishing features are the dentil and horizontal rectangular shaped modillions.  The very top molding in the cornice design is an area called the cymatium.  The molding in this area is called a cyma recta because of the upper concave curve and a lower convex curve.  The bed-molding is located right under the modillions. 

The unadorned frieze and architrave is divided by a decorative band of egg and dart molding. This area in which the molding runs is known as the tanta.  The three stepped bands of the architrave below is a commonly used feature in the Ionic order.

The soffit, the underside of the entablature, rests on top of the varying detailed Ionic capitals. From the beading at the neck of the column, bell-flowers run down the shaft.

Different views of the detailed molding of a coffer in the ceiling of the portico. I played with the contrast of the photo above so that the detailing stood out better.

Pilasters are common features of Georgian revival designs. There are four that project slightly from the wall and rise the full height of the facade.

Above the fanlight on top of the main entry doors are decorative plaster "it could be papier mache" detailing of ribbon work, flower garlands, bell-flower garlands and rosette. These rich projecting details are an important element in the overall design of the entrance as to welcoming guest as they progressed inside to the entrance hall. Notice the detailed "keystone" within the fanlights molding.

After looking at these photos for so long, I wonder how many gallons of white paint it takes to paint Plum Orchard?

For more history and older photos of Plum Orchard, click the link below to view the Historic Furnishing Report by Sara Olson.

Click the link below for a previous blog post on the history of Plum Orchard.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stafford Cemetery

The Stafford Cemetery is located a short distance south of the main house, Stafford Mansion. Robert Stafford was the leading planter and the largest landholder with up to 350 slaves on Cumberland Island in the nineteenth-century. He is buried in the cemetery along with his mother and his sister. The cemetery is enclosed by tabby block walls and there are four marked gravesites located inside. 

to the memory of
Born on
Cumberland Island, Ga.
Dec. 8th, 1790
and died
Aug. 1st, 1877

One of the gravesites
located within the walled cemetery 
is not a member of the Stafford family.

Tom Hutchison was William C. Carnegie's personal golf coach and the golf pro at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club at Southampton, NY.  William had a nine-hole golf course in one of Robert Stafford's large plantation fields next to the Stafford mansion. A golf professional from Scotland, he was killed when thrown from a horse while visiting with William on Cumberland.

For more information on the
life of Robert Stafford,
read Mary R. Bullard's book:
Robert Stafford of Cumberland Island

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hunting Seashells

Last August my friend Beth and I were on the island the day after Hurricane Irene had marched up the coast and skirted past the islands of Florida and Georgia. Beth, the editor of our local newspaper, had an appointment on Cumberland and invited me to tag along. With our beach paraphernalia in tow, we took the ferry over to Cumberland planning for a relaxing day on the beach before her meeting the next day. In route, we met a wonderful lady AKA "Susan" and we chatted on the cruise ride over to the island. Arriving at the Sea Camp Dock and unloading our gear, we descended upon the dock.  Knowing our plans for the day, Susan asked us if we wanted do something different.  Something different? Heck yeah! Turns out that Susan had a car.  We piled into the vehicle with a new planned agenda of hunting seashells and set out north on the isle to conquer Stafford Beach.

A small lion in the oak forest  stands watch overlooking the narrow road that leads to Stafford Beach.

Leaving the dunes behind us, we were in shock and could only smile in disbelief at that variety of seashells that had washed ashore.

After a few hours of hunting and eating our packed lunch, we set out southward to Little Greyfield Beach. The drive off the Main Road that leads you to the beach and through the dunes is one of the most beautiful spots on the island.

Millions of empty shells had been dredged up off the depths of the ocean floor by the churning ocean water. Many shells with living critters and other interesting things were deposited along the beach.  

That Sunday, we had some good pickin’s along
the coast of Cumberland Island.
Thank you Susan for a wonderful day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Grange - Views From The House

 Looking across Beach Creek

July of 2011, the National Park Service released their proposed plan for the Former Reserved Properties Management Plan.  Their recommendation, open up The Grange tract to the public for visitors services, education, and activities. By law, the NPS received the tract upon the expiration of a Retained Rights Agreement by a descendant of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie, Lucy C. J. Graves.  

With this addition of The Grange Tract within the NPS hands, the historical integrity of the Dungeness Complex is now one cohesive group. The Grange lies in the heart of a complex system of other structural outbuildings that help to create a varied facade for the operations of the infrastructure of the Dungeness Estate in the late 19th and 20th century.
A view from the rooftop

 The NPS will now be responsible for renovating the historic structure within the Dungeness Historic District. Due to several rehabilitations over the years by the Graves family and others, The Grange is in very good condition.
One of the issues at this time is the limited funding that is dedicated to the Cumberland Island National Seashore (CUIS). There are 396 other areas within the National Park System that need to be funded during this downturn in the economic. BTW - Cumberland Island is one of just ten designated National Seashores.

The other issue is a frequently used tool of leases and other agreements by the NPS to help defray the burden of management and over time, continued maintenance costs. Indiana Dunes, Point Raise, Apostle Islands and other areas within the park system have lease agreements. 
Rooftop view, Dungeness ruins in the distance

An issue that needs to be considered by the NPS in this critical planning process is that in the future, retained estate tracts at Stafford and tracts located behind Plum Orchard will expire. Several structures in the leased areas of the complex behind Plum Orchard have already deteriorated. More burden will be placed upon CUIS and the park service when these newly acquired historical estate structures come into their hands.

Leases are effective but just what kind?

Antietam Battlefield has leases. One of the major battles at this historic site was fought in the cornfields.  The NPS needs corn for the environmental effect, so they lease the land to farmers to grow the corn so that it will appear to look like the battlefield at that time.

Regardless of whatever the NPS decides, all parties will not be satisfied.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Grange

The Grange was built in 1902 by Lucy C. Carnegie as a residence for her estate manager William E. Page and his wife Eleanor. Prior to the construction, the Pages had been living at Dungeness in the first floor bedroom. The first and second floor has approximately 7,000 square feet, plus additional attic and basement areas.

Located in the heart of the Dungeness Historic District between The Carriage House and the ruined Pool House, the Georgian-styled house rests on a flared brick foundation and has a hipped shaped roof. Not originally designed but added years later are hipped dormers and a crude cupola giving access to the rooftop. Roughly sixty by fifty seven feet, an exterior stuccoed finish covers the wood framed two-story five bay house.

The Grange is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and the NPS List of Classified Structures (LCS).