A March 2005 trip
to Charleston by Mary Dickinson
Quote: We purchased Charleston Heritage passports for about $45 apiece and found them well worth the money, because they directed our attention to a well-rounded look at the background of the history of Charleston, a city built on enormous wealth, power, and slavery.
Hotel | "Days Inn at Patriots Point"
We arrived at the hotel about 10am and were able to book our room for that night using a coupon, paying $59, plus $7.55 tax, for a Friday night, a real good deal for that area. We were pleased to see our choice of hotel also included a Huddle House Restaurant, because we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. I was really impressed with their Belgian waffle, which included pecans, a fruit topping, and whipped cream.
Our room overlooked a landscaped courtyard and a nice round outdoor swimming pool. There is a view of the Cooper River and the bridge for rooms facing south. Our room was spacious and furnished with new, attractive carpeting and colored-coordinated bedspreads and drapery. The room included two double beds. A long inexpensive double dresser and two small armchairs allowed us to play a relaxing game of cards, and there was a desk, so Bob was able to set up the computer to a phone line. There was also a small television. A long granite counter with a sink and mirror was also located in the room. The small bathroom was decorated with ceramic tiles on the floor and around the bathtub. A safe with a key was also available inside the room.
Although the hotel was located next to a major highway, it was quiet and peaceful all night. The Huddle House Restaurant is opened 24 hours a day, every day.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 3, 2005
Days Inn Mount Pleasant-Charleston-Patriots Point
261 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
The restaurant offered lowcountry fare, including many delicious choices such as she-crab soup and RB’s old-fashioned oyster stew and an interesting assortment of entrees. Bob started with a garden salad with blue cheese dressing. Our salads were an extra $2. For his entree, he ordered the Ultimate Seafood Combo, $18.99. It included an assortment of breaded and fried shrimp, oysters, scallops, and flounder. For his two sides, he chose a baked potato with butter, sour cream, and bacon bits and fresh mixed veggies consisting of chunks of string beans, yellow and green squash, red bell peppers, and carrots.
I started with a Caesar salad. The Romaine lettuce was fresh and crisp, and it had a great dressing and was covered with shredded Romano cheese. For my entree, I decided to try blackened grilled grouper from the fresh fish assortment, $19.99. It included a blue crab hollandaise sauce. It was a bit spicy but very good. I had a choice of two sides and decided on stone-ground grits and veggies. The grits were interesting, and the veggies were fresh and good (same as Bob’s). We shared a Key lime pie for dessert.
RB's Seafood Restaurant
97 Church St
Charleston, South Carolina
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.
4300 Ashley River Road
Charleston, South Carolina 29414
We met our guide, Helen, in the gift shop and followed her to the mansion. She was carrying a large silver-plated serving spoon. When we got to the left staircase in front of the west façade, she stopped and told us about the mansion. She said that it was built in 1742 at the behest of John Drayton, whose father had migrated from Barbados. Many of the early settlers in Charleston came from Barbados. His father brought a slave family named Bowen, and descendants of that family still live, and many are buried, on the plantation.
John Drayton wanted the finest house that could be built, and, from the ground up, it has all the attributes of classical architecture. Helen said that the design of the pilasters and their capitals around windows, doorways, and fireplaces tell the function of the entranceway and all the rooms inside; the less important rooms were graced with the Doric (least important) order. As we walked through, she explained what the room was used for and how important that use was to the family. The west entrance was less important than the formal east entrance that faced what were once the beautiful gardens that led the visitor from the Ashley River to the mansion. At one time, visitors came by way of the river because it was very difficult to follow the land path through the Low Country.
The National Trust has done much to maintain the mansion to keep it from decay due to its age and to allow visitors to walk through safely. Nothing has changed from the way it had been when the last member of the Drayton family lived there. It isn’t freshly painted or furnished, and that is disappointing to the less imaginative. Remnants of the formal gardens can be found along the river walk with a prepared map and guide, but the day was dreary and it began to rain, so we weren’t able to include that as part of our tour. Helen invited us all to join the National Trust for Historic Preservation and told us we would receive a beautiful spoon, like the one she was carrying, if we did.
3380 Ashley River Road
Charleston, South Carolina 29414
Shirley, the tour guide, was explaining the room and some of its furnishings. The families that had lived there before the Civil War made a fortune from rice plantations, worked with slave labor, and the glass lamp shades of the gas light fixture had rice stalks embedded as a design. That room was used for business. Well worn Oriental rugs were placed here and there over the original wide floor boards. A huge double pocket door was rolled open making the dining room and business room one large space. Antiques owned by the Alstons and related families furnished the house. Most of the wealthy families in Charleston were interrelated and many valuable antiques in the house had survived from one generation to the next. A genealogical chart in one room explained how the ownership of the house passed from the origianl owner to the most recent owner and included many of the most prominent citizens of Charleston.
Upstairs we looked out of the library window facing the battery and Charleston Harbor and we could see Sulllivans Island, Fort Sumter and James Island. General Beauregard watched the same view from the same window while his plan for the bombardment of Fort Sumter was being carried out at the beginning of the Civil War. Next was the music room where a beautiful harp was on display. We walked out onto the second floor piazza and again saw a magnificent view of the bay. Shirley said that waves forty to fifty feet high have come crashing over the thick walls of the battery during hurricanes causing severe damage to the house.
21 East Battery Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29401
In the lobby was a gift shop, so we browsed for awhile and decided to tour the dungeon. It cost $6 (seniors). The Rebecca Motte Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution hold their meetings in a grand hall on the first floor. They had saved the building from demolition in 1913. It had been built in the formal Palladian style in 1771 to accommodate the very wealthy import/export traders and to let the ships that sailed into port know how important Charleston was.
Anxious to explore the dungeon, we found stairs going down to it. A museum was at the bottom of the stairs and a tour was just starting in the dungeon so we joined it. The tour guide explained that the structure we were looking at was part of the half moon battery from the original fortification of Charleston. The dungeon has a vaulted ceiling.
In different areas of the dungeon historical scenes, that had taken place right there, were reenacted by animated full scale figures appropriately dressed in the period and style of the time and situation. Pirates and even important patriots were held prisoner there, and their importance in history was played out by what they were saying. Charleston even had its own Tea Party, but instead of throwing the tea in the water, they stored it in the dungeon. We could look through a hole in the brick wall and see where a patriot hid kegs of gun powder from the British, and it was never found during the British occupation of the city.
A magnificent formal hall, located on the third floor, is used for important occasions. George Washington had been honored by a week of festivities when he visited Charleston during his presidency.
The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
122 E Bay Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29401