During our recent trip to Charleston, SC, Gail was interested in visiting some of the nearby old southern plantations that have been preserved and are open to the public. We planned to see four of them but only had time for three. Each was interesting in its own right.
Our first one was the Drayton Plantation. We liked it because it has been kept as close to original as possible. Some of it needs repair, and the current owners, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, plans to do it right. But overall it is in very good shape, especially considering it was built in 1738. It is completely empty inside, which actually helped us imagine what it must have been like way back when, better than the other plantations that have furniture and other items inside, not all of which date back to the origins of the plantations. Imagine what it has survived: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the end of slavery, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the general ravages of time. The life and business in this plantation successfully changed with the times. Seven generations of Draytons lived here until they sold it to the historical preservation group.
The property in front of the plantation has changed drastically over the nearly 300 years of the plantation’s existence. Where there is now a small forest of trees there used to be acres of rice paddies, and later cotton fields. The property in the back of the mansion abuts the Ashley River, a low country tidal river that was used to ride the tides in and out of Charleston, carrying people and cargo. That in itself was very interesting to me.
Our next stop was our favorite of the three plantations, the Magnolia Plantation, which also lies along the Ashley River. The enormous property includes not only the beautiful mansion, but also spectacular gardens, a shrubbery maze, canals with bridges, walking trails, and a really great unexpected bonus for Gail and me: the Audubon Swamp Garden! I’ll have bird pictures from the Swamp Garden on the next post.
The following day we had time to visit the Boone Plantation. The impressive entrance drive is lined by giant oak trees that were planted in 1743. It leads to the elegant mansion and to the rest of the large property. A wedding was going on in one part of the plantation during our visit. A segment of “Army Wives” was being filmed at another part. Acres and acres were actively growing various crops, as has been done on this plantation for 320 continuous years. In the earliest years, the plantation produced many of the bricks that built Charleston. The small houses that can been seen off to the side of the main entrance are slave houses, still standing because they were made of brick, an advertisement for the product and the skilled labor that could be purchased from this plantation.
It was interesting and educational to see how people lived and worked during the earliest days of the settlement of this part of the country, even before we were a country. People risked everything to cross the ocean for the opportunities that might be found here. And they had to be very creative and resourceful. Some were very successful, and some of that has been historically preserved in these truly awesome plantations. And we should always note that these things were made possible only through an economy of forced slave labor. The fact of slavery is a terrible part of our history. But all of us, black or white, can take pride in what our ancestors accomplished through their hard work and ingenuity. All of it, the good and the bad, is part of our history, and therefore a part of who we are.
I’m glad Princess Gail wanted to see these plantations. I didn’t expect to be touched by them the way I was. If you are in the area, I suggest you take a little time to visit these interesting sites.
Coming up next… images from our walk in Magnolia Plantation’s Audubon Swamp Garden!