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Camden native Elizabeth West to hold book signing Saturday
West and Thompson TONED WEB
From left, authors Karen Thompson Allen and Elizabeth Cassidy West with Cocky, the mascot for the University of South Carolina.

Author, scholar, and Camden native Elizabeth Cassidy West will be in Camden Saturday for a special book signing event.

Books on Broad will host West and co-author Katharine Thompson Allen, authors of On the Horseshoe: A Guide to the Historic Campus of the University of South Carolina on Saturday, from 2 to 4 p.m.

"We are really excited for Camden to have such a wonderful book store and really happy we can do a signing there," West said.

West, who is currently the USC archivist, said the book has been a work in progress for some time. A few years ago, when West’s co-author, Allen, was West’s graduate assistant, one of Allen’s assignments was to create an exhibit on the history of the Horseshoe. This was so well-received it was suggested that West and Allen turn the exhibit into a booklet, west said.

"We did that, and from that the director of USC Press approached us about doing a full-fledged book, and it sort of grew from there," West said.

Founded in 1801 as South Carolina College, the University of South Carolina is one of the nation's oldest public colleges. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia and bound by Sumter, Pendleton, Bull, and Greene Streets, this historic landscape, known today as the Horseshoe, has both endured and prospered through more than two centuries of South Carolina's often-turbulent history, according to USC Press.

The book is a comprehensive, up-to-date overview of the Horseshoe. The book includes a numbered map with corresponding descriptions locating more than two dozen structures on the original campus, and accompanying histories of each one. An accompanying Web site, www.sc.edu/history/horseshoe provides additional information and images for those who wish to further their knowledge of the university's history.

In addition, the book has a foreword written by Walter Edgar, Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at USC, according to USC Press.

"We went through and tried to document things as accurately as we could," West said. "But it’s a little different when you’re actually walking by these buildings and talking about them as opposed to just reading about it. We wanted to have a logical flow."

However, the book is more than just a walking tour of Carolina's original campus, On the Horseshoe features archival photographs and drawings dating back to the nineteenth century, a closer look the Horseshoe's structures and buildings, and profiles of the men and women who lived, worked, and studied in them.

"One of the key things we wanted to do was make it very inclusive of the people who lived and worked on the Horseshoe," West said. "We really wanted to have the people in there – they are what make the Horseshoe so vibrant. It is still a very vibrant part of the campus – any given day, especially nice days, you will see students, visitors, even entire classes out there enjoying the space. That was very important to us."

There were so many people from all walks of life that contributed to the vibrancy of the place, from enslaved people, students, and every day folks to university icons, such as Professor Francis Lieber, a brilliant – and colorful – teacher who once petitioned the university to expel a student for stupidity and J. Rion McKissick, former USC president who is the only person buried on the Horseshoe, she said.

The Horseshoe has been compared to the lawn, a nationally known green space at the University of Virginia, she said.

West said people would probably be surprised at some of the incarnations of the space. Some buildings that stood in the mid-1800s were demolished and replaced with newer buildings – which have survived as the old historic buildings there today. In fact, there is only one 20th century structure on the Horseshoe today.

Up until the 1970s, people were allowed to drive and park on the Horseshoe, she said. Fortunately, a major rehabilitation project was undertaken to save the buildings and make the area pedestrian friendly.

"The administration eventually decided to close the gates and encourage people to be there without vehicles," she said. "This established it as an important green space, right in the center of campus, and actually set the bar for green spaces elsewhere on the campus."

West said she and Allen hope the book is not only an enjoyable read but serves to keep interest in the Horseshoe and what it represents. She acknowledges that it takes money to maintain the buildings and there is a balance the university has to keep between preserving the buildings and meeting the needs of today’s students and faculty.

"The Caroliniana is holding a fundraiser right now because we are in need of pretty substantial renovations – we have one of the nation’s finest collections of Southern manuscripts, but we need some major technology upgrades to properly take care of these collections," West said.

Books on Broad is located at 944 Broad Street, Camden. The event is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase and autographing. For more information call 713-7323 or go to www.booksonbroad.com.