4300 Ashley Rd.
Located about half an hour outside Charleston, Middleton Place is home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America. Thought to be looted and burned by Union soldiers,
one section of the house has been restored and contains several fine family portraits. Imagine our surprise when we were told that the house was closed for their annual cleaning. Joe had purchased a combination ticket mainly so that he could visit the house. Here again is an excellent example of phoning ahead to make sure a venue is open when you plan to visit. As usual, we didn’t follow our own advice.
There are several levels of entry tickets.
$30 - house, gardens, and stables
$20 - gardens and stables
$39 - house, gardens, stables, and carriage ride
$33 - gardens, stables, and carriage ride
In addition, there are free tours of the gardens and stables offered at different times during the day. Vastly disappointed, we opted to do a self-guided tour. You follow the numbers and arrows through the grounds.
As you can imagine, January is not the best month to appreciate the beauty of gardens, but luckily for us, it was the warmest January most people can remember. After leaving the parking lot, you will arrive at the refection pool. It nicely frames the formal gardens.
We didn’t follow the numbers exactly at this point, since we could not enter the house. We went instead into the secret garden and then to Arthur Middleton’s tomb. Walking through the avenues of camellias was striking, even with only a few blossoms. We crossed the ruins of the main house and walked the parterre and terraces.
We climbed down to the flooded rice fields and by the butterfly lakes on our way to the Rice Mill. Be sure to read the plaques describing what a labor-intensive crop rice is.
We walked up the woody azalea hill and across the Rice Mill Pond Bridge. Joe crossed the lawn to visit the chapel, while Al and I headed for the stable yard. Here we met several of the staff, who were more than happy to give us a little history
lesson about life at Middleton before the Civil War and after.
We finished our tour at Eliza’s House. It is a two-family duplex, lived in by both slaves and freedmen.
The last occupant was Eliza Leach, who died in 1986 at age 94. It is believed that former slaves Ned and his wife Chloe may have once occupied this same cabin. Half of the house is furnished, and the other half is a museum dedicated to telling the story of the slaves from Africa to emancipation.
There is a garden center, a very fine gift shop, a restaurant, and a snack bar at Middleton.