It’s easy to cast aside what you have at home in favor of foreign pastures. I’m guilty of it myself. You know, it’s exotic and new, and far far away. But I think that we all owe ourselves, and our local towns closer consideration. Some of my favorite places in the world are right here in South Carolina. With that in mind, I came across a day this past February that I knew I wasn’t going have to work. So I hopped in my truck and drove up to Camden.
While visiting Camden I found out that it’s the oldest inland town in South Carolina. Founded at the behest of King George II in 1732, it was a part of a series of settlements plotted out along South Carolina’s waterways. After the Revolutionary War, when the British were kicked out, they ended up raising a lot of the buildings. Then fire consumed large parts of the town in 1812 and then again in 1829, so unfortunately there aren’t a lot of buildings that survive before 1800.
However, the buildings that did survive are pretty nice. A lot of attention was given to maintaining the towns vernacular architecture. Just go stop by the Bonds-Conway house and you will know what I mean. It’s small, but the town put a lot of resources into getting it right–and it shows. All of the plaster, trim details, proportions, and materials used, show a well researched and dedicated commitment to preserving our built environment.
The town of Camden was quiet, and exhibited the Southern vernacular flavor of Americana. You know… A few cross-roads and store fronts, but the town has it’s own distinct flavor that really makes it worth visiting. I’m sure there is someone who already wrote a book on it, but it strikes me as I write this that the layout of old American towns like Camden are truly a unique feature of our shared architectural tradition. The next time you drive through one, stop and soak it up.
While I was in town, the folks there were exceedingly gracious and I would like to give a special thanks to the kind people at the Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site and the Kershaw County Historical Society for sharing there rich history with me.