Gaillard Performance Hall Investigations

SKANSKA-Trident staff inspect graves exposed on February 13, 2013.

SKANSKA-Trident staff inspect graves exposed on February 13, 2013.

On February 5, 2013, construction workers discovered human remains at the Gaillard Performance Hall construction site in downtown Charleston, SC. After coordination with the County Coroner, The City of Charleston Department of Parks Capital Projects Division enlisted Brockington to assist in the design of appropriate actions to deal with these remains. Using equipment and staff from SKANSKA-Trident and its subcontractors, Brockington archaeologist Dr. Eric Poplin determined that the remains were associated with one of two graves exposed in a proposed storm drain trench on February 6. Additional construction excavations were planned in this portion of the site so a plan to determine if additional graves were present was developed and, due to heavy rains, implemented on February 13-14, 2013. Twenty-nine graves were exposed over a 20 by 12 meter area near the intersection of today’s Anson and George Streets. Construction activities were then rescheduled to avoid this portion of the site until the graves could be dealt with in concert with South Carolina abandoned cemeteries statutes.

Working closely with the Coroner’s Office and the City’s Legal Department, Capital Projects and Brockington developed a program to exhume the individuals as quickly as possible to ensure the proper and respectful treatment of the buried people. Working in concert with Bob Parks (licensed funeral director with Stuhr Funeral Chapels and Crematory), Brockington archaeologists exhumed the remains of 37 individuals between February 20 and March 1, 2013. Expansion of the area excavated on February 13-14 to expose completely several graves along the margins of the initial excavation resulted in the discovery of eight additional graves. Frequent rain hampered continuous work but focused effort and extended work days ensured that the exhumations were completed as quickly as possible.

Brockington archaeologists excavating graves at the Gaillard Performance Hall site.

Brockington archaeologists excavating graves at the Gaillard Performance Hall site.

Limited background research conducted by Brockington historian Charlie Philips prior to the exhumation laid out the property ownership of this portion of the City of Charleston from the 1690s through 1968, when the City of Charleston acquired the lands and built the original Gaillard Auditorium. There is no indication in any of the deeds, grants, or maps reviewed to date that a cemetery was present in this portion of Charleston. The first house was constructed here soon after 1761, immediately after the purchase of these lands by William Ellis. Ellis’ house stood approximately 20 meters south of the southernmost grave. During the 1780s-1810s, the Ellis land along Anson Street was subdivided into individual residential lots which were occupied until the late 1960s. Late eighteenth and nineteenth century house foundations were encountered on the margins of the area excavated around the graves and helped to define the limits of undisturbed burials. Many artifacts associated with the residential occupations were observed in fills above the graves, although all artifacts encountered in the grave shaft fill date from the first half of the eighteenth century. These pieces of historical and archaeological information indicate that these graves may be the earliest group of individuals exhumed in the City of Charleston, with interments occurring sometime between the 1690s and the 1740s.

With all of the remains removed, construction work resumed in the area of the graves and attention turned to the identification of the people who were buried in this portion of the City. Charleston City Council deferred selection of a location for the reburial of the exhumed individuals until more detailed historical research could be conducted. This includes an analysis of buttons, coins, and other artifacts associated with individual graves; and skeletal analyses can provide information about the date and origin of the people interred at the Gaillard Performance Hall site. These investigations are ongoing and will continue through the remainder of the year. Once complete, we hope to have a good sketch of one portion of the people who lived in early eighteenth century Charleston.

Employee Profile: PATRICIA STALLINGS, M.A.

Senior Historian and History Department Head in Brockington’s Atlanta Office


Young Patricia Stallings

Q: What is your role at Brockington, and how long have you worked for the company?

A: I came to work at Brockington in October 2002, and I now serve as a Senior Historian in the Atlanta Office and head the company’s history program.

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I majored in history at North Georgia College, and then went to the University of Georgia for my master’s in history. While at UGA, I wrote a paper on race relations at the Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm in Jackson County (Georgia) using their records which dated back to the late eighteenth century. I began volunteering as a docent and through that was introduced to UGA’s Historic Preservation Program, which had a working relationship with the farm. Eventually, I took more classes and obtained a certificate in preservation studies to complement my master’s degree. I enjoy learning, and at times my family wondered if I would ever get out of school!

Q: How did you become interested in cultural resources management?

A: I’ve always been drawn to the ‘public’ aspects of history. When I was little, I never had a desire to go to Disney World or places like that. I was the odd kid who made my parents take me to historic houses, battlefields, and museums. To me, history was real, and not just something forced in school. I remember going to Wakefield, George Washington’s birthplace in Virginia, when I was about ten years old. On the way to the house, the docent explained that it was a reconstruction. I asked my mother what that meant and when she told me, I refused to go in because it wasn’t the real thing! My days as a purist were short-lived, though; we went back a few years later and I compromised my principles and went on the tour. Long story short, I likely wouldn’t have become a historian had it not been for the efforts of earlier generations to preserve (and even reconstruct) history for the rest of us.

Patricia at football field

Q: What are your main research interests or other specialties?

A: After working on several projects over the years for FERC re-licensing, as well as writing Corps histories, I’ve really developed a strong interest in the architecture of hydropower facilities. It’s just one “dam” project after another!

Q: What do you think is a common misconception about cultural resources management or historic preservation?

A: That we want to preserve everything!

Q: What is your favorite project that you have worked on while at Brockington?

A: After ten years, it’s hard to pick just one. Anytime I get tossed in the briar patch of archival research I’m pretty happy, whether it’s armored vehicle maintenance, the electric industry, or a certain type of architecture. If there’s one aspect I really enjoy about CRM, it’s the opportunity to learn about so many different things. I suppose if I had to pick a favorite project, though, it would be the archaeological data recovery at Point Peter near St. Mary’s, Georgia. There aren’t too many War of 1812 period sites in the south, so that truly was a rare opportunity to uncover a forgotten piece of American History. It was one of my first CRM projects, too, and it really helped me understand the value of our industry.

Q: Are you involved in preservation outside work?

A: Yes, I serve as Vice-Chair of the City of Winder’s Historic Preservation Commission and also on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Barrow Preservation Society.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: I enjoy playing golf, listening to classical music, traveling, and fishing at the family farm. I’m also a diehard Georgia Bulldog, so the fun really starts when the college football season begins. I go to all the home games with my best friend (she leaves her husband at home with the kids), and I usually travel to a few away games each season. I even have a rubber gator that hangs on my bumper for the Georgia-Florida game. We open at Clemson this year and I’m already sweating bullets. GO DAWGS!!

Employees volunteering at the Atlanta Beltline.

Trees Atlanta for the Atlanta Beltline

On March 30th folks from our Atlanta office volunteered to plant native grasses along the Eastside Trail portion of the Atlanta Beltline with Trees Atlanta. As a major component of the Eastside Trail's landscaping, Trees Atlanta volunteers will plant more than 109,000 native grass bulbs to create 11 acres of prairie along this portion of the Beltline. Though it was knee-breaking work, each one of Brockington's volunteers planted about 150 bulbs! When complete, the native grass prairie will be a welcoming oasis in the middle of a rapidly developing section of in-town Atlanta.

Jeff Gardner presenting award to Bartram Trail Highschool student.

Technology Award for Student-built Website

On March 7th Jeff Gardner presented the Brockington Award for Technology to a team of Bartram Trail High School students at the inaugural St. Johns County History Fair in St. Johns, Florida. The theme of the fair was “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, and Events.” The award-winning project was a website entitled The Transistor: Catalyst of the 20th Century, through which the students convincingly demonstrated their thesis that the invention of the transistor “revolutionized the world.” Money donated by Brockington through our Community Service Initiative provided for a cash prize to the award recipients toward sending the students to the upcoming state competition.

The History Workshop:
The Powder Magazine Exhibit Opens with a Bang

The Powder Magazine Exhibit Opens with a Bang

For the past six months the History Workshop has had the pleasure of helping museum director Alan Stello develop, design, and install new exhibits to celebrate the 300th anniversary of The Powder Magazine in Charleston, South Carolina. Built in 1713, the Magazine is the oldest public building in the state. During the years following the founding of the Carolinas the new English colony faced threats from the French and Spanish, pirates, American Indians, and slave uprisings. To defend and protect the city a fortified wall was built between 1690 and 1700. A substantial Powder Magazine was built in 1713. When completed the magazine could store five tons of black powder. The building continued to be used for munitions storage until the end of the American Revolution.

This historic building was saved from destruction in 1902 by the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of South Carolina and has served the city of Charleston as a museum for over one hundred years. In the early 1990s as part of a major restoration project designed to stabilize the building, The Charleston Museum conducted archaeological investigations at the site. Artifacts from these excavations were used in the new exhibits. The new exhibits developed and designed by the History Workshop explore the military, architectural, and social history of the building. We created large interpretive panels, reader rails, and artifact and other interpretive displays. As part of the design, we developed a new logo for the museum. It creates a distinct look for the museum and is used on the new outdoor trade sign and entrance signs which have already helped increase visitorship. The grand opening of the exhibits was scheduled for April 20, 2013 and included drum and fife and musket demonstrations, a visit from Mayor Joe Riley, an unveiling of the new exhibits, and cake!