There is so much to do in the Charleston area, it's hard to know where to begin. We started with a tour of Middleton Place, a low-country rice plantation that has remained under the same family stewardship for over 300 years.
The formal gardens are the oldest landscaped gardens in America. This path lined with azaleas would have been stunning just a couple weeks ago.
We started our tour at Eliza's house. The circa 1870, two-family dwelling, represents the living conditions of the the African American community who worked on the plantation both before and after the Civil War.
Slaves that worked here were imported from certain African coastal areas where rice was grown, thus the slaves were already experienced in growing rice.
Cashmere goats were raised, and their hair was harvested and sent to France to be processed into cloth.
The chickens are black and white speckled Dominiques. They provided the slaves an alarm clock, security alarm, and an occasional feast of fresh meat.
Some of the outbuildings, including a blacksmith shop, carpentry and coopering shop, carriage shed, candle-making and weaving area.
This costumed Cooper is making barrel staves. The barrels were used for storage and shipment of rice.
This peacock was showing us his magnificent plumage.
Carriage tours of the gardens were available with costumed drivers.
This painting shows the pre-Civil War buildings, and is based on a drawing done by a guest on the plantation. The 3-story house in the center was the main house, with two flanking houses. The main house and the left (north) flank were burned beyond repair when Sherman's troops set them afire on their march to the sea.
The remaining walls toppled during the Earthquake of 1886.
The ruins of those two buildings remain.
This was the view from the steps of the main house.
The less severely damaged south flanker was restored by the family in 1869 to be their residence. It is open for tours. The house contains furniture, silver, paintings, china, books, and documents that date from the 1740s through the 1880s. These furnishings came from other family-owned plantations that were not destroyed, were buried or hidden during Sherman's take-over, or were returned to the family after the war. No photos were allowed inside.
Below the gardens are the mill and mill-pond on the right, and a flooded ice field on the left.
Looking back toward the house as we begin our tour of the formal gardens.
An octagonal sunken garden.
A demonstration rice field, currently flooded is in the background.
The first camellias planted in the "Reine of Fleurs", were a gift in 1786 from a French botanist. They bloom throughout the winter.
Reflecting pond with swans.
There are two other nearby plantations of the same era open for tours if we have time while we are here.