The P.D. Cockfield House is a large two-story dwelling located on the east side of Lake City, South Carolina, on Valley Street. The structure is situated within the town limits and in walking distance to the National Register-listed Lake City Downtown Historic District. It is an example of fine Folk Victorian residential architecture with a wing and front gable and retains a high degree of historic integrity. The exterior contains the original wood that preserves the two L-shaped porches with unique ceilings and balustrades. The character of the house is largely retained and has significant historic features and finishes intact. Most changes to the house occurred to the rear of the building, including a small bathroom addition, the enclosure of a side-porch, and the remodeling of the kitchen. Despite some changes, the house continues to represent an early-20th century Folk Victorian residence.
The P. D. Cockfield House is a large 2,661-square foot house located on Valley Street, east of downtown Lake City in Florence County, South Carolina. The property consists of a Folk Victorian residence and a later garage. The original property consisted of two adjoining lots with one lot used for additional farming.
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Saint Teresa COE
PO Box 645
Lake City SC 29560
The P. D. Cockfield House was constructed in 1905 as a two-story Folk Victorian gable front and wing house, with a two-story L-shaped porch on the front facade. The house was constructed on a brick pier foundation that was subsequently infilled with concrete block and parged over. The house is clad in the original lap wood siding and there is evidence of heavily weathered white paint extant on portions of the exterior. Mid-century era synthetic siding covered the original wood siding for several decades, but was recently removed, restoring the original exterior appearance of the house. The main two-story section of the house features a cross-gable roof. The roof was replaced in the mid-2000s and is covered with architectural shingles. The roof has some damage from recent storms. There are two brick masonry chimneys servicing seven fireplaces within the building; the eastern chimney extends from the roof of the two-story ell, while the western chimney is located at the northern end of the one-story wing. A one-story wing with a gable roof is present on the southwest rear of the house, with a much smaller one-story projection with a shed roof on the southeast end. Unless otherwise noted, the windows of the house are two-over-two double-hung wood sash windows.
The eastern end of the north (front) elevation is dominated by the gable ell, which features one centered window on each floor and a pointed-arch vent in the gable-end. The gable end is framed by the cornice and returns. To the west is the two-story porch. The porch features tongue-and-groove wood flooring and board ceilings. The square porch columns feature flat jigsaw-cut decorative spandrels. The railing has square balusters with square blocks used as decorative features at the top midpoint of each rail section. A set of concrete block steps lead onto the eastern end of the first-floor porch. Ghost-marks of a former set of stairs to the second story porch are visible along the north elevation. These stairs were added to the house when it was used as a multi-family residence and were subsequently removed. On the east side of the first floor porch is a side entry door, while the main entrance into the house is on the north elevation and features a large wood door with a narrow transom. A single window is present on the west end of the elevation. The second floor of the front elevation replicates the fenestration pattern of the first, except for the use of French doors as the main entrance on the second floor.
The east elevation has four standard windows on the two-story northern section, two on each floor, with the windows centered within the two bays. The southern two-story bay features the gable-end with a pointed-arch vent and cornice returns. To the so uth is a small one-story projecting section with a shed roof. A small three-over-one double-hung sash window is centered on the south elevation of the projection. Continuing south, the east elevation recesses to the one-story wing. Most of the east elevation of the one-story wing is a projecting section with a shed roof. This section has a pair of standard windows, followed by French doors, and another standard window.
At the eastern end of the south elevation, the main plane of the elevation recesses and there is an access door and a set of block steps for entrance into the living room. There is a standard two-over-two window south of this entrance, on the east elevation of the southern end of the kitchen wing. On the western end, the southern gable of the kitchen wing features the same cornice and returns as those on the two-story ell. A pair of eight-over-eight wood sash windows are centered on the south elevation of the wing. On the second floor on the eastern end of southern elevation, there are two standard windows on either side of a small three-over-one window. There is no fenestration on the western end of the second floor on this elevation, which is visually bisected by a brick chimney.
The west elevation of the two-story ell duplicates the front-gabled ell of the front elevation. Beyond the ell is the one-story wing. There is a standard window followed by a projecting screened-in porch with a shed roof. The porch extends along the southern half of the west elevation of the wing and covers two standard windows. Central heat and air conditioning units were installed in the mid-2000s along this elevation.
Generally, the interior of the home retains original finishes and features, including hardwood floors, plaster walls, trim (including wide baseboards and crown molding), doors, and fireplaces with carved wood mantels. The front entrance of the house opens into a central hallway with a stair on the west side. The staircase features a turned-wood newel post and balusters. To the east is a large archway leading into the parlor. There is a fireplace centered on the north wall, with a small closet to the east. South of the parlor is a four-panel door leading into the bathroom, which is almost certainly a later addition to the house. To the north of the parlor is a bedroom. There is a fireplace centered on the south wall, with a door to the west of the fireplace connecting the bedroom and parlor. To the east of the fireplace is a closet, likely a later alteration to the room. The larger bedroom closet opens up to the much shallower closet space in the parlor. There is also an access door to the first-floor porch on the west wall.
A cased opening at the rear of the central hallway behind the stairs leads into another bedroom to the west. A fireplace is centered on the south wall of bedroom and a four-panel door on this wall opens into the dining room, which features a fireplace centered on the north wall. To the west of the fireplace is a small closet. The windows to the west are shaded by the screened-in porch. To the south is the kitchen, which was likely remodeled in the 1950s. There is a large pantry on the west side of the kitchen and a smaller pantry on the east side. A door on the north wall of the western pantry leads to the attached screened-in porch. To the east of the dining room is the living room. The living room is accessible via the central hallway, the dining room, and two exterior doors. The living room was created by the enclosure of a side-porch along the east elevation of the one-story wing.
There are three bedrooms upstairs organized around a central hallway. At top of stairs, to the east of the hallway, is the framing of an incomplete bathroom situated in the corner of the southeast bedroom. This bedroom features a centered fireplace and a closet on the north wall. There is some plaster damage on the south wall of this room. To the north is a four-panel door leading into another bedroom. This northeast bedroom has a centered fireplace on the south wall and an access door centered on the west wall which leads out to the second floor of the front porch. There is plaster damage on the north wall. Returning to the central hallway, there French doors on the north wall for access to second-story porch, and on the west wall a four-panel door leading to the west bedroom. The bedroom has a centered fireplace on the south wall. All bedroom floors and hallways are hardwood.
Folk Victorian houses like the Cockfield House are found throughout the United States and were common from around 1870 to 1910. During that period, the advancement of the railroads allowed for increased access to the tools and materials necessary for woodworking, decreasing the cost of adding fine woodworked details to a residence and therefore accelerating the rise of Victorian architecture.
Lake City typified the sort of small railroad towns where Folk Victorian influence spread in those years. Known for most of the nineteenth century as “Graham’s Crossroads” and officially named “Lake City” in 1883, the town developed near the intersection of two key colonial-era routes connecting the South Carolina cities of Georgetown and Camden, and Charleston and Cheraw. In the 1850s, the Northeastern Railroad (later the Atlantic Coast Line) laid the first track through Graham’s Crossroads, passing just west of the future site of the Cockfield House on Valley Street. As business and residences grew up near the tracks before and after the Civil War, economics and kinship kept the town connected to the surrounding countryside, where agriculture defined daily life. In the antebellum era, area plantation owners relied on large enslaved workforces to cultivate primarily cotton, to the point that, in 1860, some 66 percent of the county’s roughly 15,000 residents were African American.
Ties between town and country persisted through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, though many of those connections changed forms as tobacco replaced cotton as the region’s major cash crop, and as large landholders could no longer rely on chattel slavery as a source of labor. Sharecropping took hold after the Civil War as the most common labor arrangement on former plantation properties where tobacco and cotton were grown in mass quantities. At the same time, more and more farmers also took up truck farming and regularly carted in bushels of produce to be sold downtown, with Lake City eventually coming to be regarded as perhaps the most diverse agricultural market in the Carolinas. By the 1930s, it boasted the largest strawberry market in South Carolina and what was believed to be the largest bean market in the United States.
The Cockfields were among the local families with roots in the countryside who also became part of the nascent turn-of-the century town of Lake City, where P.D. Cockfield had his house built at 125 Valley Street. People with the surname “Cockfield” owned property in the Lake City area as early as the colonial era, with the family’s holdings expanding over the course of the nineteenth century. By 1850, P.D. Cockfield’s grandfather, Washington Cockfield, owned approximately 4,000 acres of land, nearly 600 of it improved. Dozens of enslaved African Americans worked Cockfield’s property, growing rice, cotton, sweet potatoes and other crops, while also tending livestock. While many members of the family continued to live on their country farms into the twentieth century, P.D. Cockfield and his two half-brothers, Isaac and Jessie, were among those Cockfields who chose in those years to make their home in downtown Lake City.
Born in 1867, Perry Davis Cockfield was a successful local farmer whose relocation to Lake City and construction of the Folk Victorian home at 125 Valley Street allowed him to immerse himself more fully in the local community and become a well-known member of the town’s white business class. When Cockfield began contemplating a move downtown in 1904, the County Record newspaper felt it worthy of mention and assured readers he had “no idea of giving up his farm,” describing Cockfield as “one of the best farmers in his section.” Relocating in-town would put Cockfield in closer proximity to Lake City’s diverse agricultural market, but, as the County Record noted, it would also put his family nearer the city’s school system, which was among the most immediate reasons for their move. After he and his family took up residence on Valley Street, Cockfield at different times served on the predecessor to today’s Lake City Council and was elected City Warden.
The construction of the P.D. Cockfield House illustrates the bonds of kinship within the Cockfield family as well as their deep collective roots in the Lake City area. Family tradition holds that the house at 125 Valley Street was built by P.D.’s brothers Isaac and Jessie (with the former’s assistance), who were skilled carpenters. This oral tradition is at least partially corroborated by the 1920 United States Census, which lists Jessie F. Cockfield as a carpenter living in Lake City. As well, the lumber used to build the house is said to been harvested from the family plantation outside of Lake City, where generations of labor (most of it forced) had made possible the family’s local prominence, including P.D.’s ability to make a name for himself in Lake City society. Work on the house commenced in the summer of 1905 and the Cockfield family took up residence at the new house by mid-October of the same year.
The Folk Victorian style that Cockfield used for his new town home may have appealed to him for its balance of ornamentation and economy. The wing-and-gable form at the core of the Cockfield House is typical of the Folk Victorian style, which applied Victorian ornamentation to traditional folk house forms established in the mid-19th century. In classic Folk Victorian fashion, the exterior decorative elements of the house are limited to the porch and the cornice. The two-story L-shaped front porch features square wood columns with flat jigsaw-cut spandrels. The spandrels are the most elaborated architectural detail of the exterior. The porch railings have square balusters, with the center baluster of each section topped by a square wood piece to add further visual interest to the porch. The cornice is substantial, but simple and classical in its detailing, with returns beneath the gables. Pointed-arch vents in the gable-ends lend a touch of the Gothic to the home’s aesthetic, and the tops of the brick chimneys feature corbeled brickwork. The remainder of the exterior is characterized by simplicity, with simple door and window trim. Features such as the two-over-two wood sash windows and the narrow transom above the front entrance are typical of houses from the period.
The interior of the building, though somewhat deteriorated, retains a high degree of historic integrity with much of its original fabric and finishes intact. The stair in the central entrance hall is characterized by a turned wood newel post and balusters, another element of Victorian woodworking. The parlor connects to the hall via a large archway, providing a dramatic entrance into the main living space. The house contains several original wood fireplace mantels, each one featuring a different decorative pattern of carved wood. Although not elaborate, the mantels are consistent with the simplified Folk Victorian detail present throughout the house. The Folk Victorian character of the house is also preserved in other original architectural elements, including wide baseboards, paneled doors, hardwood floors, plaster walls, and beadboard ceilings.
There are not a substantial number of intact Folk Victorian houses in Lake City. The best comparable residence is the W.T. Askins House, a Folk Victorian home built circa 1895 and located less than a mile away. The essential form of the Cockfield House bears a striking resemblance to the Askins House, and it is possible that the design of the Cockfield House was inspired by the earlier residence. However, the Askins House is considerably more elaborate in its decorative details, with delicate woodwork details on the porch and a bay window on the first floor of the projecting front gable. The fireplace mantels in the Askins House are also of a higher-style and feature classical motifs. The comparison of the two homes reveals the adaptability and variability of the Folk Victorian style. While Askins sought a more intricate, high-style design, Cockfield took essentially the same house form and applied simpler variations of Victorian detailing.
The Cockfield House also represents the tail-end of the building of Folk Victorian residences, which largely went out of style by 1910. This is evidenced in Lake City by two residences on West Main Street built in the early 20th century. The McClendon House, built in 1906, is a large brick masonry residence constructed in an early iteration of the Prairie Style. The house next door, also associated with the McClendon family, is a Spanish Revival home built circa 1910. These houses, both contemporary with the Cockfield House, illustrate the shift away from Victorian design. The Spanish Revival home is indicative of the early 20th century obsession with a variety of revival styles, while the Prairie house represents an early local foray into Modernism. Both houses were clearly built by people of means, probably in a similar social class to P.D. Cockfield. Although the Cockfield House is relatively modest in its architectural detailing, it is a substantial house reflecting Cockfield’s wealth and success. Yet while the design of the Cockfield House is firmly rooted in 19th century precedence, the two McClendon houses represent a shift to distinctly 20th century architecture. Indeed, the simplified detailing of the Cockfield House may be a result of architectural trends moving away from the highly decorative Victorian era. The contrast between the McClendon houses and the Cockfield House demonstrates the evolving tastes of Lake City’s well-heeled residents in the early 20th century. As a relatively late example of Folk Victorian architecture, the Cockfield House is an interesting vestige of an architectural style that was already on its way out in Lake City by the time the house was constructed.
The Cockfield House is a fine, late example of a Folk Victorian residence in Lake City. While not as elaborate as some iterations of Folk Victorian architecture, the Cockfield House nevertheless exhibits the style’s character-defining elements, including its wing and front-gable two-story form, decorative jigsaw-cut spandrels, and interior woodwork. The house is a good example of the application of Victorian decorative features to a folk house form and is one of a small handful of Folk Victorian residences still standing in Lake City.
Soon after the Valley Street home was built, census records note two African American servants residing with P.D. and his family: 21-year-old Liston Cockfield and 15-year-old Mable Cooper. While nothing more is known about Cooper, genealogical research and oral traditions reveal that, going back generations, bonds of blood and law tied together the white Cockfields and the freedpeople who ultimately assumed that surname, including Liston and P.D. The P.D. Cockfield House thus also represents the architectural fabric woven into the kinship between a mixed race family that dates back to the antebellum era, when members of the white Cockfield family held African Americans in bondage.
The earliest confirmed link between the Black and white Cockfields is the 1844 birth of Robert Cockfield, P.D. Cockfield’s half-uncle. Robert was born to an enslaved woman named Lena who was then held in bondage by his father (and P.D.’s grandfather) Washington Cockfield. A light-skinned man, Robert’s parentage is confirmed by oral tradition as well as his 1926 death certificate, which lists “Wash[ington] Cockfield” and “Lena Cockfield” as his parents. The Freedmen, Women, and Children, 1865, Articles of Agreement taken between Washington and his former slaves after the collapse of the Confederacy also lists a “Bob” as one of its signatories, marked with an “X” in agreement to their sharecropping labor contract. After the Civil War, Robert established himself as a farmer on the outskirts of Lake City, working at least for a time on some of the historic white Cockfield family property, as militia enrollments from 1869 show Robert living on the same property as his half-brother, J.A.H. Cockfield. Sometime between 1870 and 1880, he also married Nancy Gaskins, who was most likely enslaved to members of the local white Gaskins family when she was born in 1860. Nancy and Robert ultimately had at least ten children together, including a daughter named Katie who was born in 1889. Katie Cockfield eventually married Liston Cockfield, born the same year as Katie to Amos and Nora Cockfield, and who may have been her distant cousin.
Through their half-sibling fathers J.A.H. and Robert, P.D. and Katie Cockfield were therefore cousins who undoubtedly knew each other as they grew up on or near the family lands east of Lake City. Though it’s unclear when exactly Katie married Liston Cockfield (they had a child together as early as 1913), their marriage would have therefore also made Liston and P.D. cousins-in-law. Given the smallness of the Lake City community and the close ties between the Cockfield family, P.D. may have known, or at least known of Liston apart from his eventual marriage to Katie, knowledge that may have inspired his employment of Liston at his new downtown home. Perhaps Katie and Liston were already together by 1910, and Liston’s work at P.D.’s house somehow owed to Katie’s and P.D.’s familiarity with one another as cousins. Any conclusive explanation for Liston’s employment at 125 Valley Street will likely remain elusive, as by 1920, neither Liston Cockfield, Mable Cooper, nor any other African Americans are documented as living at the residence. Tragically, Liston Cockfield drowned in March 1915, soon after Katie Cockfield became pregnant with their second child—a girl born that August and named Nora, the same name as Liston’s mother.
Nonetheless, whatever the circumstances that led to Liston being among the residents at 125 Valley Street, they undoubtedly reflect the deep connections between Lake City’s Black and white Cockfields, ties that stretch into the past as well as the present. Indeed, few illustrations of those ties are as vivid as the fact that 125 Valley Street is today owned by a descendant of Cockfield slaves, Dr. Terrie Gaskins-Bryant—the great granddaughter of Robert and Nancy Cockfield, great-great granddaughter of Washington and Lena Cockfield, and distant cousin of the home’s original occupant and namesake, P.D. Cockfield.