Colonial Quills Celebrates Our Country's Independence! HUZZAH!!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Carolina Brookgreen Gardens Venture - Part 2 by Elva Cobb Martin

As a quick review of Part 1, we shared that Brookgreen Gardens, located just below Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, is a sculpture garden and wild life preserve covering 9,100 acres that originally made up four colonial rice plantations.
In 1931 Archer and Anna Huntington bought the property and co-founded Brookgreen Gardens, using the name of one of the plantations. They began to fill the garden with all sorts of Anna’s large animal sculptures, exotic plants, live animals, and even poetry.
The Huntington’s also built a winter home on the ocean side of the property, reminiscent of the Moorish castles they had seen in Granada. They named their home “Atalaya” which means “watchtower” in Spanish. Now part of the South Carolina State Park system, the 30-room castle (South Carolina’s only castle), courtyard, and surrounding buildings are open to the public.
One of the most interesting parts of Atalaya is Anna’s studio. A twenty-five foot skylight dominates the huge room where Mrs. Huntington worked on her outsized sculptures. The studio opens onto a small enclosed courtyard where she worked on her art, often from live models, out of doors when the weather permitted.
 

Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
 
Standing in the studio courtyard one can almost see Anna at work. She used scaffolding to do her large pieces like the fifteen-foot Don Quixote astride his poor mount Racinante. The story is told that when Anna got ready to do this piece, she acquired a local decrepit horse to model Racinante. But during the period of the modeling she took such good care of the animal, its health was fully restored.                                          
During the three years it took to build Atalaya on the beach side, plans for the gardens further inland continued at amazing speed.
The first step was to put limits on the sculpture garden area. The Huntingtons chose the old home site of Brookgreen Plantation. Only the kitchen remained of the original structure. To define the grounds without setting up too great a barrier between the sculpture garden and the rest of the park, they erected an open work brick wall. Shallow curves built in the wall would shelter plants and furnish niches for sculptures.
Anna Huntington drew and planned the garden walks in the shape of a butterfly with outstretched wings.
To insure perpetuity, the Huntingtons incorporated the Gardens in 1931 with a Board of Trustees to manage them and an endowment of $l million.

Samson and the Lion by Gleb Derujinsky

Archer and Anna made the decision to acquire sculptures from other American artists in addition to Anna’s sixty-three pieces.  
After Mr. Huntington’s death in 1955, Anna continued selecting and purchasing sculptures for the Gardens. By the time of her death in 1973, she had, along with Mr. Huntington, acquired hundreds of sculptures.
Visitors to Brookgreen Gardens today will enjoy its three main features: the Huntington Sculpture Garden, the Center for American Sculpture, and the Lowcountry History and Wildlife Preserve.
Virtually every American sculptor of the past century is now represented by one or more of over 1400 works in aluminum, bronze, and marble stone sculptures displayed in 35 acres of garden and landscape settings.
The Lowcountry History and Wildlife Preserve are rich with evidence of the great rice plantations and the Gullah culture of the enslaved Africans who sustained them, as well as hosting a zoo and an embarkation point for river boat cruises
Of special interest to me as an historical writer is the Oaks Plantation History Trail which includes the cemetery of the Allston/Alston family who owned the rice plantation from the 1730’s through the early 1900’s. This plantation was home to early South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston and his wife Theodosia Burr Alston, who was the daughter of Aaron Burr, the Vice-President of the United States. Joseph’s and Theodosia’s marriage in 1801 was followed by a series of tragedies that ended with Theodosia’s disappearance at sea in 1813.


Allston Family Cemetery 1730

Last but not least, on a short list to visit with children, is the Enchanted Storybook Forest which contains a collection of storybook playhouses created by local architects and organizations. Each house is based on a classic children’s story or nursery rhyme and encourages reading. Books are available at the Butterfly ticket booth for parents to check out and read to their children.
Hope you enjoyed our visit to South Carolina’s Brookgreen Gardens which is much more than gardens. It’s a museum, art gallery, zoo and historical trail!
Thanks for stopping by. 


Elva Cobb Martin is a freelance writer and president of the Upstate SC American Christian Writers' Chapter. Her research for this article was collected for an inspirational novel she has just completed set in the Colonial/Pirate era of Charleston. She has been published in The State Magazine, Decision, and Charisma. She blogs on the Golden Age of Piracy and other topics at  http://carolinaromancewithelvamartin.blogspot.com  She lives in Anderson, South Carolina with her family. She can be reached through her web site  www.elvamartin.com

2 comments:

  1. Wow. I am so glad you did these posts because this is a treasure I'd be very sorry to miss and now hope to visit. So much history and a fascinating story besides. AND an amazing treasure of art. Thanks so much, Elva!

    ReplyDelete
  2. How did I miss Part 1 of this post? Drat! Now I have to go back and find the beginning. What fascinating history! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting, please check back for our replies!