Everywhere you look in the Lowcountry you see orange barrels, broken soil, cleared land and construction materials.
Traffic is re-routed, grand-openings are scheduled and master plans are updated. It’s called progress and it shapes the land, our livelihood and the course of history itself. While all of this activity is both necessary and inevitable, at times it seems as if the shady quiet places are growing fewer in number and harder to find.
Don’t let the busy work fool you. The Lowcountry and coast we know and love may be a continually changing face but this is not only normal, it has also been happening for generations.
One place that this is evident is at Wormsloe State Historic Site in Savannah.
Wormsloe Plantation was founded in 1736 on good land on the marsh-fringed Isle of Hope close to Savannah. The colonial estate of Noble Jones, a confidant of Savannah founder James Oglethorpe and carpenter by trade, was carved out on the edge of the new colony. Through time and tide, the land stayed in the hands of the original family until 1973 when it became a state historic park. Now the 822 acres encompasses nature trails, an interpretive center, living history displays and the tabby ruins of the original house.
Wormsloe plantation was never akin to the white-columned, Tara-like plantations that the coast was later known for but instead was built as a small, wall enclosed house that served as trading post and fort as well as family home. However, Wormsloe State Historic Site possesses one treasure that reminds you of the beauty of coastal living: a 1.5 mile “avenue of oaks” that will take your breath away. When you enter the art deco-era arched gate, you will be enshrouded in a green, leafy tunnel made of sunlight and Spanish moss created by over 400 live oak trees more than a century old. Wormsloe State Historic Site is truly a visit to remember.
Recently, my family and I visited Wormsloe and enjoyed exploring the grounds and history as well as meeting many historical interpreters in colonial dress. Dozens of men and women were participating in the annual “Colonial Faire” event held at Wormsloe. They depicted colonial life in the form of handicrafts, military drill and even festive dancing. Spinning wheels, blacksmith forges, militia tents and even Native Americans camping in the woodlands gave not only a feel for colonial life but provided knowledge and insight as they clearly enjoying their work. Wormsloe State Historic Site hosts several events thorough the year so whether you come to glimpse history, enjoy blooming azaleas or take part in events like a classic car “cruise-in,” you are guaranteed fun for all ages.
Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.Flickr.com and search on the username “greenkayak73.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wormsloe State Historic Site is just 40 minutes from Old Town Bluffton in Savannah. Take SC 170/46 across the Talmadge Bridge to Oglethorpe Street. Get on the Truman Parkway and take the E. Montgomery Crossroads exit. Take a right on Skidaway Road and drive through the historic “Sandfly” community toward the islands. As you cross onto the Isle of Hope, you will see the arched entrance and majestic oaks of Wormsloe State Historic Site on your right. It is located at 7601 Skidaway Rd.
Wormsloe State Historic Site is open year-round Tuesday-Sunday [closed Monday] from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is an admission charge of $10 for adults, $9 for seniors], $4.50 for youth and $2 for children under 6. “Admission-free” events and weekends may be held throughout the year as well as special events for clubs and workshops.
Call 912-353-3023 for more information or visit http://www.gastateparks.org/Wormsloe for attractions and a schedule of events.
Noble Jones: Colonial Renaissance Man
One characteristic of many early settlers in the Carolina Lowcountry and the Georgia coast is the ability to master, if not be proficient at, many different trades.
Some of this was pure necessity. Although jobs such as blacksmith and seamstress were often specialized, the need for individuals to be able to procure wood, build homes and work fields created a common thread of independence and self-sufficiency among many early settlers. Whether you were a militia captain, a wife and mother, a farmer or even an African slave, your ability to survive and thrive seemed often to be determined by your ability to adapt to the world around you and the skills you maintained.
Noble Jones (1702-1775) seemed to be one of these individuals. He and his family survived hunger, disease, war and the hardships of colonial life to establish Wormsloe. In addition to his skills as a carpenter and farmer, he served the colony as Indian Agent, surveyor - establishing Augusta, Ga. - law enforcement officer, militia commander in defense against the Spanish and even family doctor. This man-of-many-trades was both extraordinary and typical of an age that forged men and women of strong mettle and seemed to help anchor a fragile colony into one of the strongest and most enduring communities along the east coast.