From Biltmore House in North Carolina, we drove into Charleston, South Carolina where palm trees greeted us like cheerful reminders we were on the Atlantic coastline.
Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina, so of course, diving into the history of this area was our top priority. With only a day available to explore, we selected two plantations to check out, Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Stop one: Drayton Hall. Built in the early mid-1700s as the first complete example of Palladian architecture in North America, widower John Drayton and his two sons lived in Drayton Hall which served as the central control center for his sprawling plantation empire.
Sitting on 350 acres, found along the Ashley River, Drayton Hall has not been restored, but rather has been preserved to serve as a reminder of the rich southern history over the last seven generations.
As a history lover, visiting this particular plantation was a one-of-a-kind experience because you could see and feel what it would have been like to live here over 250 years ago.
On Drayton owned plantations, totaling about 76,000 acres across Georgia and South Carolina, enslaved Africans and Native Americans grew rice – specifically cultivating what is now known as Carolina Gold Rice – and indigo for exportation to Europe and raised livestock such as pigs and cattle to be shipped and sold to the Caribbean sugar islands.
The slaves that worked in the house were, for the most part, banished to the basement level where living conditions were not something to boast about. Located under ground, you would think it would be a somewhat cool relief from the unforgiving South Carolina summer heat and humidity, but that was not the case. There was fire place that would be lit all year round, not for warmth, but it provided a fire for cooking.
Despite the fact that enslaved African Americans and Native Americans were the heart and soul of every plantation across the south, they contribution was meant to be invisible to the naked eye, with separate entrances, and staircases that allowed them to move about the house with minimal disruption to plantation owners, their families, and guests.
In 2010, Drayton Hall dedicated a memorial in the African- American cemetery, known as the Sacred Place to honor the African Americans that contributed not just to Drayton Hall’s thriving success, but to the expansion and development of South Carolina and our entire nation.
Any history buffs out there? Share your must see Charleston spots on your Bucket List Travels check list!