Clemson’s Preservation Master Plan is a living document that connects the University’s rich heritage with its vibrant future
Developing state-of-the-art facilities and top-ranked technological services for Clemson students comes at a price. To institute these improvements in a century-old university, changes must often be made to existing historic structures. Assistant professor of landscape architecture Cari Goetcheus wants to ensure that Clemson’s history is not lost when such changes are made. For Goetcheus, the preservation of Clemson’s historic buildings and landscapes — including its rich stories — is just as important as moving Clemson into the 21st century.
In 2006-07, Goetcheus applied for and received a $160,000 Campus Heritage Grant from the Getty Foundation to assist Clemson with managing and preserving the integrity of its significant historic buildings, sites and landscapes. Clemson was the only South Carolina school to receive a Campus Heritage Grant, and one of fewer than 10 Southeastern schools to receive the award. It provided funding for creating Clemson’s Preservation Master Plan, published in 2009, which provides guidance on balancing conservation of the past with needs of the future.
“Although many people focus on buildings when they think historic preservation, equally as important is their context,” Goetcheus said. “The cultural landscape that evolves around a building reveals just as much about the history of a place as its architecture. Clemson’s campus is a cultural landscape, so it’s important to not only conserve the architecture but also the landscapes — from Bowman Field and Cemetery Hill to the agricultural fields in the Bottoms. All of these elements work together to tell the story of Clemson.”
Through the grant, Clemson was able to hire John Milner Associates (JMA), a nationally renowned cultural resource firm that worked hand in hand with Clemson to assess the campus’ current historic buildings and landscapes. Using information assessed by JMA, Goetcheus spearheaded Clemson’s creation of a Preservation Master Plan, which details the historic significance and integrity of each building and landscape across the 1,400-acre campus. The plan also sets forward specific goals and actions needed to preserve these buildings and landscapes as Clemson adapts to meet the demanding technological needs of a university in the 21st century. In its current form, the plan is awaiting Board of Trustees approval so that the document can be officially amended into the current campus master plan, making it a dynamic action plan for the University.
“The preservation plan is a great resource for the campus,” said Clemson’s Director of Campus Planning Gerald Vander Mey. “It very thoroughly documents the essential characteristics of our historic properties and provides important background that has never been compiled before. As the campus continues to change and grow, the plan will be an important source of information as we consider how to treat our best and most beloved buildings and landscapes.”
For many alumni, this work to preserve Clemson’s campus is extremely important. Eighty-nine-year-old Margaret Oates Goodman has seen generations of her family attend Clemson and feels that Goetcheus’ work is truly significant.
“I love how so many things at Clemson stay the same. My husband’s father attended Clemson in the late 1800s, and I remember him telling stories of attending classes in Tillman Hall. Preserving buildings and landscapes to protect these memories for generations to come is so important.”
Because of Goetcheus’ efforts, students have also gained hands-on knowledge in this preservation of Clemson’s history. She aided in making the JMA campus evaluation a trans-disciplinary affair, including students from many academic backgrounds in the learning process. More than 25 students from the historic preservation graduate program listened to JMA consultants as they shared about their work. Students from architecture, geography, art and history also gained from the consultants’ experiences.
Once JMA completed their assessment and the plan was in place, Goetcheus really got to work.
“I knew that this plan would be just that – a plan on paper – unless steps were taken to have buy-in from the entire Clemson community. Everyone needs to understand the plan in order for it to really take effect,” she said.
To gain this support, Goetcheus began the project with an advisory committee containing representation from every aspect of Clemson – academia, housing, facilities, grounds, board of trustees, CFO, students, city historians and more. From the advisory committee input to the end of the planning process when a two-day preservation workshop for the maintenance crew was held, buy-in has been the priority.
At President James Barker’s request, Goetcheus invited representatives from other South Carolina higher education institutions to participate in this unique workshop. As preservation workshops for maintenance staff are few and far between, many schools sent representatives to gain hands-on preservation experience.
The first day of the workshop focused on the basics of campus preservation, as Goetcheus and the University explained the ins and outs of cultural resource preservation. The second day provided practical experiences for the workshop participants, as mini-seminars showcased preservation techniques. From applying masonry to installing windows, participants gained knowledge not only in their own specialties but also in preservation techniques outside their field.
“The maintenance workshop was truly unique,” Goetcheus said. “With help from the preservation faculty and students, the workshop really showed how to complete a project correctly. The maintenance crews are the first line of defense for preservation – they’re the first people to notice changes and hence, if they know what questions to ask prior to repairing things, they can repair the resource and maintain historic integrity.”
“Plans like this one are never the result of one person,” she said. “Will Hiott, director of Historic Properties on campus; Ashley Robbins, director of the historic preservation graduate program; and Fred Holder, avid historian, helped especially. With their help, and the help of many others, this plan can aid in protecting the historic integrity of Clemson for generations to come.”
The entire preservation master plan, including JMA’s evaluation of Clemson’s historic buildings and landscapes, can be found online.
A Brief History Story
When the original Clemson trustees were tasked with constructing the first buildings on campus, they knew two things were important: building a chemistry facility and erecting a home for Mark Bernard Hardin. As Clemson would receive initial funding from analyzing the composition of fertilizer, a chemistry facility was needed to conduct this work. Having hired Hardin as overseer of this project and as Clemson’s first chemistry teacher, the trustees needed to find him a place to live quickly since the school needed the fertilization money to fund the school.
As plans were drawn for these initial buildings, the trustees sought workers to lay bricks, and they turned to an unlikely source – convicts. Housed in the ravine (now the location of the Cooper Library and Strom Thurmond Institute), these workers laid the original bricks for Clemson’s first academic building, then called Chemistry, but now designated as Hardin Hall.
While the convicts manufactured the bricks on campus, other materials like granite were shipped in by train. When the trains pulled into the area, the convicts met the stopped trains at what is now known as the Blue Ridge railroad depot, located near the Hopewell House. The materials would then be carted to campus down a rudimentary road so that construction could continue. The history behind the road used by the convicts, and later used by cadets when arriving to campus, was uncovered as Goetcheus chaired the creation of Clemson’s Preservation Master Plan. Preserving this road, and the stories behind historic landscapes like these, was one of the many reasons Goetcheus believed that Clemson needed a preservation plan.
Editor’s note about the author: Sarah Brown is a graduate student in Clemson’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication program. She represents the fourth generation of her family to attend Clemson, following in the footsteps of her father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
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