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.
Since the 1670s, the Magnolia Plantation has sat on the lush land at the edge of a fresh water reservoir that is adjacent to the river. Founded by the Drayton family, who had then recently immigrated from Barbados, the plantation has seen generations of Draytons come and go. They've also seen hundreds of springs, heralded by colorful azalea blooms, and hundreds of winters, marked by blooming camellias and trees with draping spanish moss.
Today, visitors to the grounds can immerse themselves in this history as well as in the 60 acres of lush gardens. The past comes to life on the award-winning "From Slavery to Freedom" tour, which takes patrons through the slaves' quarters. Visitors can also tour the plantation's gorgeous house, or drink in views of the gardens?either on foot, or on a boat cruise that winds down the Ashley River.