Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Planning, Development, and Preservation

Committee Member

Jon B. Marcoux

Committee Member

Barry Stiefel

Committee Member

Stéphanie Cretté

Committee Member

Richard Marks


Millions of tourists flock to Charleston, SC each year to visit the self-titled “most historic city in America,” without encountering the city’s full history. Racism, lack of historic documentation, and indifference omit the stories of Black people, both free and enslaved, from the popular history told about the creation of Charleston. Their historic absence has left researchers and scholars to read between the lines of primary sources and find new tools and methods to gather the information needed to create a more accurate and nuanced picture of the lives of Charleston’s enslaved. This thesis explores whether Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (pXRF) is a reliable method for connecting the brickwork of extant buildings with the brickyard of manufacture. The results of this study will reveal another aspect of the role of slavery in the creation of Charleston’s built environment. Many enslaved laborers were highly trained and talented, and they engaged in skilled tasks such as laying bricks, plastering, creating the intricate carving seen in many buildings, and unskilled manual labor. Analysis of three Charleston area sites supplied the data used in the study: St. Michael’s Church downtown, Pompion Hill Chapel along the Cooper River in Huger, SC, and the brickyard at Parnassus Plantation. Romantic history tells us that the brickyard at Parnassus Plantation produced all the bricks used to construct the church and chapel, but the data reveals that not all the samples collected from Parnassus are compositionally similar to those of the church and chapel. They also show that the church and chapel are compositionally similar to each other. These results show the usefulness of compositional analysis to preservationists and the need for further study of the life of the owner of Parnassus Plantation, Zachariah Villepontoux. During data collection and analysis questions of the accuracy, user knowledge, and the suitability of pXRF for the compositional analysis of bricks had to be addressed.



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