Part of our Adventure Travels is to learn as much history as we can in the place where the history was made. And Charleston, SC is one fabulous city (and surrounding areas) to learn and see as much history in it’s original locations.
We actually stayed at Lake Aire RV Park and Campground, Hollywood, SC, about 15 miles from downtown Charleston. This was a nice campground for the price! It was actually a great location for two days of our sightseeing days.
Our first day, I discovered I had lost my ear buds to my iPhone, so that was a priority to replace. I did a quick search and discovered there was an Apple Store in Charleston, so off we went once set up to buy a replacement set. While we were out, we saw a sign to Folly Beach. Good friends had just told us to be sure and visit it, so we also took a drive to check it out! There was some road construction and we discovered our big truck doesn’t maneuver very well in tight places, like the streets of Folly Beach! But we were glad we saw it! It was 90 degrees when we arrived, so it was great to be on a beach!
Day two was supposed to be warm, so we decided to find another beach to visit. So we learned about Edisto Island, about 30 miles from us. Wouldn’t you know it, at 80 degrees, it was too cool for us to stay for the day! We stayed as long as we could, and managed to relax and enjoy the beautiful beach and waves….but to be honest, both Myrtle Beach and ALL the beaches we’ve visited in Florida were much nicer. There is a state park on the Island and maybe that was where we were supposed to be! We actually thought about changing campgrounds and moving there as it appeared they had room on the internet. But when I called, they were full. We found a place to park in a beach access lot, which was adequate but there were no restrooms or showers, nothing to rinse your feet off. I guess we are spoiled! Here is a slide show if you would like to see it:
Day 3 was a rainy day. We had lots of little things to do around the RV and we needed to research how we were going to sightsee! Bill made a big pot of homemade beef vegetable soup (we don’t talk about this much, but we prefer to cook and eat at “home!”). We wanted to see some plantations, the museum and historical houses. Individually, it would be expensive, but we were able to buy a Heritage Passport, a ticket to see nine “must-see” historic sites at a 40% savings! Perfect! So we ran downtown and bought the pass to be ready to start our next day.
We spent day 4 looking at two plantations that were not far from the campground. We started at Middleton Plantation and spent about 3 hours there! What a fabulous plantation that has been restored to give you the feel for what it was like back in the day. Sadly, most of the original buildings had been destroyed. To tour the house, there was an additional $15 charge and we knew we had many other mansions to see. But we enjoyed the rice field with a live demonstration of what it took to grow and harvest rice, interpreted by a historian dressed in the part, and who actually does the work! Then we took a tour called, “Meet the Breeds” where we were introduced to all the animals the Middletons owned. From the website:
“First settled in the late 17th century with its main family residence constructed in 1705, Middleton Place was acquired through marriage by Henry Middleton in 1741 and for a century and a quarter was the family seat of four generations of Middletons who played important roles in American history. Today a National Historic Landmark, it has miraculously remained under the same family stewardship for some 320 years. Henry Middleton was the second president of the First Continental Congress and his son Arthur, a passionate revolutionary, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
“Arthur’s son, a second Henry, was Governor of South Carolina and Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia, and his son Williams, an ardent secessionist, signed the Ordinance of Secession. Middleton Place encompasses America’s oldest landscaped gardens that the Garden Club of America has called “the most important and most interesting garden in America,” a house museum with extraordinary family furniture, silver, porcelain, rare books and portraits (by Theus, West and Sully) all returned by descendants of the first Middletons, and the rejuvenated 18th and 19th -century plantation stableyards interpreting the activities of enslaved Africans.” (https://www.middletonplace.org/history.html)
Our pictures and one from the website of Middleton Plantation:
Then we went down the road to see Drayton Hall, circa 1738. This was very unique, a “preserved” historic home. We couldn’t take any pictures inside, we took a few pics outside. You can visit their website and here is their basic statement:
“Drayton Hall is different. It’s the real thing, and we are bound by our mission to preserve the property—that is, to keep it in near-original condition just as the National Trust received it from the Drayton family in 1974.
“Instead of being restored to the vision of those who lived centuries after it was built, Drayton Hall is an artifact that has survived the American Revolution, the Civil War, the earthquake of 1886, hurricanes like Hugo, and maybe most surprisingly today, urban sprawl.
“On top of that, it’s not just that it’s a survivor. The main house is considered one of the finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in the United States. The grounds represent one of the most significant, undisturbed historic landscapes in America. And Drayton Hall’s stories—stories of race, family, culture, sacrifice, innovation, and preservation—reveal who we are and where we’ve come from.”
We didn’t take pictures of the “river walk” we took after a wonderful tour inside by a great tour guide. We really enjoyed both of these plantations! They offered a great contrast in the way history is “preserved” so to speak!
Day 5, Saturday, May 17, 2014 (I recommend touring all the houses on a Saturday):
1) We started down at Charleston Harbor, touring the Edmondson-Alston House. From the website:
“The house was built in the late Federal style by Scottish shipping merchant Charles Edmondston at the height of his commercial success. In 1825, it was one of the first substantial houses to be built along the city’s sea wall away from the noisy wharves and warehouses further up the Peninsula. But a decade later, economic reversals during the Panic of 1837 forced Edmondston to sell his house. It was purchased by Charles Alston, a member of a well-established Low Country rice-planting dynasty who quickly set about updating the architecture of his house in the Greek Revival style. Among the features Alston added were the third story piazza with Corinthian columns, a cast-iron balcony across the front, and a rooftop railing bearing the Alston coat of arms.
“In the 1840s and 1850s, business visitors were received on the first floor while the family’s intellectual and social diversions took place in the drawing rooms on the floor above.
“The house has remained in the Alston family since 1838. Many pieces of the family’s 19th century furniture, books, and other personal belongings remain in the house – much as they have since the Alstons witnessed the dramatic events of the Civil War.
“The striking Greek Revival interiors, fascinating collections of the family portraits, furniture and silver and maritime views from the piazza make the Edmondston-Alston House an unforgettable part of any Charleston adventure. The house museum is managed by the Middleton Place Foundation, a not-for-profit educational trust.”
We forgot to take pictures of the outside of the house and weren’t allowed to take them inside. But we took a few pics off the balcony of the harbor:
2) The next tour was of the Nathaniel Russell House, built in 1808. I especially loved the history of this house and the most dramatic free-flying staircase. From the website:
“Nathaniel Russell was born in Bristol, Rhode Island. He settled in Charleston at the age of 27 in 1765, when Charleston was a bustling seaport. By 1774, Charleston boasted a per capita of wealth nearly four times that of all the American colonies. Russell’s career as a merchant involved the shipment of cargoes to and from New England, the West Indies, South America, Virginia, Great Britain, continental Europe, West Africa and Asia.
“While most of his profits came from the exportation of staples, such as Carolina Gold rice, indigo, tobacco and cotton, Russell handled a broad range of imported goods. He also participated in the African slave trade both before and after the American Revolution.
“In 1788 Russell married Sarah Hopton (1752-1832), daughter of one of Charleston’s wealthiest pre-Revolutionary era merchants. Two daughters were born to the Russells, Alicia in 1789 and Sarah in 1792. The house remained in the Russell family until 1857 when it was purchased by Governor R.F.W. Allston (1801-1864) and his wife, Adele Petigru (1810-1896). Later, after serving as a school for the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy from 1870-1905, the Russell House was converted back to a private residence. It remained so until 1955, when the Foundation purchased the site and opened the house for public tours.”
We didn’t take pictures, but I was able to get these off literature. This staircase was breathtaking! You have to see it in person. The public can no longer walk up the stairs to further preserve them. All I thought about was how much our daughter would have loved this staircase!
3) Aiken-Rhett House, circa 1820. This is a “preserved” house, meaning it is in it’s original condition. What was most fascinating was that it is an urban plantation! We took lots of pictures outside. Again, great history from the website:
“The Aiken-Rhett House Museum, 48 Elizabeth Street, is unique in many ways. For example, it remained in the hands of family descendents for 142 years until it was sold to The Charleston Museum and opened as a museum house in 1975. Historic Charleston Foundation purchased the house in 1995 and adopted a conservation approach to the interpretation of this important house and its outbuildings.
“Located on the corner of Judith and Elizabeth streets, Charleston merchant John Robinson built the house in 1820 as a typical Charleston double house with a central hallway and two rooms on either side. The original front entrance was located on Judith Street, where the piazza, a Charleston term for a double side porch, is now located. When Robinson lost five ships at sea in 1825, he was forced to sell the house to meet his financial obligations. Subsequently, it became the property of William Aiken Sr. in 1827.
“Aiken, an Irish immigrant who had accumulated a large fortune as one of the city’s leading merchants, used the house as a rental property. When he died suddenly in a carriage accident, his vast holdings were divided between his wife, Henrietta Wyatt Aiken, and his only son, William Aiken Jr.
“In 1833, the young William Aiken and his new bride, Harriet Lowndes, decided to make the house their primary residence. They began an extensive renovation of the property. Three main changes took place: the front entrance was moved, the first floor was reconfigured, and a large addition was built onto the house. By all accounts, they created one of the most impressive residences in Charleston.
“A successful businessman, rice planter, distinguished politician and governor of South Carolina, William Aiken Jr. was one of the state’s wealthiest citizens. Following a well-established tradition among Charleston’s elite, Governor Aiken and his wife traveled in Europe and returned with magnificent fine art and furnishings. In 1858, while abroad, Governor Aiken commissioned his cousin, Joseph Daniel Aiken, to design and oversee the construction of an art gallery, the only one of its kind in the city. Today, many of the objects acquired by the Aikens on their travels remain in the rooms for which they were purchased.
“The Aiken family library, containing more than 2000 volumes mostly published in the 1800s, has recently been transferred to the Charleston Library Society archives and placed on long-term loan. Many of the books are signed by family members and were purchased on their travels through Europe.
“Prior to the Civil War, the Aiken-Rhett House was maintained by a population of highly skilled enslaved African Americans who worked to sustain the Aikens’ high standards for elegant living and entertaining. Occupations within the household included carriage drivers, cooks, footmen, gardeners, laundresses, nursemaids, and seamstresses. A post Civil War document reveals the names of 14 slaves that lived at the Aiken-Rhett House and attended the family: Tom and Ann Greggs, and their son, Henry; Dorcas and Sambo Richardson and their children, Charles, Rachel, Victoria, Elizabeth, and Julia; Charles Jackson, Anthony Barnwell, and two carpenters, Will and Jacob. Many of these individuals remained in Charleston following Emancipation, and Jacob Gaillard and Henry Greggs lived and worked at the Aiken-Rhett House until their deaths in 1896 and 1908.
“The back lot of the Aiken-Rhett House is where the slaves worked and lived, and they probably took their meals communally in the kitchen. A unique site, the Aiken-Rhett House retains both original outbuildings. One is the kitchen and laundry and the other a carriage and stable house, above which are found sleeping quarters. Many of the rooms had fireplaces, and paint evidence suggests these rooms were painted vibrant colors.
“William Aiken, Jr. died at his summer home in Flat Rock, North Carolina, in 1887. He left his property to his wife and daughter. Harriet Aiken continued to live in the house until her death in 1892. Her daughter, Henrietta, and son-in-law, Major A.B. Rhett, raised their four sons and one daughter in the house. Upon Henrietta’s death, the house was divided between her children and their heirs. Two sons, I’On Rhett and Andrew Burnet Rhett, Jr. continued to live in the house until the mid twentieth century.”
4) The last house was the Joseph Manigault House, built in 1803. The most significant thing about this man was that thanks to him, there is a fabulous historic museum of Charleston history and more! We love museums and actually toured it before this house. We were pretty beat as these tours and all the stairs were wearing us out, so we weren’t going to see it. But after learning something about him at the museum, we cut that short and came to see the house! From the website:
“One of Charleston’s most exquisite antebellum structures, the Joseph Manigault House, built in 1803, reflects the urban lifestyle of a wealthy, rice-planting family and the enslaved African Americans who lived there. An exceptional example of Federal period architecture, this elegant townhouse, a National Historic Landmark, was designed for Joseph Manigault by his brother Gabriel, who is also credited with designing Charleston’s current City Hall.
“A striking spiral staircase accents the impressive central hall, and many of the rooms are restored to their original color schemes. All feature historic pieces from the Museum’s collections including a selection of American, English and French furniture dating to the early 19th century. Outside, a classical Gate Temple overlooks a period garden, and the locations of adjacent historical outbuildings (e.g., kitchen and slave quarters, stable, and privy) are marked with interpretive signs.
“Descending from French Huguenots who fled religious persecution in Europe in the late 1600s, the Manigaults prospered as rice planters and merchants during the 18th century and became one of South Carolina’s leading families. Joseph Manigault inherited several rice plantations and over two hundred slaves from his grandfather in 1788, and also married well. Arthur Middleton, father of his first wife, Maria Henrietta Middleton, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Following Henrietta’s death, he married Charlotte Drayton, with whom he had eight children. The Charleston Museum purchased the house in 1933, and has preserved and interpreted it ever since.”
This is what we saw as we walked out of the museum and you will see why we had to tour inside:
5) Last but not least, we visited The Charleston Museum. We could have spent most of the day just in the museum. We were about saturated with history, so we ended up only staying about an hour. It was one of the best we’ve seen and perhaps we will return one day and just enjoy it! I did find something cute to buy Colin!
Speaking of Colin, he is 9 months old today! No official picture of him from today, but here is an adorable one of him a few days ago! He is ever on my mind!
Our last day in Charleston was Sunday, so we attended Palmetto Community Church, not far from the campground. It was unique (although it was my style-contemporary, but Bill prefers traditional). We always pray our worship will be pleasing to God and that He will have a special message for us. And He did! The catch phrase was about checking our attitude to see our altitude (and focus of our hearts). Pilots look on the horizon to see their altitude: then to look up to go higher – and that was the message. He gave great scriptures and I think to just read them as one long thought, you can get the powerful sermon!
Proverbs 4:23; Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:2; 1 John 4:4; Galatians 6:9. Above all else, guard your heart….Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
We went home for lunch and then had to decide where our next stop was as well as figure out how to make the most of our last day in Charleston. I thought Bill had decided St. Augustine would work best. We had tried a few places the night before, but couldn’t get them to work. So I tried a place and actually made us a reservation. When Bill gave it more thought, he decided against it. Seeing how I have a bad rash, perhaps from poison ivy (or a reaction to a series of bug bites) but it was a bit contentious for us! We finally settled on just driving about 3 hours Monday and 4 hours on Tuesday. We decided we would go take a boat trip over to Fort Sumter. On the way there, I read very negative reviews on Trip Advisor. We decided to not go, but to look for a park to go take a good walk. There appeared to be so many places, it should have been easy to find a place. Well, a bit more contentious as we did something we said we should never do – drive without knowing where we are going. Our truck is very comfortable, but it doesn’t like to make quick u-turns or go down narrow streets. So long story short, we cancelled that out and went to get gas. Um, about the sermon and our attitudes…we were being put to the test!
As Bill was gassing up, he saw a big screw in the sidewall of one tire. How does one handle that? Well, seeing how we were right be a Walmart with an auto and tire center, we began to praise God – that we found it today and not when we were driving down the highway pulling our rig! We felt so blessed but yet we had some contention after a GREAT sermon! Ha, isn’t that just like the Lord to test you? Or were we testing HIM???
Well, we had a great nights sleep and took our time heading south the next morning! This is our last exciting place for a while….so stay tuned while we figure out what is next!