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Location: Ashley River Rd., Charleston, SC
Oldest Preserved Plantation in America open to public.
In nearly original condition.
Has survived two great wars, a number of hurricanes and earthquakes.
Electric lighting, running water and central heating have never been added.
A love of architecture, history, and photography will draw you into this house. A 1942 Georgian-Palladian home, Drayton Hall, would have been a magical place to visit during her glory years. But, having her still standing and with the ability to still roam within her walls remains enthralling. We couldn’t contain our excitement when we realized what was lying in wait beyond its doors.
Construction for Drayton’s home began in 1938, completed in 1942, and remained in the family until 1974. It was then, that the gift was bestowed on us~ the public. Having been approached by a prospective buyer that wanted to transform the home into a clubhouse and golf course, the owners, Charles and Frank Drayton who had inherited the property from their Aunt Charlotta Drayton , knew instinctively this could not be her fate. Instead, they sought to find a way to keep her true character alive.
Enter, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose goal is to maintain it in its near original condition rather than complete a restoration. To visitors this means there are no fabrics, paintings or furniture that can be damaged due to camera flash: therefore, there is basically free rein to capture all the wonderful elements of this grand old house.
With each step through this fabulous home I imagined, as I often do, of being a guest of the family and, of course, how each room would have been decorated in its days of glory. Rather than have me babble on about how enamored I was about this history saturated home, I’ll allow you to get a sense of it through Matt’s lens. (with brief descriptions noted by me) Enjoy…. (By the way…Looking back I think we should have taken more pictures) I found the architectural detail of this house to be the perfect opportunity to learn more about historic details: in particular, the Greek hierarchy of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Oh, and you’ve ever heard of Andrea Palladio, the house has some of his influences
Before stepping inside, here is a photo taken after the Civil war. The stately place seems to be losing her life as the corn sprouts up about her.
The first room we entered, The Great Hall, is decorated in the Doric order. This would mark it as less important than the two rooms flanking each side (which we shall see are of the Ionic order). However, this room is in no way austere. The columns are a good indication of this order. The Doric style column has a simple, smooth capital and vertical, shallow grooves called fluting.
The frieze, the flat surface above the capital, consists of triglyphs, three vertical lines, alternating with solid smooth section called a metope. Metopes often contained statues of heroes and gods on them. Here at Drayton Hall they are embellished with what are “thought to be daisies and dogwood blossoms” according to the Drayton Hall website. This is similar to Palladio’s lotus and thistle motif. The frieze is finished off at the top with an egg and dart molding.
As mentioned earlier the adjoining rooms on this floor are of the Ionic order. The Ionic column has a scrolled capital and the same fluting as the Doric.
This particular room, referred to as the Withdrawing Room, was also used to entertain guests. A delicate plaster icing scrolls across the ceiling above the encompassing layers and of carefully carved woodwork.
I find the volume of the protruding cylinders adorned with rosettes placed against the delicate acanthus leaf intriguing.
The details are impeccable throughout the house. Like these hand-carved West Indian mahogany swags above the windows,
and the fabulous plaster work.
The stairs are located at what would appear to be to the rear of the home. However, because of the ease of navigating on the Ashley River, guests often arrived via the waterway. Therefore, the entrance on the river side would often welcome them in and up the grand staircase to festivities. Grand stairs flanking each side of the door, along with 27 foot ceilings, convey to them John Drayton’s wealth and taste.
Here in the Upper Great Hall~ the grandest room of them all~ the Corinthian order also unveils the once dignified status of both home and occupant. The acanthus leaf of the capitals unfurl over the room where favored guests enjoyed music, dancing and socializing.
You’ll note that the ceiling here, on the Upper Great Hall is actually bead board. Due to water damage it replaced the original plaster ceiling in the later part of the 19th century. This was also the case in other 2nd story rooms.
Above the mantelpiece, the family heraldry is on display.
Guests arriving via the river would be graced with this view of the home.
Note the window pediments and wide moldings that adorn, this, the river side of the home, making it the more formal entrance.
The raised basement is also a feature of a Palladio design. At Drayton Hall, it contained a room that stored wine, spices or anything of value that is desired to be behind a locked door, a cool storage room for vegetables, a plantation office, and work rooms for enslaved workers.
The architectural opulence of each room as they now exist do not need much in furnishings to further their charm. However, are you wondering what the house may have looked like furnished at one time? Curious about how much work actually goes into maintaining such a house and its grounds. Well if you want to see more, be sure to check out the Drayton Hall website. It is chocked full of wonderful photos and nuggets of information about previous occupants and the home’s history. Also check out A Blog for Drayton Hall. LIKE them on Facebook.