Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – Charleston, South Carolina
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Originally granted to Morris Matthews during the Colonial period, the property was acquired by Thomas and Ann Drayton in 1679. The Draytons built a small home on the property and quickly established a successful rice plantation, cultivating what would come to be known as Carolina Gold Rice.
The home pictured at the top of the page is actually the third to be built on the property. The original home was destroyed by an accidental fire, while the second was burned to the ground during the Civil War. There is some debate as to whether the home was destroyed by Union troops or freed slaves. The current structure, which originally served as the summer cottage of Reverend John Grimke Drayton, was built in nearby Summerville prior to the Revolutionary War. Reverend Drayton had the cottage disassembled and floated down the Ashley River to the plantation, where he then had it rebuilt on the original foundation in 1873.
The Gardener’s Home, seen above, was built after Emancipation. It is one of several cabins on the Magnolia property to house slaves and freedmen. The cabins varied in structure, with slave cabins having two entrances – essentially built as two-room duplexes – with a family of six or more occupying each side. The slave cabins were built around 1850 and remained in use by freedmen after Emancipation. This Gardener’s Home was constructed around 1900, and its last occupant was a man named Allen Haynes, a groundskeeper who lived here until 1999.
While known for their sprawling beauty, Magnolia’s gardens originated from a much smaller, formal design. Thomas and Ann Drayton added the original garden, which they would later name Flowerdale, shortly after the completion of their home in the mid 1680s.
The gardens did not begin to take their current form until the 1840s, when Reverend John Grimke Drayton inherited the plantation. Rev. Drayton began to expand Flowerdale in an English style, focusing on the natural beauty of the landscape and adding many of the camellias and azaleas seen today.
Marked by formal arrangements of annuals such as lillies, tulips, and irises enclosed by boxwood hedges, Flowerdale is widely considered to be the oldest flower garden in America.
Magnolia Gardens and Plantation is listed in the National Register, which says the following:
(Magnolia-on-the-Ashley) Magnolia Gardens, which consists of 390 of the original 1,872 acres, has a long heritage that dates back as far as 1672 when Morris Mathews, one of the first settlers to arrive in the province, received a warrant for 750 acres of land which eventually became part of the Drayton estate and Magnolia Gardens. The gardens were created by the Reverend John G. Drayton during the mid-nineteenth century and is the only private wild fowl sanctuary in the Charleston County area. It is also significant that Rev. Drayton planted many of the first camellias in South Carolina and through hybridization developed many new varieties.
The property includes seven wooden slave cabins, the Drayton vault, the plantation house, in addition to the gardens and nursery. Magnolia Gardens has had three plantation homes built on its grounds since its beginning. Both the original and second home were destroyed by fire. The present home, built in 1873, is a one-and-a-half story stucco construction which includes a raised basement and tower. High steps lead to a piazza which is supported by Doric columns and enclosed with a balustrade. A two story, stucco tower is set in a gable roof which also features gabled dormers.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Info
Address: 3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Map
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