Did you know that South Carolina still has plantations? A plantation by definition is an estate on which crops such as coffee, sugar, and tobacco are cultivated by resident labor, or usually a large farm in tropical or semitropical climates. Plantations were developed and established long before the Civil War and are still around.
In today’s society plantations exist for many different purposes. Most are simply residential, used as family houses, vacation homes, or converted into inns for guests and visitors to reside. A few are open to the public as historic sites, used for tours, event use such as weddings or formal affairs, and in a few rare cases, some have petting zoos.
A handful of these plantations, however, are still functional today producing fruits and vegetables instead of the cotton or tobacco that helped shape their purpose hundreds of years ago. Original slave houses still stand on several plantations and offer a vast amount of history to those willing to learn.
Harriet McLeod, of the Chicago Tribune explains that finding buyers for these “antebellum plantations that one grew the indigo, rice and cotton that made South Carolina rich can prove quite the challenge.” In fact, ten plantations are up for sale in South Carolina according to www.plantationservicesinc.com. Heavy with history from colonial times through the Civil War,these Southern plantations were almost impossible to maintain without slave labor and most have fallen to decay.
As in the past, South Carolina looks to the North for help. ChipHall, real estate broker, claims, “An infusion of ‘Yankee money’ after the Civil War saved and preserved many historic Southern plantation houses and land.” His assumptions about Northern help are correct as most modern buyers do indeed come from the Eastern and Northern areas of the country.
Max “Macky” Hill III, whose family has owned Middleburg Plantation (built in 1697) for more than 30 years supposes that recent plantation buyers are looking for an investment, an area to hunt, or just a family vacation home. “Some are looking for the rarity of a surviving period house as if it were agigantic piece of antique furniture,” he said.
Plantations do cost at least $500,000 a year to maintain and those that are open to the public must charge an entrance fee to help maintain the property. It is normally a reasonable price to pay and well worth the history and experience. Four of the largest functioning plantations open to the public are Boone Hall, Magnolia, Drayton Hall and Middleton Place.
Boone Hall Plantation, located in Charleston County, is open daily for tours, special events, school field trips, and U-Pick season, where visitors can pick their own fruits and vegetables that the plantation produces. Their tour times and prices can be viewed at their website, and tickets purchased ahead of timeonline if desired.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, founded in 1676, is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry and the oldest public gardens in America. This diverse property houses varieties of gardens, the plantation home, a nature train, boat tours, standing slave houses, a petting zoo and hold several weddings and events a season. Admission and tour costs can be found on their website with all children 6 and under free.
Drayton Hall Plantation is a historic home located in Charleston Countypreserved since its building in 1738 by the Drayton family. It is the oldest surviving example of Georgian Palladian architecture in the United States and remains close to its original condition today. Tours include the main house with readings from diary entries and photos of the family, an African American history with a walk through the cemetery on the grounds, and toursof the land and creeks that run through it. Prices are available on the website.
Middleton Place is 65 acres of gardens with something in bloom all year round, a house museum that was built in 1755 that still holds the family’s possessions, and plantation stableyards where costumed interpreters demonstrate life on a Lowcountry rice plantation. Special events are held regularly in the mansionand around the gardens, self-guided tours are available along with general tours and a restaurant is located on the grounds and open to all. Guests are also welcome to stay at the inn in one of the 55 spacious rooms. Tickets and admission information are available at the plantation’s website.
Whether you come to South Carolina to buy, stay in, or simply visit a historic plantation, it will be an experience you will never forget!
- Amanda Graham