Volumes that Speak: The Architectural Books of the Drayton Library Catalog and the Design of Drayton Hall

Patricia Ann Lowe, Clemson University


Drayton Hall, an early eighteenth-century plantation house on the Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina, is widely considered to be the first Palladian house in the United States. Now owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Drayton Hall is something of a laboratory for the study of archaeology, landscape architecture, material culture, social history, and historic preservation. Though new discoveries are made almost every day at Drayton Hall, the origins of the house’s design remain unknown.

In 2009, the Drayton Library Catalog was discovered within the Drayton manuscript collection containing references to seven popular eighteenth-century architectural books. By comparing measured drawings of Drayton Hall to designs found in these seven books, this project examines the origin of the house’s design in the context of published sources that would have been available at the time of its construction. While some of the books discussed have been previously identified as sources of inspiration, this project led to the discovery of a correlation between a pattern book plate and executed design from one of the seven books in the Drayton Library Catalog.

The scope of this project was limited to the seven books in the Catalog and the previously identified sources. For that reason, measured drawings of the interior are included so that this document may be a tool for future studies outside the parameters of this project.