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Blog

An Enlightening Speech (and a Pitcher of Manhattans) at Drayton Hall

Suzanne Pollak

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Drayton Hall Lecture Series at Society Hall; Carter Hudgins: Preserving the Past, Preparing the Future: Celebrating Ten Years of Wood Family Fellows at Drayton Hall.  [Full schedule here.]

The Charleston Academy loves house museums. We are endlessly curious about every nook and cranny of these behemoth beauties from the 18 and 19th Century -- how they were designed, who lived in them, daily schedules -- but mostly we want to figure out if there is anything they did that we should be doing in our own households right now.

On September 17th at Society Hall, Carter Hudgins, acting director of Drayton Hall (America’s first Palladian house, now a house museum), held the audience at Society Hall in rapt attention as he wove historical facts, personalities, stories, photos past and present and described the Wood Family Fellowship’s impact on Drayton Hall, ending with an emotional punch.

Among the lessons learned:

  • John Drayton is something like an 18th century version of Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery.  Based on Drayton Hall’s architecture and other material culture such as the Edwards watercolors, it is clear that Drayton is well-educated and must have spent time in the UK.  However, Drayton Hall doesn’t have any hard written evidence of his travels or education. 

  • The impact of a family foundation run correctly for ten years spreads far and wide.  The Wood Family used a tragedy -- Tony Wood's brother's death as a young college graduate working as a restoration apprentice at Drayton Hall in  1980 and the death fourteen years later of his parents -- to establish a fellowship in the family name ten years ago. This position breathed new life and knowledge into Drayton Hall, and gave nine young scholars a career path.

  • Our messy basements are nothing!  One fellow, Sarah Stroud, organized over one million artifacts stored in zip lock containers since the 1970’s according to excavation context, i.e. in both horizontal and vertical manners. Think of the entire site with an imaginary grid of 5-foot squares superimposed on landscape.  Sarah worked to identify which squares the artifacts came from as well as from layer of soil in the ground.  Thankfully the artifacts were labeled with these details in the 1970s and 1980s.  Now they are being cataloged to learn about what happened across site at various times.  Less than 2% of entire site has been excavated, yet more than one million artifacts have been recovered.

  • Find measuring drapes or hanging paintings difficult? Trish Smith, another Wood Family Foundation fellow, puts us to shame. With the help of Natalie Woodward, Trish meticulously measured every inch of Drayton Hall to develop AutoCAD drawings.  Then she took these drawings forward to complete 3D renderings, so the early interiors, paint colors, furniture, lighting is another aspect of the house museum experience.

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Before the Society Hall event, the Academy hosted a small reception to honor Carter Hudgins and Tony Wood. The party was only one hour long, but it was the first reception in a night of many.

Our advice on staging a 4:30PM cocktail party for 25:

  • Choose one specialty cocktail and only two, at most three, hor’s doervers. NO MORE.

  • Make the guest of honor’s favorite drink. NO reason to set up a full bar; guests don’t need to make decisions.  And FYI, even at that hour, folks in Charleston will drink a cocktail.

  • If there are many parties in one night, insist on yours being first. Yours will be the most memorable -- too much drinking at the other parties makes later memories blurry  -- plus your workload is easier.  Nobody wants much to eat  much at 4:30.

On the Bar:

  • A pitcher of Manhattans

  • Perrier & white wine

  • Bowls of pistachios, Parmesan crisps & chips and guacamole.

 

A Pitcher of Manhattans

Serves 12

3 cups rye whiskey

1 ½ cups sweet vermouth

1 teaspoon Angostura bitters

ICE (Pro. Tip: You can never have enough ice at a party.)

Brandied cherries

Combine whiskey, vermouth and bitters in a pitcher. Stir and store in refrigerator until guests arrive. Put large ice cubes in silver cups or crystal coupes, pour in cocktail and garnish with cherry.