Where: Charleston, South Carolina, Southeast USA
When: 18th to 19th century
History: A grandoise plantation mansion based on the Palace of Versailles
The Nouveau Riche Beaus of Charleston
It’s hard to imagine that Charleston’s wealthy elite were in fact the nouveau riche of the South and that many a hasty fortune and a gracious antebellum home were built by growing tobacco in the dirt. But the Carolinas wealth didn’t only come from tobacco. Carolina Gold was what they calledrice in the Low Country – partly for the colour it turned when ripe and partly because of the wealth it brought them.
Middleton Place Plantation
At Middleton Place, Charleston, see a thriving restoration of eighteenth and nineteenth century rice plantation life. This was once the home of the prominent Middleton family – who include amongst them a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a Governor of South Carolina and a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.
The grounds were always important to the plantation owners and those at Middle Place are 65 acres of the oldest landscaped gardens in the nation dating back to the 1740s and following the principles of the Palace of Versailles featuring swans, allees, sundials, statues, sculpted terraces, parterres, reflection pools – all designed with elegant symmetry and balance.
The Slaves of Middleton Place
But plantation life wasn’t all flowers and foxhunts. It was slave labour that created the gardens, built the house, and toiled in the rice fields – so it was the slaves who were instrumental in the success and survival of the plantation. Enslaved Africans retained their tastes for certain foods and spices even though they were in the Low Country. On the plantation they ate in a West African style and many of their dishes now have become part of what is known as Low Country Fare.
Today you can tour the impressive Middleton Place plantation. Open daily from 9am.
By Susi O’Neill