My first post on Woodlawn Plantation, on November 26, begins with a front/side view of the great house taken in 1938. Since I am interested in why Woodlawn deteriorated as drastically as it did, I think that front/side view, combined with the rear view of the house shown above, will give some very good indications as to what happened.
Though certainly not looking their best, the two side wings seem to have fared quite well. You can see them clearly in the November 26 photo, though in the rear view they are seriously obscured by trees. Both wings were built of brick, stuccoed and scored to look like stone, then painted a pale dull salmon pink, like the main part of the house itself. The shutters were green and the roofs were of slate. Right up until the last, though the shutters and most window panes were broken, the wings look as though they could have been easily restored. They were like the ground floor of the main part of the house itself: of solid brick construction with interiors of lathe and plaster.
The two upper floors were another matter, however. The 1938 Historic American Buildings Survey report shows that they were built not of brick but of wood, with painted wooden battens on the exterior. And, though the massive front columns were of plastered brick with marble Ionic capitals, the high entablature which sits atop them was of wood. In the November 26 photo, it is sagging crazily, and the long wooden balcony with its green wooden railing which ran along the front of the second storey has rotted away. Today’s rear view is even more dramatic: the whole rear of the house is in a state of imminent collapse, and this is surely because 1) it was entirely built of wood and 2) this rear portion contains rooms added later to what was originally built as an open portico above with another open portico below, both running the whole length of the house. If only the entire place had been constructed of solid brick, perhaps it would have lasted much longer.
Colonel Pugh died in 1906, after living in his grand house for more than 65 years. A tin roof, which appears to have begun to decay quite rapidly, at some point mysteriously replaced the made-to-last slate. The rest of the story is easy to comprehend: the rainy climate; the high winds and occasional hurricane; the wooden portions left unpainted and subject to dry rot; vandals breaking windows and shutters and building fires in hearths unmaintained for decades; townspeople using the house as a quarry for free building materials and expensive decorative elements. But if the entire second and third floors and all exterior wooden features had been removed, I think Woodlawn could have been restored. Still, as it is today, in a state of non-existence, perhaps it is the best representation imaginable of the civilization which made it possible in the first place.