Middleton Place is one of the residential museums I enjoyed exploring.
Middleton Place was established in the early 1700’s by John Williams. It was then passed down to his daughter, who married Henry Middleton, in the mid 1700’s. Consequently the plantation took on Middleton’s name. Henry acquired a lot of land, eventually becoming one of the wealthiest plantation owners.
It is theorized that Middleton Place was a country residence, versus an active plantation. The original main house was three stories tall, built in Jacobean style. Then in the 1750’s two 2-story wings on the north and south ends were added. The north wing contained a ballroom and library, with the south wing serving as a guest house. Around this time Henry started work on the gardens.
After Mary’s death in 1761, Henry gave Middleton Place to his son Arthur. Arthur signed the Declaration of Independence so during the Siege of Charleston, happening in the American Revolution, British troops captured Arthur and destroyed some of Middleton Place. (Surrender terms for the British were signed at Middleton Place.)
In the late 18th century, Middleton Place was responsible for bringing water buffalo over, the first on record in the US, as well as growing the first camellias. Around this time, Henry, Arthur’s son, imported many exotic plants, such as the crape myrtle and azaleas. Upon Henry’s death, Middleton Place was inherited by Williams Middleton.
Williams Middleton signed the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession, which led to the attack on Fort Sumter and the Civil War. Towards the end of the war, Middleton Place was captured and some destruction occurring. After the was over Williams restored very little of the south wing and planted very little, due to financial impediments. After his death in the late 19th century, Middleton Place was inherited by his wife Susan. It was during this time that an earthquake further destroyed the main house, north wing, and gardens.
The gardens remained in their largely destructed state for decades, with Susan’s daughter Elizabeth making only minor restorations from 1900 to 1915. In 1915 Elizabeth passed away, and her cousin John Smith took over ownership. John worked on the gardens for many years to restore them to their former glory. In the late 1920’s the gardens opened to the public for viewing, with the Garden Club of America later calling the gardens one of the most interesting and important in the US.
During the Great Depression, Smith started restoring the house and outbuildings to their former glory. This led to Middleton Place being designated as a National Historic Landmark District and being added to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1970’s. Soon after this Middleton Place Foundation was established and Charles Duell, Smith’s grandson, became the foundation’s first president.
Today visitors can see what is left of the south wing, the stables, burial grounds, pools, and gardens. In the gardens one can see Middleton Oak (an oak tree), the Butterfly Lakes, and many other unique sights. The northwest section of Middleton Place consists of woodlands (that I found interesting), which give way to the riverbank’s marshy edge; the gardens are separated from the woodlands by pools, such as the Reflection Pool. Much of Middleton Place is forest, with a portion of the forested area being permanently dedicated to a carbon offset program.