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.
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.
Celebrating its 25th year, the Sumter County Museum immerses visitors of all ages in everyday life from decades past with extensive historical collections and hands-on exhibits. In the handsome Edwardian Williams-Brice house, guests examine artifacts, artwork, and personal effects of Sumter County residents from the early 20th century, while a Carolina Backcountry homestead gives kids and adults alike a taste of life in the early 1800s with a log cabin, blacksmith's shop, and settler's house.
It's natural for kids to engage in creative play, becoming architects, veterinarians, swashbuckling pirates, or tenured professors inside their own imaginations. The Children's Museum of South Carolina just helps them learn while they do it. Perhaps that's why the museum?like the scores of children who visit it?has continued to grow since first opening in 1994. In two decades, the museum as expanded from a small shopping-mall space to a 7,500-square-foot facility packed with interactive exhibits.
In the Sea Turtles Dig the Dark exhibit, kids crawl through a sandy tunnel to see a nest of loggerhead turtle eggs and learn about endangered-species conservation. Meanwhile, the Hurricane Simulator recreates a massive storm's 78-mile-per-hour winds, and the USS Kids-A-Float exhibit explores the parts of a boat and how South Carolina's pirates might have weighed their treasure. The museum also hosts events that range from storytelling to weekly hands-on workshops. Though most of this learning happens on-site, CMSC representatives travel to local schools to lead five-week science camps.
In 1820, an upwardly mobile carpenter named Isaiah Davenport designed a 6,800-square-foot Federal-style home to live in with his wife, children, and slaves. After his death, Davenport’s wife turned the stately brick house into a boarding house, though it later devolved into a run-down tenement—until the Historic Savannah Foundation saved the landmark when it was threatened with demolition in 1955. The organization’s award-winning preservation, their very first effort, jumpstarted an organized preservation movement that spread across the entire port city.
Today, the Davenport House Museum’s rooms are filled with antique furniture from the 1820s, acquired after careful research relying on estate inventories and detailed artist renderings of long-ago games of musical chairs. These period-accurate tables and chairs join ceramics, textiles, and books to form the museum’s collection of about 500 historical items. Behind the home, where a carriage house, garden, and privy once stood, a garden designed by renowned landscape artist Penelope Hobhouse flourishes. After walking among its flowers, visitors can drop by the museum shop to pick up jams and jellies, books about Savannah, and reproductions of early 19th-century items.
To tell the heroic tale of the Mighty Eighth Air Force requires more than a simple history book or channel can handle. At the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, displays of tangible, lovingly preserved relics preserve the harrowing and inspiring stories of the Eighth Air Force's greatest achievements, paying respect to those who risked, and often lost, their lives. The exhibits narrate how the Mighty Eighth earned its nickname as the all-time largest air armada for its role in World War II, and a combat gallery of scale models and authentic flying machines, including a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that's now being painstakingly restored, allows visitors to nab up-close views of the planes that made it all happen. Other exhibits detail how the men and women of the Eighth helped repel the Nazi menace, while the memorial gardens and Chapel of the Fallen Eagles salute all of those in the armed forces from WWII through today.