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Professor Patrick Harwood
Department of Communication


Professor Robert Russell
Historic Preservation

Professor Robert Russell


Historic Preservationist Writing Book on Randolph Hall Architect
By Mackenzie Kay

Who ever thought that taking your lunch break while working as an automobile mechanic would lead to a career in art history and historic preservation? That is all it took for Dr. Robert Russell. Before college, Russell worked on cars and on his lunch break he would look through books filled with buildings. He came to a
photograph of a gothic building that grabbed his attention. From there he figured out what he had to do to become involved in this profession.

Russell earned his bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and then moved on to Princeton University, where he would receive amaster's of fine arts degree and his doctorate. Russell previously was a professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., and at the University of Michigan at Dearborn. He has been a professor at the College of Charleston since 1994.

Russell's interests initially were in medieval architecture, which gave him the opportunity to travel to Italy every year to study the buildings. After his family
started to grow he increasingly became interested in American architecture. "It is much easier for me to just ride my bike down the street in Charleston," he said.

Presently Russell is writing a book on William Strickland; an architect who Russell said is "understudied but very important." Strickland is especially important
to the College of Charleston because he designed the main portion of Randolph Hall. Russell's research on Strickland has taken him to Philadelphia 10 times in
the past year as well as to New Orleans, Mt. Vernon in Virginia, Delaware and he is currently planning a trip to Nashville.

Russell says Strickland's carerr warrants a new, in depth examination in part because the last book written about him was published 55 years ago.

Russell also has a particluar fondness for the architecture of county courthouses, and has written a book on the topic, "Cornerstones of Justice, The County
Courthouses of South Carolina." Research for this book took him to every county in South Carolina. He said he found the most interesting courthouses are those found in the small towns only accessible by back roads. The reason Russell finds these buildings to be so interesting is because most of the time they are ignored by the public even though they are so unique to American culture.

He said his interest in courthouses started when he was broke one month and needed a quick way to get money. He decided he would write a coffee table book
on courthouses and 13 years later he is still highly interested in them. "There are thousands of county courthouses in the country and I will never get to them all," Russell stated.

Russell currently lives downtown with his family, which includes four children. He rides his bike to campus every day. In the little spare time that he has he enjoys doing gravestone restoration. Last year Russell restored a stone wall in front of an old church in downtown Charleston with his two eldest sons. They too have taken up masonry. "They realized it pays better than flipping burgers," Russell said. His hobby is his research although it is hard, he said, it is what he loves to do.

At the College of Charleston, Professor Russell teaches Introduction to Architecture, Addlestone Seminar on the Arts, and the Culture of the Lowcountry, The City as a Work of Art, History of American Architecture, History of 18th and 19th Century Architecture, and History of 20th Century Architecture. When he is not in the classroom he can be found in his office at 12 Bull St.