McLeod Plantation – James Island, South Carolina
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The 37-acre property has had an especially important past, serving as a hospital for the Confederacy, a camp for the famed 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteers, a burial ground for slaves and Union soldiers, and a headquarters office for the Freedmen’s Bureau. Until recently, it has also had a precarious future.
McLeod is unusual in that it lies in the heart of what is now a busy commercial district. The circa 1855 house, avenue of oaks, slave cabins, and lone remaining field are surrounded by a major highway, several fast food restaurants, a grocery store, and a multi-story medical complex.
The last living family member, William McLeod, died in 1990. Having no heirs, he left his property to the Historic Charleston Foundation, hoping that this group would help preserve the plantation’s history and protect the land from development. In his will, he asked that the house remain a “single-family home” and that the foundation save “the Oak Avenues, and … provide that as much of the property as possible be restricted to single family residence or residences having the lowest possible density.”
Instead, the foundation decided to sell the property to the American College of Building Arts for use as a campus. The college, which was not financially stable despite receiving a large loan from the City of Charleston, eventually sold the plantation back to the Historic Charleston Foundation (a stipulation of the original sale).
The Historic Charleston Foundation then tried to sell McLeod Plantation to the College of Charleston, which planned to use the house for entertaining and the land for intramural sports. Strong opposition from Civil War historians, African-American historians, and the people of James Island led the college to forgo the purchase.
The plantation was eventually bought by Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission in 2010 for use as an interpretive center and event site. The commission spent $8.4 million purchasing the property, restoring the old buildings, and adding a modern visitors center and pavilion. McLeod Plantation opened to the public as a Charleston County Parks and Recreation site on April 21, 2015.
McLeod Plantation is listed in the National Register:
Constructed in 1858 by William McLeod, McLeod Plantation has remained in the family since it was built and is still a functioning agricultural enterprise. The oak-line drive to the house recalls the antebellum period, the vestiges of which are fast disappearing on James Island, owing to commercial and suburban development. The plantation still retains many aspects of nineteenth century rural life including five clapboard slave cabins, an additional kitchen/bedroom cabin, indigenous gardens, interesting landscaping, fields, and evidences of Union occupation during the Civil War; there is also an Indian village site on the grounds. The plantation house, built ca. 1858, is a raised two-story clapboard structure with giant order pedimented tetrastyle Roman Doric portico and pilasters at the returns. The present front of the structure was originally the rear; the current portico, constructed in 1926, is supported by a concrete base and is reached by a flight of concrete steps. An intercolumnar balustrade encloses it. The original front porch façade, however, retains all of its original charm and symmetry.
Reflections on McLeod Plantarion
Contributor Beverly Christ writes, “I grew up on James Island and many times as I passed this historical landmark, the word respite comes to mind – an interval of relief, or rest, as from pain, work, duty. The land is full of history with the earliest recordings in 1671.”
Yvette Lewis-Wilson says of her above photo, “This old barn belongs to the property of ‘Friends of McLeod Plantation’ off Folly Road. Of all the barns, sheds, living quarters and the plantation house alone, I felt this was the prettiest area of all. There was such a serenity to be able to sit and admire the history.”
McLeod Plantation Info
Address: 325 Country Club Drive, Charleston, SC 29412
McLeod Plantation Map
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