Small Houses Past and Present

Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it. – Leonardo Da Vinci

Slave Cabins. Beautiful, historic small houses. Painting by C Hutson-Wrenn '11

There is a movement in today’s culture to return to a smaller house. Tiny House blog tells many stories of people simplifying and downsizing, for many reasons, not the least of which is the downturn in the economy. My 18 months living in Rosy on Edisto Island taught me more than a university education in gratitude, detachment and resourcefulness.

Restored slave cabin at Magnolia

But my own fascination with small dwellings include historical ones here in Charleston.

My painting, posted here, is of the slave cabins at McLeod Plantation, on James Island in Charleston. And this week I drove out to Magnolia Plantation to meet with D. J. Tucker, Herb Frazier, and Joseph McGill to talk about small houses that are bigger than life here in the Carolina Lowcountry, and about art and beauty and history. About how paintings like this one of mine can help support the whole idea of a larger conversation, with Joseph McGill, Jr. of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, about slave dwellings. What is their place, and their value today?

Magnolia is a place that is beautiful, inspiring and alive – with its own row of beautifully restored slave cabins. D.J.Tucker is director of African American History at Magnolia and is one enthusiastic bundle of Canadian energy. Magnolia has a particularly strong link to this rare and previously untold history. The Lowcountry Africana Project allows researchers to finally research their African American ancestors, and is a fine resource, and there are continuous programs here to share this previously untold history, to share the history behind the ‘Big House’, of those who actually built ‘the Big House’ and tended those magnificent gardens.

Joseph McGill, Jr.

Joe McGill has taken on a huge project to call attention to the importance of the last of these slave dwellings from history, and is traveling all over the South spending the night in the last existing dwellings that were built for and by slaves, to call attention to their value and history.

This history is a complicated one, but like life itself, it is full of paradox. Sounds like art to me.

Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge. – Winston Churchill

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I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in architecture, art, Arts & Culture, beauty, Charleston South Carolina, Green, Gullah, South Carolina History, sustainable living, travel, Writing
5 comments on “Small Houses Past and Present
  1. Beverly Bisbee says:

    Your painting, Charlotte, reminds me of a book I recently read called THE HELP. Hope you can find a copy!

  2. pinkney says:

    It distresses me to disagree with Leonardo, but I do. Small rooms make me nervous. I like to have small spaces as part of big spaces, but I really can’t stand small confined rooms for long. I start bumping into things and thrashing about. Things get knocked over. I think large, open spaces free the mind and spirit. Both large and small spaces will keep the rain off and stop the wind, but I would d’ruther have room to move.

  3. Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, let alone the content!

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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