When John Drayton broke ground on Drayton Hall in 1738, he had no idea that his estate would survive the American Revolution, the Civil War, an earthquake, and numerous hurricanes. The stories contained in the building?s walls span seven generations of history tied to the Draytons and the Bowens family, an African American family that lived and worked at Drayton Hall before and after emancipation. Since 1974, when Charles and Frank Drayton sold their ancestral home to the National Trust, visitors have been able to transport themselves into the past with more ease than rubbing the beard at the Lincoln Memorial.
The main house, a sweeping example of Georgian Palladian architecture, is the oldest near-original, unrestored colonial home in the United States. Like a helpful ghost, the grand rooms and original fireplaces whisper history into the ears of all visitors, telling tales of British and colonial soldiers who occupied the house during the American Revolution. Views from the portico are filled with drooping trees, spanish moss, and a grand driveway. Surrounding the estate, an undisturbed historic landscape backs up to the Ashley River, and also encompasses A Sacred Place, the oldest African American cemetery in the country still in use.
Though built only in 2011, the nonprofit Redux Contemporary Art Center’s new 12,000-square-foot facility stays bustling all year, hosting six to eight free exhibitions in two galleries. After taking in the artwork, visitors can attend numerous free events, such as artist talks, film screenings, panels, and concerts. More than 100 classes foster artistic inclinations throughout the year as local qualified instructors help students master disciplines such as painting, drawing, and printmaking.
Redux's galleries stay full thanks in part to its 22 private artist studios, which accommodate emerging and mid-career artists with up to 240 square feet of creative space. Twenty-four-hour studio passes grant access to Redux’s darkroom, print studio, and woodshop. To encourage a sense of community, artists can participate in quarterly critiques, attend visiting-artist lectures, and debate their studio neighbors on artistic controversies such as whether Michelangelo’s David is as good as the earlier one he sculpted from Play-Doh.
When the Charleston Museum was founded in 1773, South Carolina was still a British colony. Today, the museum is itself a historical gem, surviving both the American Revolution and Civil War and acquiring an astounding collection of South Carolinian artifacts along the way. Nine permanent exhibits include the Armory, brimming with antique weaponry, and the Lowcountry History Hall, which chronicles the land's metamorphosis from a tribal society into an agricultural empire, telling the story with early trading goods, slave badges, and pottery. Temporary exhibits change regularly, keeping visitors on their toes in the same way changing cell phone numbers every 24 hours does.
The museum extends its history-preserving mission to two area homes: the 19th-century Joseph Manigault House, once home to a wealthy rice plantation owner, and the Heyward-Washington House, where George Washington once stayed during a weeklong visit to the city. Restored rooms, period pieces, and loudly snoring grandfather clocks await guests during scheduled tours.
At Walks in History, 1-mile tours are based on stories from the books Haunted Charleston and Haunted Harbor by authors Geordie Buxton and Ed Macy. The 90-minute Pirate and Haunted History tour tracks the fading footsteps of Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonney, and Mary Read through the cobblestone streets and bastion walls of the Old Walled City. Making pit stops at six to eight haunts, the guides unravel tales regarding pirate hangings, Fort Sumter and the Pink House, where Blackbeard once shot rum and drunk dialed former first mates.
The 90-minute Supernatural Charleston Ghost Tour ventures into the murky twilight like a darkness-starved vampire bat after the summer solstice. As the expert guides snake through six to eight stops, they shed light on ghostly activity at sites such as the Old Citadel, a Revolutionary War burial ground, and the remains of the Charleston Orphan Asylum.
Although professional photographer Joyce Weir grew up in Buffalo, New York, lived and worked in San Francisco, and has traveled throughout Europe, it?s the culture and history of Charleston that have kept her?and her camera?captivated for the long haul. Today she leads walking tours through the streets of her beloved Southern home base, sharing her encyclopedic knowledge of the city's landmarks with walkers while also helping them take stunning photographs of the iconic neighborhoods and buildings. Tours generally cover a 1.5-mile course and pass attractions such as colonial churches, Civil War sites, and stately mansions. Armed with home-brought cameras, iPads, tablets, or iPhones, customers learn how to capture images with a photographer's eye for natural lighting and framing.
Charlestowne Pub Stroll's knowledgeable guides cover nearly 300 years of history during their three-hour walking tours, shedding light on the city's libation-steeped past. Guide dressed in full pirate or colonial regalia lead guests along Meeting Street, Broad Street, and throughout the Charleston historic district as they point out the area’s most historically significant pubs. They regale guests with tales of Prohibition-era criminals, early drinking habits, and other historical oddities, including that time when drinking a full gallon of milk was temporarily outlawed in Charleston in the 1900s. Throughout the tour, groups will stop into select watering holes to sample the storied brews for themselves at an extra cost.