THE ANTEBELLUM SOUTH


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North America » United States » South Carolina » Charleston
November 29th 2019
Published: November 30th 2019
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Alarms started going off at 5, finally got out of bed at 6. We had an early start today in order to get in two plantations. Skipped the hosted breakfast to have a few more minutes of sleep. Quick showers, and loving of Tarragon and then off to pick up our car. The car rental was a little less than a mile away and we started walking. It was 56 degrees out, but with the harbor breeze it felt a bit nippy. As we started our walk, we could see a very large cruise ship in Port.

About 1/3 of the way to the car rental the DASH (a free tourist shuttle) was approaching just as we walked by a stop, so we opted to go the rest of the way in the warmth of the DASH bus. We arrived right as the doors to the office were being unlocked. After a quick 10 minutes check out process we were in the car and on our way to Ashley River Road.

Our first stop was at Caviar & Bananas, a local upscale delicatessen. We stopped here to get the makings of a picnic lunch at one of the plantations. No pictures, but we purchased a pecan chicken salad sandwich on sourdough and black forest ham, with arugula and tomato. We also got a caprese pasta salad to split. Actual that wasn’t our first stop, the first stop was back at the Harris Teeter to get some can food. The second plantation we were visiting was having a food drive and with a donation of nonperishable food you got one free entrance.

Our lunch and donation purchased we headed out of town over the Ashley river towards the first plantation. Most of the drive there was through various Charleston suburbs. It was only the last 4 miles or so that we were on an oak lined two-way road, that let you know that you were entering the home of Antebellum Plantations.

Drayton Hall

I had purchased the tickets for the first stop online, so we have a very specific time we had to be there for the tour. We arrived 40 minutes early, so we had a chance to walk around the interpretive center to learn about the history and building of the family and house.

The tour started promptly at 10 am with our guide Betsy. She was very knowledgeable about the house and family and also very forthcoming about how much they did not know about the house, including slavery. Most of what they know about slave life at this house comes from the writings of one of the sons of the First owned, but that is all from his point of view as a “property” owner. There is little information on life as a slave from the point of view of the actual slave.

The house was built between 1738 and 1742 and is said to be the nation’s finest example of Palladian-inspired architecture (meaning 15th century Italian). The style was popular in England but this was the first to be built in the colonies. To say that Drayton Hall is a plantation house, is not exactly accurate, as there was no plantation located here. Instead it was the residence from which the Drayton’s ran the rest of their plantations throughout South Carolina, 76,000 acres in all).

The house was not restored, but preserved. There were no examples of period furniture, but the interiors were well maintained for the most part. It was two stories for living, the daylight cellar, for cooking and where possibly the head house slaves lived. There was also an Attic, but it was only for storage. There was a very steep and narrow spiral staircase that ran from the cellar to the attic. The entrance to each floor was through what looked like a closet door. This is how the slaves had to get from floor to floor with the food, laundry, buckets of water or anything else the “Master” of the house needed. Each flor had a great hall and four rooms off the hall. There was also the stairway hall leading between the first and second floor.

The slave quarters, which were along oak lined road leading to the house, had long been demolished. There is an important African American cemetery near the location of the original slave quarters. They are in the process of obtaining archeological grants to do further study of the area where the slave quarters were located.

Drayton Hall was the only plantation home on Ashley River Road, that was not burned to the ground at the end of the Civil War.

The Drayton family no longer owns this house, but they still are allowed to use it, in fact they had Thanksgiving on the grounds yesterday.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

The parking area and the main grounds of the plantation is over a mile from the main road. The first thing we did was park, then go to the ticket booth to buy our tickets. You have to decided what you want to do, because everything is at a set time and a ticket for each tour must be booked in advance on the day you arrive. After our tickets were purchased, we sat in the sun and had our picnic. The sandwiches and pasta salad were very good.

This was more of a plantation, with rice grown on the land, but after the war, it was turned in to some of the most expansive gardens in the country. This was also owned by the Drayton family. The plantation was established by Thomas Drayton in 1670 upon his arrival from Barbados. Before, during and after the Civil War it was owned by a decedent of Thomas, Rev. John Grimke Drayton, it is he who expanded the gardens. He also broke South Carolina law by teaching the slaves to read and write. After the war approximately 60% of the slaves remained on as paid employees to work the gardens not the rice fields. The rice trade in South Carolina all but ceased with the end of the Civil War, like cotton, it was 100% dependent on slave labor, but unlike cotton there was no Cotton Gin equivalent to help reduce the manual labor needed.

Any interesting fact about Rev. Drayton, was that his two aunts were staunch abolitionist, and he himself was a bit conflicted by the practice, but that did not keep him from profiting off their free labor.

The original house was destroyed by a lighting strike in 1810, the second was burned down at the end of the civil war. The third was built in two stages, first a small 4 room cottage on the foundation of the second home. It was later expanded by the daughter of Rev. Drayton to the house that now remains. Unlike Drayton Hall, this house and grounds are still owned by the family and there are no photos of the inside allowed, as it is all their belongings.

The grounds are expansive and there are many different tours you can take, from the house tour to a slave quarter tour or nature train tour. We did take the slave cabin tour. There are still 4 cabins left, only one of which is from 1850 and is a building that two slave families would have lived. The remaining three, while original to the property, represent different time periods in the history of the African American who lived and worked on the property.

They do not shy away from a serious decision of the slave trade and slavery at this plantation. They make every effort to present factual information regarding how the slaves were treated and lived. Charleston was the single largest port of entry during the slave trade period, which ended in 1808. However, African Americans were still owned and sold as property until the end of the Civil War.

We spent about 5 hours here. My suggestion is to plan on a full day. Get there when if first opens, so you can be sure to get at least 3 if not 4 tours in. If pressed for time, skip the house tour and do the nature train and the slave cabin tour. During the spring and summer, they also have a swamp boat tour.

Our tour and history lesson for the day, complete he headed back to Charleston, stopping at a discount wine store on the way. Unfortunately, two of the bottles of wine turned out to not be so good, even though we have had the wine before, just a bad batch.

We were glad to have made the day trip to see the homes and grounds. However, if you are expecting Tara from “Gone with the Wind”, that is not what your going to get outside of Charleston. The houses in general are much less grand than the picture you may have of a cotton plantation house.

Back in the room relaxing and blogging before dinner

Poogan’s Porch

Tonight’s dinner was at an old Charleston standby. It is named after the founder’s pet dog Poogan, who is also buried at the foot of the steps to the restaurant. Not going to pull any punches, the food was ok, not great, just ok. The biscuits on the other hand were fantastic. The wine list is sparse and overpriced for the quality, including the Oregon Pinot we had. The service is good and very friendly, they do try to make you feel at home, even if they are at times scattered and inattentive. The place is no frills and in a former Charleston Townhouse. There are dinning rooms upstairs and downstairs, and in nice weather seating is available on the porches. Reservations do seem to be necessary, but I think that is just because of its reputation and how long it has been around.

The cava (Spanish sparkling wine) we started with was reasonable priced, but just so so, almost flat in fact. Jerry had fried okra with a remoulade sauce. This is not your New Orleans remoulade; it is really closer to a tartar than a remoulade. The cornmeal crust was good, the dish overall was average. I started with their version of fried green tomatoes, definitely not in the running for best in town. The chutney served with it was far to sweat and the green tomatoes very undercooked.

We both had a wedge salad, again, very average, not enough dressing and some of the iceberg (yes, I said iceberg) lettuce was brown on the edges.

The entrées did improve. I had shrimp and grits, again not in the
BiscuitsBiscuitsBiscuits

Dish of the Day
running for the best, but the Tasso gravy was good and the andouille sausage spicy. Big problem with this dish were the grits, they were mushy, not grit in the grits. Jerry had the catch of the day, which was a pan seared red snapper (skin on) over South Carolina Gold Rice, which was mixed with andouille, lump crab and field peas. The rice was good, the crab was fishy and the peas, you better like black eye peas. The fish was pretty good a bit dry, but had a nice flavor.

The best thing I can say about the dishes, is that they were hot not luke warm.

The winner here and the dish of the day was the biscuit, so good we had two. Fluffy, flakey and oh so light and served hot.

That pretty much wraps up this day. Tomorrow off to the original site of the colony, a BBQ place for lunch and the first US submarine.


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