American Landmark: Charles Duell and the Rebirth of Middleton Place


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Charles Duell was 31 years old when he inherited Middleton Place at the time of his grandfather’s death in 1969. His sudden inheritance compelled him to leave a finance career in New York and move his family to South Carolina, where he found the national landmark languishing. Home of a Declaration signer and a First Continental Congress president, Middleton Place also was the residence for hundreds of enslaved men, women and children. As the new man in charge, Duell’s challenge was to preserve the history contained in the houses and lands of his forebears, while also making them sustainable, relevant and accessible for future generations of all Americans. Affirming Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thesis that “there is properly no history, only biography,” American Landmark weaves together myriad biographical stories, introducing the reader to an array of protagonists — both White and Black — who shaped this iconic place and were shaped by it.

SKU: 978-1-929647-65-1 Categories: , , ,

About the Author

Virginia Christian Beach writes for numerous publications on the subjects of plantation history and the environment. A native of Richmond, she earned a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in East Africa. Her previous books include Medway, a history of a Lowcountry rice plantation; Rice & Ducks: The Surprising Convergence that Saved the Carolina Lowcountry, and A Wholly Admirable Thing: Defending Nature and Community on the South Carolina Coast, written with her husband, Dana Beach.

Praise for American Landmark

American Landmark is a fascinating chronicle of a place that served as the genius loci for ten generations of an American family. And it is the story of Charles Duell, the last family member-owner, who had the vision and grit to see that its complete story is told and made relevant for future generations — so that Middleton Place would not just survive, but thrive, in a rapidly changing world.

– Walter Edgar, author of South Carolina: A History

Charles Duell is a man with a vision — he also has the tenacity and ingenuity to make it real. Under his leadership, the Middleton Place Foundation found bold and innovative solutions to the complex challenges that are deeply woven into the history of a 300-year-old southern American plantation. This is his story, as much as it is the story of Middleton Place.

– Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature and The Brother Gardeners

American Landmark skillfully synthesizes history and genealogy, showing the power of the plantation in southern life. At Middleton Place, readers see how a commitment by multiple family generations, especially the resourceful Charles Duell, shaped this remarkable landscape and were shaped by it. It’s a fascinating portrait of a “microcosm of American history,” and source of contemporary debate.

– Bernard Powers, author of Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1885