Middleton Place Charleston
A grand American estate, Middleton Place is home to the oldest landscaped gardens in the country. The land and its history are products of the work of generations of enslaved people, and the Middleton Place Foundation, which preserves the plantation, serves to share these stories.
From The Pinch
|By Car||31 Minutes|
|Address||4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414, United States|
Monday - Sunday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
31 min drive
Located about 15 miles from downtown Charleston, the Middleton Place plantation was home to the Middleton family, many of whom had active roles in the country’s history. Middleton Place was built in the 1730s by John Williams, who passed it on to his son-in-law, Henry Middleton, who served as the President of the First Continental Congress. Middleton was the first to begin work on the plantation’s elaborate gardens. Middleton’s son, Arthur Middleton, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The estate was inhabited by several generations of Middletons before it was burned down by Union soldiers in 1865, towards the end of the Civil War.
Middleton descendant John Pringle Smith began the restoration process of the property in 1916, beginning with the gardens; their offspring later transferred ownership of Middleton Place to the non-profit Middleton Place Foundation. In the 1970s, the plantation was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Strategically placed on the banks of the Ashley River, Middleton Place was both a country residence and a productive rice plantation. Now, its offerings include 65 acres of landscaped gardens, the house museum, stableyards, shops, and a restaurant. The gardens include terraced lawns, butterfly-shaped ornamental lakes, flowered pathways, and green arbors. They are a recreation of Henry Middleton’s original plans, which followed the same principles as the gardens at the Palace of Versailles in France. The flora has a classical elegance and old European feel to it, creating a fascinating overall effect.
The North Flanker and South Flanker, additions to the main house at Middleton Place, have been rebuilt since the fire. The South Flanker became a museum in 1975; it exhibits the lives of the Middletons and the enslaved people and freedmen who served them. Their lifestyle is evident from the collections of portraits, furniture, silverware, and artisanal crafts. The Middleton Place Foundation offers guided tours of the house and the property.
Middleton Place’s Stableyards also provide a glimpse into life on an 18th- and 19th-century plantation. Artisans show off their crafting skills in the stableyards—everything from blacksmithing to carpentry to pottery. The Stableyards are also home to Eliza’s House, an example of a Reconstruction-era freedman’s residence. Eliza’s House is a permanent exhibit on the subject of slavery that tells the story of enslaved people in South Carolina and at Middleton Place specifically.
Visitors to Middleton Place can stay at the Middleton Place Inn or grab a bite at the Middleton Place Restaurant, which offers traditional Lowcountry fare. Much of the produce served at the restaurant is grown at the on-site organic farm and gardens.
This vibrant National Historic Landmark is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and admission fees include the opportunity for an outdoor tour. Tickets are $29 for adults. Additional tickets are available for tours of the House Museum. Middleton Place is one of Charleston’s most outstanding landscapes, and it is definitely worth the visit.