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SCAD students explore LeConte
Textile students work with materials at the former rice plantation near Riceboro. - photo by Photo provided.
On Sept. 17, 36 Savannah College of Art and Design students and three instructors visited the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation near Riceboro to learn about the site and the projects they will be involved in this fall quarter.
The LeConte-Woodmanston Foundation, Inc., the property’s owners since 1993, have undertaken an aggressive improvement plan for the site. According to foundation Executive Vice President Mary Beth Evans and SCAD architecture professor LaRaine Montgomery, these plans could see the two organizations engaged in a partnership for years to come.
Two classes, under the guidance of Montgomery and fibers department professor Liz Sargent, will combine to create 12 two-person teams to design a chapel/amphitheater, called Praise House, for the historic rice plantation. Praise House is named after the buildings commonly constructed on area plantations for those enslaved to worship, one of which existed at Woodmanston. Funding for the project will be sought once plans are in hand.
“Praise House will function as a wedding chapel, for income, and an amphitheater - a venue for small concerts, art exhibits and special events,” Evans said.
When asked by a SCAD student what the capacity of the building would be, Evans deferred to the students and their instructors.
“150 at minimum ... plus whatever you determine arts events could entail.” Montgomery suggested that the structure might be designed to hold 230, the number of persons enslaved at Woodmanston at its peak.
Ground was broken in July for “The Walk: An African-American Tribute” at Woodmanston, a 50,000-square-foot brick walkway honoring those enslaved on Liberty County plantations circa 1860, scheduled for completion in spring 2010.
A third SCAD class this fall will design, build and install boardwalks, bridges and rest stops under the eye of first-year architecture professor, Christine Wacta, as part of a nature trail improvement and expansion project. The site’s trails mostly run atop historic dikes constructed by slave labor for rice cultivation in the 1700-1800s.
Mary LeCounte Baggs, a Woodmanston slave descendant and lifelong Liberty County resident, spoke to the students about her connection to the plantation and about the LeConte pears her grandparents sold more than 100 years ago. George Boroughs, a LeConte family descendant, told of the French Hugenot family’s coming to American in search of religious freedom and of Woodmanston history.

Evans is president of the LeConte-Woodmanston Foundation.
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