Discovering the cultural landcape

Happy Friday everyone! I’ve been pretty busy at OCLP the past few weeks. Last week Eliot and I travelled to Wilmington to perform site research for First State National Monument. It was an extremely productive trip because I had learned so much more about the site’s history and landscape between the first trip and this recent trip, and was better able focus our research efforts to fill in missing gaps. Below is a rough draft of a rendered existing conditions map.

Existing Conditions Map - rendered in Illustrator

Existing Conditions Map – rendered in Illustrator

We visited the Delaware Historical Society and spent long hours pouring over manuscripts, old photos, and historic maps. One really interesting map we found was a map of the Brandywine River annotated by General George Washington. The Brandywine River was an important waterway during the American Revolution, it acted as a natural barrier against the British who approached from the Chesapeake. General Washington intended to defend the British march to Philadelphia through fortification and defense along the Brandywine River. As such – he traversed the Brandywine River noting fording locations that would be potential areas where the British would attempt to cross over. The Woodlawn property is begins just south of where “Gibson’s Ford” (present day Smith’s Bridge) is noted.

1777 - Jacob Broom Map with G.Washington's annotations

1777 – Jacob Broom Map with G.Washington’s annotations

We also visited the Delaware Public Archives where there was a wealth of information like agricultural census data that reveals what was grown in the Brandywine Hundreds in the late 19th century. We also found early roads petition data that helps to paint a picture of how the landscape developed structurally -roads are the backbone of a landscape! Below

Sketch of proposed new road from Smith's Bridge

We also got the chance to visit the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library – the landscape is stunning, full of rolling hills, streams, meadows, and forests. It was a lovely chance to get out the extreme air conditioning of the research archives. Winterthur Gardens

It was a fruitful and productive trip – stay tuned for more updates as I make progress on the historical narrative!

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