Historic Houses of the Deep South
According to resources like The Architectural Treasures of Early America, The White Pine Series, and The Grandeur of the South towns like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina epitomize classic American architecture of the Deep South.
The “Deep South” includes parts of the U.S. including, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, East Texas, and North Florida. In its broadest sense, the Deep South is roughly coextensive with the old cotton belt, with extensions north and south along the Mississippi, where many estates are planted. This region is also known as the "the cotton states," which primarily relied on plantation farming with cotton as the cash crop.
Specific Southern communities, like St. Michael's and St. Philip's, on the Ashley and the Cooper River, or Millford, in the High Hill of Santee, serve as wonderful examples of Antebellum architecture.
View examples of historic mansions of the Deep South that showcase this classic architectural style.
Antebellum Era Architecture
The majority of these architectural gems were established before the Civil War, known as the Antebellum era (1830 - 1860), which means "prewar" from the Latin ante, "before," and bellum "war."
The antebellum architecture was first developed by European descent settled in the Southern states during the colonial period, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, and a wave of immigration from Europe in 1812. Significant numbers of Europeans sought economic opportunities and emigrated to America after Napoleon's defeat and the end of the War of 1812. They brought with them architectural styling that was typical of Western Europe during that time period.
Today, many antebellum homes are now museums. Due to the Civil War, natural disasters, and neglect, only an estimated 20% of mansions in the deep South remain intact. The monumental houses, servants' quarters and gardens perched on expansive green acres make up the entirety of the plantation. Especially visiting in person, the historic mansions of the Deep South are so extraordinary and captivating.
Characteristics of Antebellum Architecture
Antebellum architecture is characterized by Georgian, Neo-classical, and Greek Revival-style homes and mansions. Distinct exterior features include:
- Multiple stories and levels.
- Massive wrap-around porches and balconies.
- Evenly spaced large windows.
- Grand central entrances in the front and rear of the house.
- Sturdy white pillars.
- Proper proportions.
Standard interior design features included enormous foyers, sweeping open stairways, ballrooms, parlors, and dining rooms, all graced with intricate design work. As fireplaces provided the only source of heat, nearly every room had one.
From the embrace of a French door to a tall, skinny, paneled pocket door, everything made a statement. Ceilings were at least 12 feet in height and trapped the hot summer air. Windows were draped in silk damask and "plantation shutters" were common to block the blinding sun.
Gorgeous plasterwork and moldings were crafted in ornate shapes and patterns, and keystones, rosettes, inlays, medallions, and furniture appliques were used to adorn the room's circumference.
Oak or pine hardwood floors were laid down and painted rugs in canvas, wool, linen, or cotton, in colorful designs known as floorcloths were typical to this era. The most prestigious had prized Italian marble floors and expensive hand-carved and thick-cut Aubusson rugs. Pretty chandeliers, friezes, large pier mirrors, and marble mantles were also popular antebellum interior designs.