Tag: Middleton Place
The city of Charleston is bursting with culture and history that begs to be explored, but if you venture a little farther outside of Charleston, you’ll unlock an essential piece of Lowcountry history. The plantations near Charleston offer more than lush gardens and stunning architecture. They provide visitors a glimpse into the South’s complicated past, in addition to the old customs and traditions of the Lowcountry.
Whether you’re lucky enough to call Charleston home or you’re merely visiting for a few days, meandering through the Lowcountry’s famous plantations is a must. Take a stroll through the following plantations to experience their undeniable beauty and get a unique look into the intricate history of the South.
As one of the oldest plantations in the South, the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens should not be missed. Founded in 1676 by Thomas and Ann Drayton, this majestic and historical landmark has been occupied by the same family for over 300 years and has witnessed many notable moments in the history of the United States.
However, the plantation’s history isn’t the only thing that draws thousands of tourists to Magnolia each year. The gardens have a rich history of their own, and their luscious beauty makes the Magnolia Plantation one of the top wedding destinations in America.
History of Magnolia Plantation
In 1676, Thomas Drayton and his wife Ann traveled from Barbados to make a life in the new English colony of Charles Towne (later to become Charleston). They built the Magnolia Plantation and a small garden along the banks of the Ashley River, which provided them with immense wealth through the cultivation of rice.
When you take a guided tour of the plantation, you will hear how African Americans brought rice with them to the Lowcountry, transforming the agriculture and economy of Charleston. There are also four slave cabins, where African American slaves lived and worked on the plantation during this time.
The Magnolia Plantation has withstood many difficult times and witnessed prominent events in America’s history. During the Revolutionary War, the Drayton sons would fight as soldiers against the British. Later, the family would undergo hard times when the Civil War broke out and threatened the future of the plantation.
By opening Magnolia Plantation and Gardens to the public in 1870, the Drayton family was able to preserve the plantation and their livelihood.
The Romantic Magnolia Gardens
As the oldest and one of the most famous gardens in America, the Magnolia Gardens are teeming with stunning horticulture. Explore over 100 acres of Romantic-style gardens that offer something special no matter what time of the year you visit.
You can thank Reverend John Grimké Drayton for much of the beauty seen in the Magnolia Gardens today. To make his wife feel more at home after relocating from Philadelphia, he introduced the first azaleas in America and planted the first outdoor variety of camellias as well.
His ministerial career motivated him to recreate the Garden of Eden, and anyone who tours these gardens can see that he did a spectacular job. With its unrivaled beauty and extensive collection of native flora, the gardens are largely what saved the Magnolia Plantation from financial ruin.
Additional Attractions and Tours
After exploring the Drayton house and the gardens, nature-lovers can take a boat or train tour that takes them through the cypress wetland habitat and the location of the old rice fields. On these tours, you’ll get to see plenty of wildlife that call the beautiful Magnolia Plantation home.
In addition to these tours, don’t forget to take the kids to the plantation’s petting zoo and nature center. The zoo contains both domesticated and wild creatures, many of which are native to the state, including the gray fox, beaver and bobcat.
If you’re looking for the perfect combination of natural wildlife and history, Middleton Place should be on your list of places to visit in Charleston. Nestled on the banks of the Ashley River, Middleton Place is home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens, abundant wildlife and historic plantation stables.
It’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported back in time at Middleton Place. Costumed craftspeople work on-site, and heritage animal breeds are present in the stable yards. Handcrafted carriages transport visitors around the carefully preserved plantation, providing an authentic experience.
History of Middleton Place
Built in 1705, Henry Middleton came into possession of the house through his marriage to Mary Williams in 1741. Since then, the plantation has remained under the same stewardship for 320 years.
From colonial times to the years following the Civil War, the Middleton family have played significant roles in American history. Many family members were influential political figures, beginning with Henry Middleton, who was the second president of the First Continental Congress. His son Arthur was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Arthur’s son was the governor of South Carolina and the Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia.
William Middleton, an ardent secessionist, signed South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession in 1860. In 1865, the plantation was occupied by Union troops, who burned the main house and northern wing. William lacked the funds for major restorations, and the small restorations that he did manage were upset by the Charleston Earthquake in 1886.
The following generations dedicated themselves to restoring the plantation and gardens to their original splendor. In the 1920s, the family opened the gardens to the public, and the plantation was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It officially became a National Historic Landmark District in the 1970s.
Life at Middleton Place
The House Museum and Eliza’s House should not be missed during your stroll on the plantation. Both places give visitors a special glimpse into the lives of the Middleton family, the freedmen who served them, and the many enslaved people who worked on the plantation.
The House Museum includes fascinating artifacts donated by the Middletons, including paintings, books, furniture and documents that date back to the 1740s. The house itself is a sight to see, as it is the only portion of the plantation that retains its original structure.
Eliza’s House is a freedmen’s dwelling that depicts the stories of over seven generations of slaves who occupied the plantation’s grounds up until the Civil War. Named after its last occupant, Eliza’s House offers tours to discuss the domestic life of slaves and freed people, in addition to their laborious work out in the rice fields.
Touring the Grounds and Gardens
To experience the beauty and functionality of Middleton Place, seeing the grounds and famous gardens are a must. The plantation’s plentiful land gives visitors the chance to imagine how Middleton Place functioned during the 18th and 19th century. In fact, many of the animal breeds you see at the plantation today were the same ones used to work the land centuries ago.
You can also take a self-guided tour through America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens, which contains centuries-old camellias, azaleas, magnolias and other flora that cover the beautiful grounds.
Situated on the Ashley River about 15 miles south of Charleston, Drayton Hall is the oldest preserved plantation in America, retaining nearly all its original structure and historic landscape. Built in the 1740s, the stunning George Palladian plantation also features a Memorial Arch that represents one of the oldest documented African American cemeteries in the country.
Drayton Hall also happens to be located just down the road from the Magnolia Plantation, making it easy to visit both in a single day if you are feeling ambitious. Whether you dedicate a full day or a half-day, Drayton Hall is a must for those who want to unlock a major piece of African-American and Lowcountry history.
History of Drayton Hall
As the third son in the family, John Drayton knew that inheriting his birthplace at Magnolia Plantations wasn’t likely. The 37-year-old widower decided to purchase property along the scenic Ashley River in the 1730s, where he constructed an elite mansion during the late 1740s.
This architectural masterpiece was inspired by the Renaissance influences of Andrea Palladio and sits on over 630 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Drayton Hall is the only plantation that wasn’t destroyed during the Revolutionary War, making it a rare gem of the South.
Drayton Hall served as the hub for John Drayton’s enormous plantation empire. He owned over 100 plantations that spanned across South Carolina and Georgia, where thousands of slaves grew rice, cotton and indigo, as well as mining for phosphate.
The profits generated from the phosphate mining largely contributed to the Drayton’s ability to recover from the Civil War. Drayton Hall passed through seven generations of the Drayton family and was acquired by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1974. In 1977, it was opened to the public, and many of the Drayton family artifacts can be seen by all.
The African-American Cemetery
In addition to touring the stunning Drayton mansion, the plantation is also home to one of the oldest documented African-American cemeteries in the nation. Dating back to about 1790, the cemetery serves as the final resting place for over 40 people, both freed and enslaved. Some of the graves are named, but most are unknown.
Although touring the cemetery can be a heavy undertaking, it is a necessary stop if you want a true plantation experience. The cemetery grounds have been left in a natural state to comply with the wishes of Richmond Bowens, whose ancestors were enslaved at Drayton Hall. The cemetery and the plantation itself has largely remained unaltered, giving visitors a sense that they have truly stepped back in time.
Venture through the beautiful Spanish-moss-draped live oaks and gorgeous gardens of Boone Hall, and you’ll understand why it’s the most photographed plantation in the country. Located in Mount Pleasant (roughly 10 miles away from Charleston), Boone Hall is also the oldest operating plantation in the Lowcountry and has a thriving modern market.
The enchanting grounds of Boone Hall attract thousands of visitors each year, not only for its spectacular beauty and year-round activities, but also its rich history. Boone Hall’s enthralling exhibits and tours featuring Gullah culture and black history are the best of any American plantation.
History of Boone Hall
Boone Hall Plantation was founded in 1681 when Theophilus Patey was granted 470 acres on Wampacheeoone Creek, otherwise known Boone Hall Creek. It is believed that Patey gave his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Major John Boone about 400 acres as a wedding gift.
John Boone was one of the original settlers of the South Carolina colony and held several prestigious positions, including tax assessor and highway commissioner. The exact date of his death is unknown, but the will he created in 1711 left a third of the estate to his wife and divided the rest divided amongst his five children.
The plantation remained in the Boone family until 1811, when the property was sold to Thomas A. Vardell for $12,000. Boone Hall would have many owners, some of them leaving lasting impressions on the plantation.
When Henry and John Horlbeck came into possession of Boone Hall in 1817, the brothers would begin planting the famous Avenue of Oaks. The brothers were in the brick business, and many buildings in downtown Charleston feature their bricks, including Stephen’s Episcopal Church and St John’s Lutheran Church.
Boone Hall was purchased by Harris and Nancy McRae in 1955 and opened to the public in 1959. Now owned by William McRae, the historic grounds of the plantation can be toured by the public, while the other half of the plantation is used to produce crops such as strawberries, peaches, tomatoes and more.
Gullah Culture and Black History
What sets Boone Hall apart from other plantations is its amazing exhibits and performances featuring Gullah culture and black history.
Their Black History in America exhibit offers visitors the chance to take in educational and entertaining performances that take place in the nine original slave cabins, each built between 1790 and 1810.
Boone Hall is also the only plantation to feature live presentations from contemporary Gullah people who share their unique story and culture with visitors. Taking in a performance at the Gullah Theater is an experience that you won’t soon forget.
Boone Hall Farms Market and U-Pick Operations
Boone Hall has been providing crops and produce for the Lowcountry since the 17th century when John Boone first inherited the land, making it the oldest operating plantation in the nation. Their continued success has allowed them to establish Boone Hall Farms Market, which officially opened in 2006, and the Boone Hall Farms U-Pick fields.
Boone Hall Farms Market features reasonably priced produce that is always fresh and local. Taking part in the U-Pick fields is a fun activity that you can do with the entire family, and you’ll take home a juicy basket of produce that you harvested in these historic farm.
The plantations surrounding Charleston, SC offer stately, historic homes, lush gardens, and an abundance of learning opportunities about early American life. If you’re planning a trip to Charleston, visit a historic plantation site for a rewarding experience that your whole family will enjoy.
Did you know that South Carolina still has plantations? A plantation by definition is an estate on which crops such as coffee, sugar, and tobacco are cultivated by resident labor, or usually a large farm in tropical or semitropical climates. Plantations were developed and established long before the Civil War and are still around.
In today’s society plantations exist for many different purposes. Most are simply residential, used as family houses, vacation homes, or converted into inns for guests and visitors to reside. A few are open to the public as historic sites, used for tours, event use such as weddings or formal affairs, and in a few rare cases, some have petting zoos.
A handful of these plantations, however, are still functional today producing fruits and vegetables instead of the cotton or tobacco that helped shape their purpose hundreds of years ago. Original slave houses still stand on several plantations and offer a vast amount of history to those willing to learn.
Harriet McLeod, of the Chicago Tribune explains that finding buyers for these “antebellum plantations that one grew the indigo, rice and cotton that made South Carolina rich can prove quite the challenge.” In fact, ten plantations are up for sale in South Carolina according to www.plantationservicesinc.com. Heavy with history from colonial times through the Civil War,these Southern plantations were almost impossible to maintain without slave labor and most have fallen to decay.
As in the past, South Carolina looks to the North for help. ChipHall, real estate broker, claims, “An infusion of ‘Yankee money’ after the Civil War saved and preserved many historic Southern plantation houses and land.” His assumptions about Northern help are correct as most modern buyers do indeed come from the Eastern and Northern areas of the country.
Max “Macky” Hill III, whose family has owned Middleburg Plantation (built in 1697) for more than 30 years supposes that recent plantation buyers are looking for an investment, an area to hunt, or just a family vacation home. “Some are looking for the rarity of a surviving period house as if it were agigantic piece of antique furniture,” he said.
Plantations do cost at least $500,000 a year to maintain and those that are open to the public must charge an entrance fee to help maintain the property. It is normally a reasonable price to pay and well worth the history and experience. Four of the largest functioning plantations open to the public are Boone Hall, Magnolia, Drayton Hall and Middleton Place.
Boone Hall Plantation, located in Charleston County, is open daily for tours, special events, school field trips, and U-Pick season, where visitors can pick their own fruits and vegetables that the plantation produces. Their tour times and prices can be viewed at their website, and tickets purchased ahead of timeonline if desired.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, founded in 1676, is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry and the oldest public gardens in America. This diverse property houses varieties of gardens, the plantation home, a nature train, boat tours, standing slave houses, a petting zoo and hold several weddings and events a season. Admission and tour costs can be found on their website with all children 6 and under free.
Drayton Hall Plantation is a historic home located in Charleston Countypreserved since its building in 1738 by the Drayton family. It is the oldest surviving example of Georgian Palladian architecture in the United States and remains close to its original condition today. Tours include the main house with readings from diary entries and photos of the family, an African American history with a walk through the cemetery on the grounds, and toursof the land and creeks that run through it. Prices are available on the website.
Middleton Place is 65 acres of gardens with something in bloom all year round, a house museum that was built in 1755 that still holds the family’s possessions, and plantation stableyards where costumed interpreters demonstrate life on a Lowcountry rice plantation. Special events are held regularly in the mansionand around the gardens, self-guided tours are available along with general tours and a restaurant is located on the grounds and open to all. Guests are also welcome to stay at the inn in one of the 55 spacious rooms. Tickets and admission information are available at the plantation’s website.
Whether you come to South Carolina to buy, stay in, or simply visit a historic plantation, it will be an experience you will never forget!
– Amanda Graham
The first “official” week of summer has just passed and the Charleston sun has been blazing, making a day at the beach delightful and an afternoon snoozing in the shade even better. Summer in this city means farm fresh tomatoes, concerts in the parks, fireworks over the Harbor, dancing on the Pier and so much more. Here, in no particular order, is our list of the Top Ten Reasons to visit Charleston this Summer:
1.The Fourth of July: It’s always a great time to visit Charleston and this year it falls on a weekend, making a spontaneous last minute getaway a fun-filled option. There are tons of celebrations planned all over the city. Some local favorites include…
• Independence Day at Middleton Place: Middleton Place was the home of Declaration of Independence signer Arthur Middleton. Visitors can celebrate the contributions by the Middleton family as well as the Southern Continental Army with two days of period experiences including cooking and musket firing demonstrations. July 4th and 5th
• Fourth of July Blast at Patriot’s Point: This is an action-packed festival featuring rockin’ live music, a terrific one of a kind “Kidz Zone”, cold drinks and adult libations from the beverage garden, a tempting food village featuring some of the best restaurants in Charleston, and when the stars come out….a SPECTACULAR FIREWORKS show! Admission to the landside festival is FREE. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, smiles and even dancing shoes!
• Sunset Sail on the Schooner Pride: July 4th is a very popular day to be on the harbor. After a long day at the beach or with the family, what better way to relax than a Sunset Sail on the Schooner Pride? The boat will be departing from the Aquarium Wharf at 360 Concord Street (just to the left of the SC Aquarium) on July 4th at 7:00 PM and returning at 9:00. If the Patriot’s Point fireworks display has not started yet, guests will be welcomed to stay on board the boat and watch from the dock, which is just about the best seat you can get for this amazing show. There are only have 49 seats available and this trip will sell out.
2. The Fourth Annual Palette and Palate Stroll: Throughout the year, Charleston boasts many festivals and events that highlight the Lowcountry’s unique culture, specifically art and food. The Palette and Palate Stroll combines the two and allows fine art and food connoisseurs to stroll through our historic streets sampling tastings from thirteen of the finest local restaurants at thirteen of the city’s most prestigious galleries. This is a fun event for the galleries, the artists, the chefs, and of course the lucky few who make reservations to attend. Space is limited but tickets may be purchased on-line at www.cfada.com. Come to Charleston and see why this is one of the most anticipated visual art and fine food events in the South.
3.BBQ: Nothing says summertime in Charleston like some good ole pulled pork barbeque. We do things a little different here than they do in Memphis, Kansas City and especially Texas. We like a mustard-based sauce around here, although you can find your tomato, vinegar, and pepper-based varieties as well. Some folks say that the mustard sauce was brought to SC by German immigrants in the 1730’s, but most agree that Joe Bessinger made it famous in his restaurant here in the 1930’s. No matter where it came from or who introduced it, we think the mustard-based sauce is KING!
There are lots of local spots that specialize in BBQ, but some of our favorites are:
1602 Savannah Highway, West Ashley
•Jim N Nicks Barbeque
288 King St., Downtown Charleston
•Home Team BBQ
2209 Middle Street, Sullivans Island
Looking for BBQ, Blues, and a Harbor cruise? Look no further. This summer you can tour beautiful Charleston Harbor aboard the Carolina Belle with a Home team BBQ buffet and live blues from Shrimp City Slim. For more info check out the Charleston Harbor Tours website.
4. Farmer’s Market: Our nationally-acclaimed market opens every Saturday at 8am in Marion Square to offer Charleston residents and visitors fresh locally grown produce and locally processed food products as well as distinctive hand wrought arts and crafts. Ranked in 2008 by Travel and Leisure magazine as one of the Top 10 Best Farmers Markets in the nation, the 2009 Market offers an expanded variety of food concessions that will tempt appetites from early morning crepes, omelets and donuts to luncheon shrimp and oyster Po-boys, barbecue sandwiches and vegetarian offerings; along with desserts, including Belgian waffles and pies, smoothies and refreshing hand-squeezed lemonade, plus specialized coffees and teas. This is a Saturday morning MUST in the summertime!
5. Historical Significance: As far as this goes, our city has few rivals. Charleston boasts a lot of “firsts” that make it historically significant besides the obvious “first shot fired in the Civil War” (although that one gathers a lot of attention and rightfully so). Here are just a few of our finer “firsts”:
•Few people realize that Charleston is also home to America’s first public Museum, The Charleston Museum which was founded in 1773 to preserve and interpret the cultural and natural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry.
•Our city was also the location of America’s first public library. In November 1700, a law passed by the S.C. General Assembly established a provincial library in Charles Towne and provided for its governance. This library, located on St Philip’s Street, remained in operation for 14 years.
•Henrietta Johnson, who arrived in Charleston in 1708, began painting portraits and became America’s first recognized female artist. Her work can be seen in the Gibbes Museum of Art on Meeting Street as well as many other museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
•In 1736, America’s first building constructed solely for use as a theater opened with a performance of George Farquhar’s “The Recruiting Officer”. Currently, the Dock Street Theatre, located on Church Street, is under construction with extensive renovations but will reopen to live performances once again in May 2010 .
•Chartered in 1785, the College of Charleston is the oldest municipal college in America. Additionally, it is the only college in America to have four signers of the Declaration of Independence as founding members.
•The Best Friend of Charleston, the nation’s first regularly scheduled train offering passenger service, originated from Charleston in 1830. It was the world’s largest when the 140 mile rail line was completed to Hamburg, S.C.
This list could go on and on for pages and pages…..the first fireproof building, first golf organization, first tea planted, first musical society, first ballet performed in America, first and oldest landscaped gardens. Charleston is a city of true historical significance. Come see for yourself.
6. Folly Beach Moonlight Mixers: The Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier is a breathtaking landmark that stretches 1,045 feet into the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean. At 25-feet wide and 23-feet above sea level, the pier is the second longest on the east coast and offers not only spectacular views, but a variety of fishing tournaments, special events, and dining. In fact, on certain Friday nights in the summer months (the following Saturday, if it rains) the Pier becomes Charleston’s largest dance floor with “Shaggin on the Pier”. These Moonlight Mixers offer folks the chance to dance under the stars to the hottest oldies and beach music around. It’s just a good time at Folly. For tickets call (843) 795-4386. July 10, July 31, August 14, Sept 4, Sept 25, 2009
7. Reggae Nights Summer Concert Series: Good Music. Good Vibes. The Reggae Nights Summer Concert Series features traditional old school roots reggae with a new school attitude in a beautiful outdoor setting. Bring your chairs or blanket. It’s Irie. Concerts will be held throughout the summer at both North Charleston Wannamaker County Park and James Island County Park. For a list of dates and bands, visit the Charleston County Parks and recreation website.
8. Water, water everywhere: Our city is surrounded by a water wonderland with plenty of boating, fishing, skiing, surfing, parasailing, kayaking, kiteboarding, jet-skiing….. you name it, we’ve got it on the Charleston Coast. There are so many options for getting out on the water that we cannot possibly list them all. Here are a few of our recommendations:
• A guided kayak tour with Coastal Expeditions includes interpretation of the human history, natural history, geology, and the flora and fauna connections as they relate to you as a paddler. These tours are led by a group of naturalists who believe kayaking is the least intrusive way to learn about the coastal waters. These tours are truly unforgettable.
• Private surf lessons with Shaka Surf School is the ideal way to stay cool this summer. They have a variety of packages to choose from and all equipment is included. If you’ve always wanted to learn, take advantage of those legendary Folly waves and get on a board!
• The Innisfail: This is an impeccably restored Mathis-Trumpy yacht, commissioned in the 1930s during America’s “golden age of yachting”. Today she has been immaculately restored and is currently berthed at the Charleston City Marina, a private luxury vessel and a floating work of art. This art deco beauty is available for charters. A bit decadent, but don’t you deserve it?
9. Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka: YUM. This truly southern concoction is distilled on nearby Wadmalaw Island, and thanks to a recent modification in SC’s distillery law tours and tastings at the facility have the green light. They will begin in August, every Tuesday through Saturday. This stuff is so smooth and so delicious it can be downright dangerous! Good thing the distillery is in such a gorgeous spot! You may have to rest and relax under a hundred year old oak before the 30 mile return trip to Charleston.
10. Pedal to Properties: This new and innovative way to see properties is one of the coolest new offerings from Dunes Properties’ agent Kristin Walker. Kristin leads prospective home buyers on bike tours through Charleston’s streets, really introducing them to the neighborhoods they are considering. “Island living is about hearing the ocean, the sun in your face and the wind in your hair, and you don’t get that in a car,” Walker said. “It’s the best way to get a feel for the lifestyle you’re about to lead.” Plus, it’s fun, environmentally friendly, and makes finding “parking” very easy.