Middleton Place Plantation

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on February 14, 2005

Middleton Place is one of the three plantations on the Ashley River that are open for tours. Middleton, like Magnolia, did not survive the Civil War intact, but please do not let that keep you from visiting. It is probably the most complete plantation experience you can have in Charleston.

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.

Middleton Place
4300 Ashley River Road
Charleston, South Carolina, 29414
(843) 556-6020


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