After a delightful night curled up in a soft, cushy hotel bed and a breakfast of kale smoothies to pre-atone for our later culinary sins, we headed off to see Drayton Hall. We’d done some research, and discovered that of the approximately 4 plantations in the Charleston area, only Drayton Hall still had the original plantation house.
It was a beautiful day and the grounds of Drayton Hall were stunning. Also a little swampy and apparently filled with alligators. Eek. Somehow in all the time I spent reading historical fiction as a kid I never pictured alligators as part of the antebellum South.
The Ashley River runs right behind the plantation, and was the primary form of transportation to and from the plantation in the 18th century. (Also in the 19th and 20th centuries, when the Draytons switched from agriculture to mining calcium phosphate.)
We took a tour from a grandmotherly guide named Rosemary, who explained to us that Drayton Hall is “Palladian-Italianate”, at least on the front facing the road, and more English Georgian style in the back facing the river, and that when the Draytons built the house in the 1730s, it would have seemed crazy, like building a European palace on the frontier.
One of the house’s claims to fame is that it has been “preserved”, not “restored”, which apparently means that work has been done to maintain it, but not to update it or renovate it to look like it would have at a particular time period. Although I thought the line between preservation and restoration was a little fuzzy, I very much enjoyed the details on the inside of the (empty) house.
After touring the mansion, we visited the African-American cemetery, in what is now a beautiful spot in the forest. The cemetery is the resting place for approximately 40 people, many of whom were slaves on the plantation. Some of the people were buried much more recently–people who worked or grew up on the plantation in its post-Civil War era. The stones that are standing are from the 20th century; nothing marks the graves of the slaves but the indentations caused by the collapse of their coffins.
After stopping for some more fried fish, we drove back to Charleston and spent the afternoon wandering through its elegance.
Being a tourist is hard work! I was pretty tired by the time we rolled into the Charleston Grill for dinner. (So was my camera battery, which is why the food photography began and ended at Edmund’s Oast.) The Charleston Grill was good, but unnecessarily traditional and very unnecessarily expensive. I can’t deny that my raw tuna appetizer was delicious, but I also can’t quite recommend the restaurant. Our dinner at the Charleston Grill was probably the low point of our trip to Charleston, but that’s sort of like saying Cho Oyu is a low point on your trip to the Himalayas (I can’t believe I have never heard of most of these mountains!).
On to another day!