Way Back Wednesday: The History of Drayton Hall

Way Back Wednesday

The Library Of Congress

Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s Wednesday and that means it is time to explore the history that surrounds the Lowcountry. This week, we head to Ashley River Road to learn about Drayton Hall.

Established in 1738, Drayton Hall is a historic plantation located about nine miles from Charleston. According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, John Drayton founded Drayton Hall as the center of his extensive indigo and rice planting ventures, and it remained in possession of the Drayton family for seven generations.

“As the seat of vast plantation holdings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Drayton Hall was the home of scores of African Americans who lived and worked there as slaves and later as free men, including the Bowens family, whose ancestors probably arrived as slaves from Barbados with the Draytons.”

The South Carolina Encyclopedia

Described as one of the finest examples of Georgian Palladian architecture in America, Drayton Hall is the only surviving colonial plantation house on the Ashley River. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the main house remains in its nearly original condition. It was never modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning.

Today, Drayton Hall is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated and administered by the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the extensive history through numerous sites and tours:

  • House Tour- Explore the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public.
  • Port To Plantation- A 30-minute interpretive program that explores the economic ramification of slavery at Drayton Hall. Historical interpreters present images of documents, artifacts, and maps that illuminate the multifaceted nature of slavery at Drayton Hall in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Drayton Hall’s African American Cemetery- One of the oldest documented African American cemeteries in the nation still in use.
  • Self-Guided Nature Walks- Take a leisurely walk around the estate’s grounds to explore the gardens and natural features of Drayton Hall.
  • Caretaker’s House- Learn about the African American community that formed because of the phosphate mining industry and kept the property alive for 100 years after the Civil War.

Right now, Drayton Hall is closed in response to directives on preventing the spread of Covid-19. For more information, click here.

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