As planned we broke camp quickly in the morning, picked up ice at the camp market and began to make our way to Drayton Hall, the plantation we’d visit that day. Before doing so we stopped at Baguette Magic on Folly Road at for a snack to get us through the morning. When you walk in the place from the parking lot the entrance opens right into the kitchen, which you walk around a counter to place your order.
The smell was delightful, that yeasty odor that rising dough emanates, sparking our taste buds before we’d even bit into a single item. We ordered a chocolate croissant and a small egg and cheddar baguette, a nice balance of sweet and savory. The croissant was how we like it, the French style, which means a concentrated dollop of chocolate as opposed to the Italian style, which is a larger amount of a pudding like chocolate. The baguette was good, but the overall quality of the bread itself was not reminiscent of a good French baguette. If I lived in the area I wouldn’t necessarily view this bread as my first option.
Finished with our snack, we made the fifteen mile drive up a tree lined two lane road to Drayton Hall, pulling driveway to pay our entrance fee, then making the short drive to the visitor’s parking lot. We weren’t sure what to expect from this visit, given our positive experience at the McLeod Plantation earlier, but would end up entirely satisfied given the unique nature of this property.
Built in 1738, it was occupied by seven generations of the Drayton family until 1974and remains in nearly original condition; it has never been modernized and to this day has no indoor plumbing or electricity. Once part John Drayton’s empire of nearly 100 different plantations totaling approximately 76,000 acres across South Carolina and Georgia, 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.
We stopped in briefly at the visitor’s center/museum shop where it was suggested we take a tour of the grounds before our formal tour of the house and property began. The wooden frame Museum Shop is housed inside what was the caretaker’s house, an African American dwelling built in the late 1800s. Originally two rooms, the structure was later enlarged with a shed-roof addition at the rear. The partition that once divided the two rooms has long since been removed, but traces of the central brick fireplace can still be seen in the floor.
We walked towards the river, stopping first at the Privy, the original multi-stall outhouse for the plantation, built in 1791 and one of the two buildings from that era that survive to this day. Capable of flushing waste to the nearby Ashley River though a tunnel, it was later adapted for used as a phosphate mining office in the late 19th century and then as a residence for the children of the caretaker in the 20th century.
We made our way down to the river’s edge, enjoying the peaceful view it afforded and in turn a view of Drayton Hall at the upper edge of a “Ha Ha”, a long ditch which would have had a fence placed at its base, used to keep large animals in grazing areas without disrupting the view. By now it was time to start the tour and we gathered with a good sized group under a large oak tree to meet our guide and begin our visit to the past.
After the opening introduction which included a bit about the history of the plantation, we all moved to the back side of the house to enter the first floor (the front entrance was undergoing restoration) and for the next forty minutes or so we went from room to room hearing about the various features of each. As with most of the larger homes of the era, this one had some rooms devoted to a public presence and some for the private lives of the occupants. Those rooms whose purpose was social in nature featured finishes intended to impress the visitor. This could be the molding, window treatments, wall coverings or any other number of decorating touches.
After seeing the first and second floors of the house, we finished the tour by descending to the basement for a brief stop. Much of this area was off limits due to the restoration work taking place on the front porch, but it enabled us to get a glimpse at what life for servants may have been like as they toiled in this service area. We finished the tour with a stop at the gift shop, picking up a couple of small souvenirs as well as a silver plated rice spoon, described as being able to ladle up a perfectly sized serving of rice.
Still full from our hearty breakfast at Baguette Magic, we picked up a Coke Zero from a vending machine, jumped in the Highlander and took off for our destination for the day, Fernandina Beach, home to my cousin Debbie and Uncle Dale. Our time in Charleston had been fun and rewarding, combining good food, beer, and cycling with a bit of history and tour activity. We remarked as we left that a return visit was desirable, maybe in early spring when the weather is a bit more pleasant, allowing for more outdoor activity. So stay tuned for that post in the making.
Baguette Magic: http://www.baguettemagic.com/
Drayton Hall: http://www.draytonhall.org/