Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Middleton Place ~ Historic Plantation Outside Of Charleston, South Carolina

Leaving the charming old historical town of Savannah, Georgia we drive north over the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge.  This bridge, crossing over the Savannah River, was named after the Governor of Georgia (1933-37).

I loved having my camera to try to capture the beauty of this picturesque bridge with the sparkling blue skies in the background.  It was such a beautiful clear day and from the top of the bridge we could see way off into the distance.

We had a couple of extra days to spend sightseeing along the East coast.  For years we had heard about the old Southern plantations on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina, but had never taken the time to visit.  

According to our GPS directions, the first plantation was about 16 miles to the North of Charleston and a short two hour drive from Savannah,  as you can see in the map below.

Middleton Place Plantation
4300 Ashley River Road
Charleston, South Carolina

Middleton Place Plantation is a very old and well preserved sprawling rice plantation dating back to the 1730s.  The Plantation is located along the Ashley River which is about 17 miles to the north of Charleston, South Carolina.

There is so much to see and do on the grounds of this old plantation that you could easily spend the day walking around this beautiful property.  There is a 45-minute guided tour of the house, plus self-guided tours of the gardens and stable yard.  

As we drove in the gates and spotted the old plantation house we see off in the distance, it looked like scenes from an old English novel, such as Jane Eyre.  I just could not wait to get closer and see this old historical plantation.

The history of this plantation dates back to 1741 when Henry Middleton acquired this beautiful place through his marriage to Mary Williams who was a daughter of a wealthy landowner.  This plantation was her dowry.  Henry began cultivating a grand European style garden which is still thriving today.

Mary Williams's dowry included the house and lands that became known as Middleton Place and would be owned by four generations of Middletons from 1741 through the Civil War

The below photo shows the brochure given to us at time of admission.  If you look to the right of the photo you can see some of the landscaped gardens.  To get an idea of how large this property is, look  to the top left of the photo and you can barely see the house museum.

There was originally much more of the home than seen in the below photo.  We see what they call the South Flanker, which is a portion of the house originally built in 1755 as a gentlemen's guest quarters.  At that time there was also a North Flanker which included a library and conservatory.  The flankers along with a main house were burned by Union troops in February 1865,  just two months before the end of the Civil War.  

Repairs began to this portion of the home in 1869.  Fortunately, this South Flanker was strengthened enough in the repairs to survive Charleston's Great Earthquake in 1886, which completely took down the other buildings.  It is known to have been the most damaging earthquake to ever occur in the Southeast.  

The fallen bricks to the main house and fireplace are still there for all to see.

The tiered back-steps are all that remains of the main house.

Our tour of the House Museum began at the back door of the home.   It was a very interesting tour telling about and showing portraits of the men, women and children who made Middleton Place their home for over three centuries, including the slaves and freedmen who were part of their family too.  Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside the home.  

I would have loved to photograph the lovely items in the home all still belonging to members of the Middleton Family and representing four generations of the family.  There were beautiful portraits, fine Charleston and London-made silver, a pre-revolutionary breakfast table made by a celebrated Charleston cabinetmaker, beautiful Audubon paintings and much more.

The Zinnias planted in the planters all around the back of the house provided a wonderful 
playground for this beautiful butterfly ... Or, maybe this is lunchtime for him!

In the below photo we see the view from the back steps of the main home
overlooking the Ashley River.

The below photo shows the view from the front of the home.

Not too far away from the front entrance gate we see this amazingly old Oak tree.  
I would love to know the age of this majestic tree.

And, we see another huge Oak tree down beside the pond in the back of the home.

To the left of the large Oak tree by the pond we spot the Spring House that was built in 1740.  
It was a one-story brick building built into a hillside and used to store perishable goods.

In 1850, a second story was added to the building and was used as a slave chapel.

As we were walking around after our tour of the main home,  we found the Spring House or 
Plantation Chapel's door was open.  We walked inside and saw this charming little chapel.

Looking to the left of the little chapel across the pond we see this pretty view.

Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and home to America's Oldest Landscaped Gardens.  Some call these 65 acres the most important and most interesting garden in America.

In the above photo you can just get a glimpse of what is called Eliza's House, 
which was previously occupied by former Middleton Place slaves.

As we walked around the amazing gardens, these beautiful 
Spanish Moss covered Oak trees along the banks of the Ashley River caught my eye.

The Gardens were created in 1741 and reflect the grand classic style with principles similar
 to the garden designs at the Palace of Versailles in France.

The gardens of Middleton Place have been planned so that there
 is something blooming during all seasons.

As we walked around on the self-guided tour of the grounds we came upon the Middleton Place Slave Cemetery.  There were only a few grave stones in this little Cemetery, but it was so touching to see them.

Union soldiers burned Middleton Place on February 22, 1865.  From what I can find out about the Middleton Place slaves, they were very much a part of the family.  After the Civil War, many disappointed ex-slaves returned to the familiarity of their old home in exchange for housing and wages.  

Freed slaves, Ned and Chloe had a part in helping the Middletons reorganize their lives in the difficult post-war years.  Ned was frequently mentioned in family correspondence and seems to have been in charge of the plantation when the Middletons were away.  

Ned and Chloe, and all the other workers were key factors in the survival of Middleton Place.  In one family letter, Ned and Chloe were mentioned for their diligence and devotion in helping the Middletons preserve the "dear old place" that was home to them all.

I am so impressed that the Middleton family was so loyal to this home that it remained in the family for 320 years through four generations.  In the early 1980s, this National Landmark was given to Middleton Place Foundation.  The decision was made by family in order to preserve an important place in American history.

Thank you for stopping by for a visit and traveling with us to this beautiful old historical location.

Wishing you many blessings and a happy Thursday as we begin the very first day of Fall.

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