Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Southern Plantations: A Journey Back in Time

Plantations were an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum — pre-American Civil War — South. Vestiges of classic colonial architecture hint at this bygone era. Plantations were a staple of the economy, culture and lifestyle of the pre-Civil War South. Grand avenues of stately oak trees create picturesque, moss-draped canopies. Scenery unfolds with the seasons, from scarlet-colored camellias at Christmas to cornflower blue sky in summer months, the landscape at these bucolic enclaves is a rich tapestry of natural beauty. Considered one of the finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in North America, Drayton Hall is certainly one of the Lowcountry’s greatest architectural treasures. Built between 1738 and 1742 for John Drayton, it's the oldest unrestored plantation house in the U.S., and has survived centuries of war, earthquakes, hurricanes, and modern-day urban sprawl.

Untouched by fad or fashion, the house museum stands as an example of meticulous preservation and has neither running water nor electricity. As one of the most successful planters of the period, John Drayton surrounded himself with the most fashionable goods acquired from travels around the world. The surviving furniture, ceramics and glassware exist as they originally stood and exhibit the lengths that Drayton went to furnish his house with imported objects that befitted his status and lifestyle and, just as important, were in keeping with the latest protocol of British society.

Throughout his lifetime, Drayton owned over 100 different plantations totalling about 76,000 acres across South Carolina and Georgia where scores of enslaved Africans, Native Americans and their descendants grew rice and indigo for exportation to Europe and reared cattle and pigs for shipment to the Caribbean sugar islands. The legacy of this slave society survives today in the form of Drayton’s home, its landscape, and surviving collections, and is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and is part of the Ashley River Historic District on the National Register.

Drayton Hall, considered the finest example of Georgian Palladian architecture in North America

A pedimented chimney piece in the main downstairs living room of the house, carved in the tectonic manner popularized by William Kent

Fireplace pediment with hand carved details

The upstairs ballroom with beautiful detailing ceiling and shuttered windows

The original old kitchen in the lower level of Drayton Hall

An infrastructure of supports have been installed to help stabilize the historic plantation,
thanks to private donations totalling $5-million!

The picturesque pond on the plantation is home to alligators, one of which is popping his head up

A spectacular oak with hanging moss is one of the quintessential images of 'the south'

When photographed in about 1890, Drayton Hall's two flanker buildings were still existing

Enslaved Communities on General Thomas Drayton Family Plantations, a sprawling empire which ran from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida to Texas