The Twentieth-Century Thoroughbred Training Landscapes of Aiken and Camden, South Carolina

Aiken training barn constructed by Thomas Hitchcock c. 1895.

I researched the thoroughbred training centers of Aiken and Camden for my masters thesis. During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, elite northerners developed the South Carolina towns of Aiken and Camden into important winter resorts. South Carolina’s mild winters and accessibility by rail attracted Gilded Age elites to Aiken and Camden’s Winter Colonies. As part of their recreational social activities, the elite winter residents developed golf courses, polo clubs, and fox hunts.

Known as the Buckland Farm Barn, this stable originated as a c. 1930 barn for polo ponies in Aiken. It was later adapted for use as a thoroughbred training barn.

Vacationing thoroughbred racehorse owners like Thomas Hitchcock realized that the mild winter climate was ideal for training, leading them to establish training facilities and tracks during the early-to-mid twentieth century. These training facilities cemented the towns’ statuses as important winter training centers, leading important figures in American thoroughbred racing and major racing farms to construct barns near the training tracks. A number of significant trainers, including many U. S. Racing Hall of Fame inductees trained nationally- and internationally-renowned racehorses in Aiken and Camden.

The ca. 1930 D Barn at Springdale Race Course in Camden.

My thesis traces the development of Aiken and Camden’s equine landscapes including landscape features like tracks, training barns, and outbuildings. These landscapes and building patterns became central to the towns’ identities, as well as their economies. My thesis identifies a distinctive typology of vernacular training barns that emerged in each of the towns and traces the standardization of training barn forms during the mid-to-late twentieth century. It also provides insight into how the equine landscapes reflected class, gender, and racial hierarchies.

Marion duPont Scott developed this unique training barn form when she constructed the Camden Training Center in 1937. She later built barns in this form at Springdale.