On our first day in Charleston, we explored two of the areas lovely plantation homes. First up was Drayton Hall, which is situated on the banks of the Ashley River and across from North Charleston. Built around 1738, Drayton Hall has served as a rice plantation, military headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and now is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. What sets this property apart from other National Trust properties is that it has been preserved in the condition it was in when the Trust took over in 1974. There is no electricity, no plumbing, and no period furniture. Instead, you see the house just as it was left by the Drayton family.
|Great Hall Fireplace|
|Small Chamber off of the Great Hall|
|Plaster Ceiling in the Great Hall|
Drayton Hall is one of the best examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture. John Drayton had the Hall built near his family's home, and it is believed he was inspired by books on English architecture when he designed the building. In particular, the styles of Andrea Palladio and Inigo Jones can be seen in the porch, a great hall flanked by small chambers, and the colonnades. I particularly loved the ornately decorated plaster ceiling, all the more so for it's cracks and missing pieces.
|Detail of Flaking Paint|
|Graffiti in the Entry Way|
|Graffiti from July 4th, 1874|
The true beauty of Drayton Hall can be found in the home's imperfections. The original cypress paneling can be seen peeking through the lovely blue paint that is slowly flaking away. In the front entry, a door stands open and is covered in graffiti. There is even graffiti over the fireplace in the Great Hall. If the writer is to be believed, the words were written on July 4th, 1874! While most historic homes fill their spaces with antique furniture, this empty space is simply covered in the scars of three centuries.
The grounds also have historic significance. Rather than recreating the landscape, the grounds have been left undisturbed. The original live oak trees still dominate the grounds and are over 250 years old. There is a Victorian garden mound, as well as a ha-ha, a mound meant to keep livestock out of the formal gardens. If you visit, be sure to walk the grounds out to the Ashley River. On this day, the grounds were quiet and the water was peaceful. Whether here at the riverbank or in the great hall, Drayton Hall is full of whispers from the past, if you just stop to listen.