Middleton Place, South Carolina
A Guide to Visiting this National Historic Landmark
Middleton Place was on a long list of historical sites we planned to visit while on a 3-state road trip through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. I imagined Middleton Place would be one of those expansive southern plantations with sweeping gardens and a stately house. It was all that and more. What I didn’t expect was to be so taken with its history and the people who lived there. Not only were the Middletons a fascinating family with a long line of interwoven ties to our country's history, learning about the hundreds of slaves who found their home here was even more captivating. It turned out to be one of my favorite stops on our trip. If you’re planning to visit Middleton Place in South Carolina, I hope you’ll find this guide useful.
Where is Middleton Place?
Middleton Place is a plantation in Dorchester County in the state of South Carolina. It is located approximately 15 miles from Charleston.
Who were the Middletons?
In 1741 Middleton Place was acquired by Henry Middleton through marriage, when he tied the knot with Mary Williams and gained the property as part of a dowry. Henry would later become the president of the First Continental Congress. His son, Arthur, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Future Middletons would become state governors, foreign diplomats, and key players in the South's secession plan prior to the Civil War. For more than 100 years, this property was the family seat of four generations of Middletons and has remained under the same family stewardship for over 300 years. Today Middleton Place is run by a family foundation.
Slavery at Middleton Place
As with all plantation properties in the south, slavery is sadly part of its past. The Middletons owned multiple properties and it is estimated that more than 800 slaves lived and worked on these properties. While some of the other properties owned by the Middletons were for growing and harvesting crops, Middleton Place was more of a country home and so slaves who lived here were domestic helpers, cooks, livestock caretakers and groundskeepers. In an effort to tell their story in as much detail and documentation as possible, a book was published in 2008 entitled Beyond the Fields – Slavery at Middleton Place. Later, in 2017 a documentary with the same title was released. They are the collective work of oral histories of former slaves, personal documents, public records, and artifacts. Many of these items can be viewed in person while visiting Middleton Place.
Eight Areas to Explore During Your Visit
1. Gardens & Reflection Pool – Once you park, purchase your admission ticket, and enter the grounds, you'll first find yourself facing the reflection pool and the gardens. Take your time and enjoy the many available paths.
2. House Museum – Next visit the House Museum. Docent-led tours are conducted throughout the day. To fully appreciate the Middleton's place in history, I recommend taking a tour. Our guide was excellent and the highlight of our visit. This building became the House Museum in 1975 and holds an extraordinary collection of original portraits, silver, china, and furniture.
3. Ruins of Main House – Located near the House Museum, see the location of the original main house that the Middletons lived in.
4. Eliza’s House – This is a reconstruction of an African-American dwelling that also houses a permanent exhibit on slavery.
5. Stableyards – Explore the stable yards where skilled enslaved artisans made tools, pottery, clothing and tended an array of livestock including goats, sheep, hogs and horses.
6. The Mill & Pond – Don't miss the beautiful scenery out toward the old mill and the pond. This mill was built a decade before the Civil War and was used to grind corn.
7. Middleton Place Restaurant - When you’re ready for something to eat, enjoy a delicious meal at the Middleton Place Restaurant. With plates like shrimp and grits, local seafood, soup, and salads from locally grown organic vegetables, there's something for everyone . And you can feel extra good about your purchase because All proceeds from the Middleton Place Restaurant support the mission of the Middleton Place Foundation.
8. Garden Market & Nursery - As the last stop, don't miss a couple of shopping opportunities before you leave Middleton Place. Near the parking area, you'll find a gift shop, garden market, and nursery. We purchased a couple of locally made souvenirs and also some snacks for the road. You could also purchase a picnic lunch here on your way in and find a spot to enjoy lunch in the gardens.
How Long Should I Plan to Visit?
It was raining quite a bit on the day we visited and so we didn't spend as much time exploring the outdoor areas as I would have liked to. With the hour-long house museum tour, lunch at the restaurant, a little outdoor exploring, and shopping at the Garden Market, our total visit time was just over two hours. If the weather had been nicer, I could easily see spending three or four hours.
The Inn at Middleton Place
If you’re looking for a place to stay, consider the Inn at Middleton Place
where guests receive complimentary access to Middleton Place. This refined Inn is nestled among the trees and adjacent to the gardens. The 55-room Inn has received awards for being environmentally conscious and having luxurious amenities.
Have you visited Middleton Place in South Carolina? What are your favorite parts of this southern plantation?
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