14 July 2008

Bay Street from a Child's View, @1800

When the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park was undergoing renovation, the designer of the children's playground called to ask me: "Who were the three most significant figures in Beaufort history? I want to hang portraits of them in the children's playhouse."

Whoa, I thought, what a way to get in a lot of hot water if I don't suggest the right 3 historical figures! Beaufort history is so rich that agreement on just who those 3 should be would be preceded by some vigorous debate. So...

I laughed as I told her, "I'm not getting myself in trouble. I'm just a librarian, a protector and sharer of resources, not a card-carrying historian." Instead, I suggested that an appropriate image for the Waterfront Park playhouse might be a copy of our Campbell watercolor. It was done by a child of his own hometown. Children romping in the park today would have a very similar perspective of the Beaufort waterfront as Campbell did in 1797.

If you're young enough, limber enough, or short enough to enter the Waterfront playhouse and climb to the 2nd story, you can see a copy of the painting hanging there. For the less agile, the Christensen copy hangs behind the Reference desk at Beaufort Branch.

The painting has an interesting history. The original watercolor, done by 13 year old Beaufort native, John Barnwell Campbell (1784-1847), burned in the big fire of 1907. Luckily, State Senator Neils Christensen had borrowed the Campbell painting a few years earlier in order to make a copy of it.

Here is what Senator Christensen said about his artistic process in a letter dated September 11, 1934:

"This copy I made by tracing the outlines of the picture on drawing cloth and then filling in the colors in oil and in water color. I made the copy as accurately as was possible for me so that the colors as well as the outlines were a faithful reproduction."

The child artist, John Barnwell Campbell, became an Episcopalian minister, serving as Rector of St. Helena's Episcopal Church 1812-1821, later serving at St. Paul's and St. Philip's Churches in Charleston District.

Senator Christensen donated his copy of the original Campbell watercolor to the Beaufort Township Library in 1934. The Beaufort Township Library grew into the Beaufort County Library in 1963.

Prints are available for purchase at $10.00 from the Beaufort Branch Circulation desk if you're interested in getting a copy of the print to hang in your home or to give as gifts.

Please note: Use of the image in publications or as a digitized product without the Library’s written permission is strictly prohibited. -- Grace Cordial

The Beaufort District Collection is a division of the Beaufort County Library, a department of Beaufort County Government of South Carolina.

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