122117 Education: Humanities find space with science on Hobcaw
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Ruins of a rice mill are among the historic properties on Hobcaw Barony.

Education: Humanities find space with science on Hobcaw

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

After more than 50 years as fertile ground for scientific research, the 16,000 acres at Hobcaw Barony will find a place for the humanities.

The Belle W. Baruch Institute for South Carolina Studies is a partnership between the Baruch Foundation, Coastal Carolina University and Francis Marion University. It joins the University of South Carolina’s Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences formed in 1969 and Clemson University’s Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, which traces its origins to 1965.

“The human side of the property, that’s been the missing piece,” said George Chastain, executive director of the Baruch Foundation.

The Institute for S.C. Studies hosted archeologists working on a house site from the 1700s over the weekend, just a week after the foundation and the universities announced their agreement. Coastal Carolina plans to do archeological work on Native American shell middens in North Inlet in the spring.

“This joint agreement will open an important new chapter in the research and teaching capacities of our institutions,” David DeCenzo, president of Coastal Carolina, said in a statement.

Fred Carter, president of Francis Marion, said, “It will keep faculty and students from both schools engaged in challenging and vital work for decades to come.”

Because the new institute will focus on the relationship between humans and their environment, “we think it’s an opportunity for the resident institute to work with this institute,” Chastain said.

There are nearly 40 historic structures on Hobcaw Barony, including the winter home of Bernard Baruch, who bought the collection of former rice plantations in 1905, and Bellefield, the house his daughter built in 1937 after he sold her a portion of the property. There is evidence of human habitation on the property going back 10,000 years.

The Institute of S.C. Studies will eventually have space in Bellefield house, Chastain said. The house became vacant in 2003 and is awaiting renovation. The garage, designed by the same architect, could also provide offices and work space for archaeologists. “We’ve got some concepts,” he said.

Since Coastal Carolina and Francis Marion are closer than USC and Clemson, there isn’t the urgency for providing space at Hobcaw for the new institute. The Bellefield restoration will be the focus of a one-time fundraising campaign, Chastain said. The institute will seek research grants and the foundation will offer “seed grants” to initiate research, as it does with the scientific institutes. The institute hopes to attract scholars researching history, archaeology, political science, sociology and other disciplines.

“It’s a way to increase our knowledge of the property and use that to build our education programs and our public programming,” Chastain said.

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