Several tours were available: a horse and wagon ride tour, a self-guided walking tour, a house tour, a stable yard tour, a garden tour, etc. We chose to walk the grounds, tour the house, and see the garden and stable yard. We had a Charleston Heritage Passport we had purchased the year before; it included the gardens and stable yard, so we had to purchase the house tour separately.
The walking tour brought us to the reflecting pool, first. It was breathtaking! A variety of flowering magnolias were perfectly spaced to give a splendid effect around the long, rectangular pool. We followed the sidewalk around the pool and missed a lot of the garden (we went back later), because we were anxious to see the house and stables.
Sheep were grazing on the enormous lawn in front of the house; as we approached the gate that would allow us to enter the lawn, I came across the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in the south, a magnificent ancient live oak tree with the Ashley River in the distance and tiered gardens nearby. I would have liked to put a swinging couch under the tree and swing on it and spend the rest of my life enjoying the view.
We went through the gate toward the house. The ruins of the north flanking house and the main house were still in a heap on the grounds where they had fallen after the Yankees burned them and an earthquake finished the job a short time later. The south flanking house is still standing; it, too, had been damaged but when Williams Middleton came home from the war he rebuilt it but couldn’t rebuild the rest without slave labor.
With the great wealth the family enjoyed, the sons went to England for the finest eduacation money could buy. A slave went along to take care of his needs and also to learn carpentry. He would be hired out when he returned if he was not needed to work on the plantation. Tasks done by the slaves, weaving, milling, coopering, pottery-making, and black smithing were demonstrated in the stables.
Results 1-9of 9 Reviews
November 2, 2009
by Taylor Shelby
Charleston, South Carolina
April 30, 2005
After getting to know the horses a little, our guide arrived. Much to my delight, he put me on the big horse! His name was Chico, and he was the biggest non-draft horse I have ever seen. Our guide told me he was a retired polo pony, so I got to pretend I was an English aristocrat for a bit, which was fun.
The best thing about trail rides (except for the horses) is that you get to see parts of Middleton Place that other visitors don't. We got to go through deep, lush forests filled with unusual trees (and there were lots of mosquitoes - don't forget to douse yourself in bug spray). We also got to go along the banks of the Ashley River for a long time and went around a bunch of old rice fields. One of the rice fields was full of alligators. We must have seen at least 15 - it was crazy. One of the horses spooked a little, but it was the one our guide was riding, so there wasn't any trouble for us.
The back of a horse is a great place to see the nature of Middleton. For some reason, the birds and other animals don't seem to spook very much around horses. Maybe they can sense that they are other animals. Who knows? It worked out well for us, though. I got to see beautiful herons, ducks, egrets, and lots of other birds I couldn't identify.
Our tour was only supposed to last an hour, but we were riding for longer than that. Even if you are totally inexperienced, you could easily do this. The horses are very docile and calm. My dad's horse actually kept stopping to eat, which was hilarious. We kept an easy pace, and my horse only ran once, on the way up a steep hill. Anyone could do this.
They give you helmets and lessons if you need them. They only do rides for ages 10 and up, and kids have to be accompanied by an adult. I really, really enjoyed this. If you want to do something a little different and get a great view of the scenery and wildlife of Charleston, this is an activity I highly recommend. Call the visitor center for times and reservations.
From journal Entertaining my Parents in Charleston
February 14, 2005
Middleton is famous for its beautiful gardens, "the oldest landscaped garden in America." They are not as large as Magnolia's or as diverse, but they are extremely beautiful. There are hundreds of species of camellias and some other unusual flowers I had never seen before. The most impressive thing are the huge terraces in front of the home site next to the river. You will see pictures of this in all the Charleston guidebooks, but you cannot truly understand the magnitude until you are standing on top of them.
Middleton truly shines in its reconstruction of plantation life. There are a number of costumed living history experts who work in various shops and can tell you about their craft and the history of what they are doing. When I was there, they had a weaver, potter, and cooper (barrel-maker) that were very fascinating.
They also have a huge menagerie of animals that would have been found on a plantation at that time. They have peacocks, pigs, horses, cows, more types of fowl and birds than you can count, bunnies, sheep, and goats. Luckily for me, I was there when there were two baby goats running around that were possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life. You cannot even imagine how adorable a 2-week-old goat can be.
Middleton Place just opened a new exhibit that attempts to interpret slavery at the plantation. It was really incredible. Located in an old freedman's cottage, the small exhibit is a really fascinating look at the culture and daily life of Africans at Middleton. There is a large panel that manages to list many slaves owned by the Middleton family. It is very sobering to look at a panel of some 3,000 names and realize that most of these people lived and died as slaves. It is so easy to just think "slaves" and not realize that they were actual people who went through something terrible, but looking at their names and, in some cases, the value assigned to them by the Middletons was an eye-opening experience for me.
There is also part of the original house complex, but it is only a flanker that survived the burning. It was restored after the war, and isn’t anything that special. I’d spend the money on another house museum.
Middleton Place can be expensive. My suggestion is to avoid the house tour. It is boring and doesn't have much historical value. You can also take a carriage tour for an extra $13. Admission to only the grounds is about $12 and gets you into everything but the house.
From journal Charleston Across the Ashley
St. Louis, Missouri
February 27, 2009
by Mary Dickinson
April 3, 2005
From journal More Charleston
Blacksburg, South Carolina
African-American plantation life is also detailed at Eliza's House, a former slave cabin where some of the ex-slaves continued to live for many years after they were freed. The Middleton House was burned by Yankee soldiers in 1865; however, the south wing was spared. The family resided in this structure after the war, and it still stands today. Guided tours of the house are given daily. Inside, visitors will see silver, china, furniture, artwork, and various other momentos belonging to the Middletons. Among these is a silk copy of the Declaration of Independence which belonged to Arthur Middleton. Arthur is buried in the gardens, and his tomb is part of the self-guided garden tour. Middleton Place was also a filming site for The Patriot.
A restaurant located on the property serves traditional lowcountry dishes. It's a little pricey but very good. It takes about 2.5 hours to thoroughly take in the whole place. The grounds are open daily from 9am to 5pm. Adult admission to the gardens and stableyard is $20 for adults but only $5 for children (7-15). The house tour is an additional $10. You can get a good value by purchasing a combination ticket, which includes both Middleton Place and the Edmonston-Alston House (located downtown on the Battery). For more information, visit www.middletonplace.org.
From journal South Carolina: Battleground of Freedom
February 20, 2005
From journal The Old South is Alive and Well in Charleston
by Nahali Croft
May 28, 2002
Henry Middleton, an influential political leader, was Speaker of the Commons, Commissioner for Indian Affairs, and a member of the Governor's Council until he resigned his seat in 1770 to become a leader of the opposition to British policy. Henry was chosen to represent South Carolina in the First Continental Congress and on October 22, 1774, was elected its President.
Several more generations of Middletons would live on this plantation until 1865 when a detachment of the 56th New York regiment occupied Middleton Place. On February 22, 1865, the main house and flanker buildings were ransacked and burned. The next decades were a struggle for the family to rebuild the plantation little by little.
In 1972, Middleton Place was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, as Middleton Place was the birthplace of Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Then in February 1975, after the establishment of the not-for-profit Middleton Place Foundation, the Middleton Place House was opened to the public.
Today, the House Museum, built by Henry Middleton in 1755 as a gentlemen's guest quarters, is the only surviving portion of the three-building residential complex that once stood overlooking the Ashley River. The House contains Middleton family furniture, paintings, books and documents dating from the 1740s through the 1880s.
The garden, 65 acres of lanscaped terraces, shadowy allees, ornamental ponds and garden rooms laid out with precise symmetry and balance made Middleton Place the most unique and grand garden of its time. The Gardens of Middleton Place were opened to the public in the late 1920s. In 1941, Middleton Place received the Garden Club of America's Bulkley Award, and was named "the most interesting and important garden in the United States."
I highly recommend visiting Middleton Place Plantation. Walking through the gardens and touring the house gave me sense of the pride this family took in their estate and the love they had for South Carolina.
From journal The Charms of Charleston
October 2, 2006
From journal Choose Charleston