This thesis provides a long term preservation plan for Comingtee Plantation, located at the confluence of the east and west branch of the Cooper River in Berkeley County, South Carolina. The plantation, owned by the Ball Family for almost two hundred years, includes the ruins of an eighteenth- century house, a nineteenth-century rice mill, as well as yet undiscovered archaeological resources. The site is owned by the Department of Natural Resources, a state agency, and is accessible to the public, though use is generally limited to hunting activities. During the summer of 2006 I participated in an internship project with Historic Charleston Foundation in which we documented the buildings and submitted a report to the Department of Natural Resources. The report includes archival research, measured drawings and suggested immediate actions that should be taken to prevent any further deterioration. Currently there is no plan for the care, rehabilitation or interpretation of the structures or site. In all likelihood the cultural landscape will continue to deteriorate and the site will only be preserved as a conservation resource and for use as a hunting ground. With that in mind I have attempted to propose an alternate use for the site that would inspire a broad audience.
The written portion of this thesis reflects the research of five main themes. First is a discussion of the ruin as an art form, of how ruins are interpreted through historical memory, and how they can be interpreted as part of a symbolic landscape. Second, significant historical themes are addressed. Third, case studies are provided to introduce diverse philosophies for interpreting historic sites. Fourth, cultural heritage management and cultural tourism are discussed as means of maintaining and providing an audience for the site. Finally, a conservation plan for the rice mill is included in order to provide a record of early building technology and guidance for repairs and maintenance.
This thesis will propose that Comingtee Plantation be used as a site to interpret and publicly display artifacts excavated from the entire region of the Cooper River National Historic District. The mission of the center will be to provide accurate representation of the Cooper River plantation system as it functioned in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with a focus on African and African-American lifestyles. The methodology of the center will be to retrieve data and publish the findings in a scholarly manner.
I elected to pursue a design exercise to explore the challenges of developing new buildings in an historic context and to create an appropriate aesthetic for my proposed research and interpretive center. The program for the archaeological center creates a viable use for Comingtee Plantation with laboratory and office space, an interpretive museum, and an educational space.