Friday, April 17, 2009


I have been on an amazing journey. Six years ago, the owners of the Elizabeth Barnwell Gough House asked me if I would research and write a history of their home. The request, it turns out, would not only lead to discovering the rich and varied history of the house, but would also lead to my discovering an unexpected career path.

For most of my career, I have been an advertising copywriter. I worked in NYC, won a Clio, served as an international Clio judge and eventually went free lance. In 2002, realizing that the computer was making rapid and radical changes to the world of advertising, I went back to school at Savannah College of Art & Design in graphic design.

It was while I was in school that the owners asked me to take on their house as a project. Eager to put what my new graphic design skills to the test, I agreed with the understanding that I would not only do the research and writing but also design a book to showcase its history.

The rest is, indeed, history. When I began, few things were known about the house, mostly stories that had been passed down from one generation to the next. We now know so much more about the house.

If you have ever visited Beaufort, SC, you know that it has an incredible wealth of history and a great deal of that history has been played out inside the walls of this house. Union Hospital #10 in the Civil War, it received 150 of the wounded the Massachusetts 54th Volunteers following the first assault on Battery Wagner, known to many from the movie "Glory." Ironically, the first "sanctioned hospital for colored troops," it was also the boyhood home of Robert Barnwell Rhett, known as the Father of Secession. Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Esther Hill Hawks, Susie King Taylor, a number of remarkable women have been part of this home's history, including the woman for whom it was built.

With the generous permission of the owners of the Elizabeth Barnwell Gough House, I will be showcasing pages from the book I prepared for them in this blog and sharing with you what my research revealed of the history of this truly grand house. I feel almost as if I will be introducing you to friends of mine, people I have gotten to know through their letters, diaries, wills and the imprint their lives left on others.

The book is divided into one chapter for each of the home's owners. To keep from digressing too far afield from the house and its owners, but in order to include relevant information a number of the chapters are followed by text on events, people or issues that I felt should be included and would be of interest to the reader.

Please note that the material in this blog is copyrighted. It is not to be reproduced without my specific written permission. That said, I hope you enjoy learning about the Elizabeth Barnwell Gough House as much as I have.

Penelope W. Holme