Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: November 2021
Charleston is located in South Carolina on a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean. It is reputed to be one of the most charming and romantic cities in the United States. It is known for its historic houses, plantations, moss-draped trees, cobblestone streets and ocean views.
Since we had another ambitious day planned, we woke up bright and early to make the most of the nice weather. We arrived at Middleton Place shortly after opening at 9a.m. Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and is home to the oldest landscaped garden in North America. It also has a unique history in that it remained under the same family stewardship for over 300 years.
Many of the Middletons played an important role in American history. Henry Middleton signed the Continental Association and was elected the second president in the First Continental Congress; Arthur Middleton was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; the second Henry Middleton was Governor of South Carolina and Minister to Russia; and William Middleton was a signer of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession.
Since we had some time to kill before our tour of the Middleton Place House Museum, we took a short stroll through part of the grounds, passing the Reflection Pool, Butterfly Lakes, Mill Pond, Plantation Chapel and the Mill. The gardens were mostly empty at this time so we enjoyed the peace and quiet.
The estate once had three buildings, but during the Civil War, two of them, including the manor were destroyed. The south flanker was spared. It was built in 1755 and initially served as a gentleman’s guest wing and a business office. Today it is used for tours to showcase the rare Middleton family owned furniture, silver, porcelain, paintings, books and historic documents.
The house tour was semi-guided and there are two floors to explore the Middleton artifacts. There was a guide on each floor that gave a brief history of the estate, Middleton family and the enslaved Africans and African Americans who lived and worked here. We were then free to explore the rooms at our own pace.
After the tour, we explored the ruins of the main house and north flanker. We then strolled through the remainder of the gardens and visited the enclosed flooded rice field, which is located near the Ashley River, and the Stableyard.
Middleton Place also offers a number of talks and tours that look back in time to tell the stories of the estate and the people who lived and worked there. We attended one about the enslavement at Middleton Place.
After eating a quick lunch, we drove to the Boone Hall Plantation. It was founded in 1681 and is one of the oldest working plantations in the United States. For over three centuries, the plantation has been growing agricultural crops, including pecan trees. A few films have also been made at Boone Hall, most notably the Notebook.
One of the main features of the grounds is the Avenue of Oaks. The live oaks were first planted in 1743 and completed in 1843. There are 88 live oak trees in total that were planted in two evenly spaced rows for three quarters of a mile along the entrance of the plantation.
Entrance into Boone Hall also included a 25 minute tour of the main floor of the house. Our guide provided more information about the history of the plantation and the mansion that currently exists today. Unlike the Middleton Place, Boone Hall has changed ownership a few times throughout the years and the original house was torn down, rebuilt and renovated.
We then strolled through the gardens and grounds. There are a few historic structures on the estate, including the brick slave cabins, a brick smokehouse (which is the oldest building at Boone Hall) and the Cotton Gin House.
Boone Hall also offers a series of other talks and self-guided tours. We attended the John Boone and the Owners of Boone Hall History Talk to learn more about the families that have owned Boone Hall from its founding in 1681 to today.
Afterwards we drove to the historic downtown of Charleston and walked around. We parked near the Waterfront Park, which stretches 1,000 feet along the shoreline. Besides the nice views of the ocean, the most notable feature of the park is the Pineapple Fountain.
We continued to walk along the waterfront and followed the Battery, a defensive seawall and promenade that spans across the lower shores of the Charleston peninsula. We had views of the ocean on one side and views of historic homes on the other side.
We then strolled through White Point Garden, which is located at the tip of the peninsula. There were a number of military themed moments, memorials and structures scattered throughout the garden and along the path.
We continued meandering through the cobblestoned streets to admire many of the historic houses in downtown Charleston.
On the drive out of the city we made one last detour to visit the Angel Oak Tree, which is estimated to be 400 to 500 years old and is the oldest Southern live oak tree. By the time we arrived, the park was closed for the day. We instead peaked through the fence to see the tree and all its huge branches that were twisting and turning in every direction.
After taking a few pictures, we hopped back in the car and drove to Savannah.