Southern Romanticism and Cold Realities

I am currently enrolled in a U.S. history course, and it is fascinating to revisit a subject I foolishly yawned through as a boy. For history to hold my boyhood interest, absolute monarchs needed to decapitate other monarchs,  and Holy Fathers needed to commission great art and vanquish heathens .U.S. history bored me to tears with its Puritan roots and quest for democracy, liberty, and freedom.

Fortunately I am not that silly boy .

We are now tackling the Kingdom of Cotton and it’s legacy. Having spent much time in the American South, Virginia in particular, I am familiar with richness of it’s land and the beauty of it’s architecture. The enclosed imagery is from the controversial exhibit “Back of the Big House” Library of Congress, 1995.

The photographs, mostly taken in the 30’s are beautiful, romantic, and haunting.

Barn at Bremo Plantation, Fluvanna County, Virginia

This barn is a stunner, I love the dressed stone Doric columns, the classical bays, the modestly grand clock tower. Perfection.


Bermuda Plantation


Charm, modesty, sweetness.

Chicken House

Blakely Plantation


Seemingly out of Downing’s pattern book “The Architecture of Country Houses”. It modestly expresses the American agrarian ideal.



Even today, this is familiar landscape.


Middleburg Plantation

South Carolina

This is familiar land, the fields, the structures, happy memories.

Slave Quarters

Hermitage Plantation

Chatham County, Georgia

Hauntingly romantic, such sad little houses.

Slave Chapel

Mansfield Plantation

South Carolina

It seems a happy place, the bell, the tidy yard, one hopes the Sabbath offered some relief from misery.

The cold hard reality.

Fannie Moore

former slave

South carolina

photographed ca 1938

This handsome, dignified woman is a chilling reminder of what I love about the South was at her expense.

When does beauty become sinister?


5 Responses to “Southern Romanticism and Cold Realities”

  1. What an amazing course to take. Yet again, you educate with such a wonderful manner. The photographs are haunting.

  2. susannah Gould Says:

    v interesting thank u

  3. Tim Wallace Says:

    I am a descendant of Brig. Gen. John Hartwell Cocke, former owner of Bremo Plantation. It was nice to see his barn included in your pictorial.

  4. babylonbaroque Says:

    A pleasure to “meet” you.
    The barn of Bremo is amazing, I can only imagine the home;what did Bremo produce, have you images of the homestead?
    I need to look more closely into Gen. Cocke, the revelation of how alive history is prompts me to continue with this blog. Thank you for your input.

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