Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Four freshmen at the American College of Building Arts endured a very public final examination Friday – in addition to an audience of reporters asking them questions as they worked, their work will forever be part of the terrain at the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site.
They laid brick showing the outlines of the foundation of the 16th-century Izard House; future classes will continue the work by showing some of the interior details like doors and fireplaces.
The project will help visitors to better visualize how the site once looked. With the exception of the St. George’s bell tower, Colonial Dorchester today is a quiet green space.
Before the American Revolution, however, it was a pleasant village and trading spot along the Ashley River. Beneath the grass and trees on the site today are the remains of homes and businesses, making the site “one of the most significant archeological sites in the United States for colonial period research,” according to Park Manager Ashley Chapman.
Most of the site remains buried, “still here waiting to be discovered,” he said.
The partnership between the park and the college was facilitated by MeadWestvaco, which saw an opportunity to bring together two entities that hadn’t worked together before.
MeadWestvaco funded the work with a grant of about $7,000, and the college provided the labor and planning.
Simeon Warren, dean of the college, said it took three years of planning to get to the point of actually building the outline.
The students had to develop a plan that would be acceptable to the state park system and wouldn’t affect the environment or the original foundation, he said.
The foundation is being built with modern brick, he said, to make it clear the structure is a replica and not the original.
Although the brick and tools are modern, the techniques are classical, said retired Lt. Gen. Colby Broadwater, president of the college.
The college is always looking for opportunities for students to work on real projects that benefit the community, as opposed to creating items in class and then destroying them, he said.
Kenneth Seeger, president of MWV Community Development and Land Management, was on hand Friday to watch the students work.
The site was in MeadWestvaco’s hands for a time, but the company donated it to the state parks in 1969.
“It’s great for the community to learn more about their roots,” he said.
Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, agreed. The department is looking at ways to partner with the town of Summerville, which recently annexed the site, in areas like adding docents or hosting reenactments, he said.
Attendance at state parks was at an all-time high last year, and he expects the numbers to be as large or larger this year.