As we head into summer, many families in the Summerville area and beyond are looking for places to get out and explore. Since we’re beginning to see the return to a pre-pandemic world, many are excited about the prospects of being able to travel again. If you are looking for an amazing day trip where you can learn about Southern history and take a walk back in time, then Drayton Hall might be a perfect destination. Visiting Drayton Hall is one of the greatest things to do while visiting Summerville, SC.
What is Drayton Hall?
Drayton Hall is a plantation located about 15 miles from the Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina. It is the only plantation that was able to survive both the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, which is why it is such an important part of American history and a National Historic Landmark. The mansion was built by John Drayton, Sr. soon after he acquired the property in 1738.
As the third son of the Drayton family, he knew that he was not likely to inherit the family’s existing plantation, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, which is also still standing. His massive undertaking was not completed until 1952. For seven generations and counting, the heirs of the Drayton family have preserved the integrity of the house in much of its original state. Although some parts have necessarily had to be renovated or updated, most of the original estate is exactly as it was in the 18th century.
Drayton Hall is still considered one of the most amazing estates in North America, and it showcases the finest and earliest components of Palladian architecture. Over the years, much attention has been paid to discover how Drayton Hall was built and how it has changed over time. The historical record has been focused on who worked on it and the people who enjoyed living in it. It has never been restored, so it is one of the rare opportunities to see how designs and materials were used at the time that the house was originally constructed.
Gardens and Landscaping
It isn’t just about the amazing estate of Drayton Hall; the gardens and landscaping are also a treasure that you don’t want to miss. The overall design was created by John Drayton with an early English influence. He was the first credited with using native plants alongside existing trees. And his creation was expanded by his son Charles Drayton.
The Lenhardt Garden, which is in the Salt Rearhard Visitor Center, also offers a fantastic view. It is a semi-formal courtyard that is aligned with live oak trees, which have survived since the 1800s, and plants going back to 1784-1820. Newer plants have been added to enhance the overall garden, but the original artistic design remains intact.
An Archaeological Windfall
The house is surrounded by rich and unique historical archaeological sites, like the African-American cemetery, the freedman’s village, the late eighteenth-century privy building, and the colonnades and garden house. Other artifacts and features have been uncovered over the years to give insight into how Africans were enslaved and the daily lives of Native Americans.
Although the vaccine has allowed people to return to some semblance of normalcy, social distancing rules are still in effect. So if you are going to plan a trip, make sure to check for restrictions. Drayton Hall is a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into American history that has stood through the many tumultuous times in our nation’s past. It is an excellent place to plan a day trip, or pack a bag and make it one of the many things to do while visiting Summerville, SC, this summer!