Interpreting Life at Hobcaw Barony through Maps and Blueprints

In a prior post, maps illustrated by Rockwell Kent, a guest of Bernard Baruch in the 1920s, and Minnie Kennedy, born at Hobcaw Barony in 1916 to parents descended from slaves, provide remarkably different interpretations of the area’s geography as shaped by access, privilege, and social class. In both examples, the illustrators identified and defined the spaces through which they moved to create individualized geographies of the estate.


Development stage of Hobcaw House navigation based on 1930 blueprint

A blueprint of Hobcaw House drafted in 1930 by Columbia, South Carolina architects LaFaye and LaFaye provides another visual means to contemplate relationships between the Hobcaw Barony’s occupants in relation to space and geography. As a technical drawing, the blueprint guided the construction of Hobcaw House while, by design, engineering the dynamic by which the occupants of the house, the Baruch family, their staff, and servants, would interact, or not.

The first story floorplan separates the house into two distinct areas; a space built for the leisure and accommodation of the Baruch family and their guests, and a utilitarian space accommodating, and somewhat hiding, the day-to-day labor and lives of the servants. Access between the areas could effectively be shut off by closing only two doors, creating physical, and presumably psychological, barriers between the worlds of the served and the servant.

Detail of blueprint showing service wing of Hobcaw House

Detail of Service Wing, Hobcaw House

In the service wing, lunch and dinner for white staff were taken in the servants’ hall, and a separate stairwell led to the white servants’ living quarters. African-American staff did not live in the house and it is conceivable that many African-American staff saw little of the home outside its service areas.


Screenshot of Prototype Navigation, Hobcaw House

Documents such as the blueprint of Hobcaw House and the Kennedy and Kent maps continue to inform how we conceptualize and develop original, interactive environments for the Between the Waters virtual tour. It is the goal of our team to understand the potential of such items as more than visual aids but integral to navigation, storytelling, and interpretation on the site.

Stay tuned!

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