An old rice plantation is up for sale, and I am disturbed

Go to any real estate website (I used Trulia) and look for ZIP code 29440 or Georgetown, SC. An old antebellum rice plantation called the Chicora Wood Plantation (yes, it has its own Wikipedia page) is up for sale for $15,000,000.

They go on and on about how old and historic and beautiful it is, and they mention the “servants’ quarters,” but I’m thinking you know and I know perfectly well that they had slave quarters too – probably not the same thing as the servants’ quarters. The Wikipedia page says they had as many as 630 slaves.

If I had 15 mill to throw away I’d buy it and tear it down. Maybe burn it down. Except it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, so I guess you can’t do that.

Probably the South is full of these big old antebellum houses. Probably South Carolina is packed with them. Who would buy such a house? Who could feel at home there? Fifteen million, you should be comfortable.

I don’t even know why this bugs me so much.

People should obliterate everywhere something bad happened.

Just seen Twelve Years A Slave, huh?

eta There’s an excellent article on TYAS and plantation tourism here.

My house was built in 1849 and there are still slaves’ cabins standing in the parcel next to mine. Should I tear down my house?


A3, I don’t know why either, but it bugs me too. It feels like fondly remembering committing some horrendous crime.

The death camps from the Holocaust have not been destroyed. They stand as a witness to the past and a reminder for the future.

Excellent point, but nobody’s trying to sell the death camps as a lovely home.

I know, I’m being stupid about this. (No, I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave. :o )

Again, I don’t know why it bugs me so much.

You have a beautiful home. We all know that. (I was one of the people who chimed in on your paint decisions.) Maybe the difference is you live in an ordinary farmhouse, and not a $15,000,000 manor house. Somebody made an awful lot of money, over a long period of time, from that plantation with its hundreds of slaves. So what the hell’s that got to do with the people who live there now?

Gah, don’t get me started on Thomas Jefferson. Supposedly he loved Sally Hemings very deeply. Six kids! Gah!

What am I doing? :confused:

Jefferson could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin.
Couldn’t make his own nails, tho.

The same reason you’d want to own and live in a medieval castle. Don’t be disturbed. You now have a president who’s part Afro-American. That’s how much things have changed.

Part Afro-American?

I thought he was half African and half white American.

Yeah, I always found the term Afro-American lame. Part African, part white, maybe some smattering of Asian (oh no, that’s Tiger Woods.)

Eh…pretty much every mansion in the world prior to 1900 has been built with the blood, sweat and tears of if not slaves, then certainly indentured or underpaid workers. If we were to pull them all down because of their sordid history, the architectural world would be a poorer place indeed.

And it’s far from over. We enjoy a quality of life today that would be unfathomable without the blood, sweat and tears of if not slaves than certainly indentured or underpaid workers. But these people are far outside my monkeysphere, so while I do understand and commiserate with the OP, I quickly move on from the apparent hypocrisy and remote feelings of ‘this is not right’ because my shiny Android phone is shiny and there’s a sale at Target.

Here’s a lighter take.

As someone finishing up a grad program in historic preservation, we have covered this issue in multiple classes. I vehemently disagree with you on the idea of intentionally destroying the plantation because of the evil that went on there. I actually believe the complete opposite: its history of enslaving fellow human beings is exactly why it should be preserved. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

It does no good to destroy or bury all evidence tied to a shameful time period in our history. Slavery was a huge force and its aftereffects are still strong today - removing the evidence and minimizing discussion can easily lead to people underestimating how bad it was. How can they then actually understand the historical context of voter literacy tests, Jim Crow laws or the Civil Rights Movement? Or the racism that very much continues to exist in the 21st century?

Don’t get me wrong - the vast majority of plantations that have been preserved and are open to the public (as a museum or not) continue to minimize their history of owning human beings. Jennifer Eichstedt’s Representations of Slavery is a good read about this exact subject. There are a handful of preserved plantations that tackle the subject head on and pulling no punches. I’m sure it’s not surprising that the majority of these are owned/operated by African Americans.

Ideally, that’s what I think should be done with this plantation -have a group or wealthy person purchase it to preserve it and to educate people about the slavery that made it possible to have such a grand estate. Done well, the interpretation could be complex, nuanced and (most importantly) honest. It is absolutely possible to love the beautiful home and its gorgeous interiors … And simultaneously be horrified that the owners of such a beautiful home were shockingly brutal and cruel. That dissonance can make the message even more powerful and stay with visitors long after they leave.

Excellent post.

For thought, I believe there’s a subtle distinction between living in/celebrating the house and preserving it as a tangible reflection of what took place there (not that I’d burn it down).

I don’t really understand the OP, it’s a nice stately home built almost 200 years ago. A lot of people would love to live in a nice home with some history instead of a McMansion. If this home has been continually occupied up until the present day it’s highly unlikely much of it is materially the same as it was in the slave era. Some would be, but a shocking amount would not.

I remember hearing the tour guide at Mt. Vernon go through all the things that have been replaced since Washington’s time, not even the floor you walk on there is the same as it was in Washington’s era. Reminded me of the old tale about the ax that had been in the same family for generations.

Also “servant’s quarters” is probably not euphemistic, if the history of the plantation is anything like most then the slave holders who owned it probably had to sell within 10-20 years of the Civil War. Possibly to a nouveau riche Northerner looking for a summer home or such, and most likely servant’s quarters were specifically setup whenever that happened as most wealthy American’s had servant’s quarters in their homes from the mid-19th to early 20th century.

Slaves usually lived in their slave shacks on the property, even house slaves didn’t typically sleep under the same roof as the slave holding family.

IMHO you’re worrying too much about stuff that happened in the past that no person living now had anything to do with, and you’re worried about what a property sells for that isn’t yours.

Would the slave quarters still be standing? I doubt they built those to stand for a 150 years. Whatever is being referred to as servants quarters might well be just that. It’s been a few years since any slaves lived there.

Or what **Martin Hyde **said.