South Carolina has an incredibly rich history, and the best way to learn about it is by visiting some of its most beautiful plantation houses. They are not only great examples of Georgian and Greek Revival architecture, but tell the story of a lifestyle of rich plantation owners that depended on the backbreaking labor of hundreds of slaves. Most plantation houses are today turned into house museums, Bed and Breakfasts, or historic sites and are open to the public. Only a few are used as private homes, but you can see them from outside on a walking tour. Most plantation houses still retain their original furniture and household items, adding to the story of the American South.
1.Ashtabula Historic House
© Ashtabula Historic House
Ashtabula is a beautiful two-story house built between 1825 and 1828 by Lewis Ladsen Gibbes and his family as their permanent home and plantation, which produced food and clothing. The house is a noted example of a Lowcountry-style plantation house and is located on ten acres of land, about three miles from Pendleton. Ashtabula is today a house museum, beautifully restored by the Pendleton Historic Foundation and furnished with original antebellum furniture and family household items. The house is open for tours and is available for rental for events such as weddings for up to 100 guests. The house has a wide wrap-around piazza and a lovely patio in the back.
SC Highway 88, 3 miles east of downtown Pendleton, Pendleton, SC 29630, Phone: 864-646-3782
2.Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens
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Located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Boone Hall Plantation is one of the oldest working plantations in the country, and it has been growing crops continually for more than 320 years. The antebellum era plantation is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public. The plantation consists of a large Colonial Revival mansion that was built in 1936 to replace the original house. You will also find several slave cabins, flower gardens, and a magnificent Avenue of Oaks, a mile long stretch of road to the plantation planted in 1743 with live oaks on both sides. Visitors are free to walk through the house, take a tour of the plantation, or watch a presentation at Boone Hall’s Gullah Theater about the tragic days of slavery. Visitors can also visit the farm and pick their own peaches, tomatoes, or strawberries.
1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, Phone: 843-884-4371
3.Charleston Tea Plantation
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Located on scenic Wadmalaw Island in South Carolina's Lowcountry, the Charleston Tea Plantation grows real American tea known as American Classic Tea. The camellia tea plants were originally planted on Wadmalaw Island in 1960, when the Thomas J. Lipton Company bought the Pinehurst Tea Plantation from Dr. Charles Shepherd and moved camellias from Summerville, South Carolina. The company found the plantation unprofitable and after a few changes in ownership, it ended up in 2003 in the hands of Mr. Bigelow who started distributing the tea all over the country. You can buy it at Whole Foods. The tea plants grow on 127 acres, and visitors are welcome to take an informative guided Trolley Tour. Besides tea plants, the plantation also includes a working tea factory and a gift shop. Guests are invited to enjoy a cup of complimentary tea at the end of the tour.
6617 Maybank Hwy, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487, Phone: 843-559-0383
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Located about 15 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, on the Ashley River, Drayton Hall is an excellent example of Palladian architecture in North America. Built in 1738, Drayton Hall is the oldest original, unrestored plantation house in the country. It is also the only plantation house in the area that survived both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and a number of earthquakes and hurricanes in almost original condition. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The house was never modernized; it has neither electricity nor plumbing and is not furnished. Magnificent live oaks surround the structure, which has wonderful views of the Ashley River. Besides Drayton Hall, the historic plantation has a post-Civil War African-American tenant house as well as one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in the country still in use.
3380 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414-7126, Phone: 843-769-2600
5.Frampton Plantation House
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The Frampton House is a lovely farmhouse built in 1868 by John Frampton on the property that was an original 1700s King’s Grant to the Frampton family. The house is located on the site of the original house that General Sherman’s troops burned in 1865. The house was renovated in the 1930s, and after changing owners a few times it was donated in 1993 to the Lowcountry Tourism Commission by the owner Wymann Boozer, a Columbia developer. The old farmhouse, the Civil War Earthworks in the backyard, and the massive ancient oaks were beautifully restored and today house the Lowcountry Visitor’s Center and Museum and the office of the Lowcountry & Resort Islands Tourism Commission. The front room on the ground floor is a recreation of a parlor in a 1900s plantation house and is furnished with original antique furnishings.
1 Low Country Ln, Yemassee, SC 29945, Phone: 843-717-3090
6.Hampton Plantation State Historic Site
© Hampton Plantation State Historic Site
Surrounded by magnolias and live oaks in the Santee Delta area, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is what is left of a 300-acre colonial-era rice plantation north of McClellanville, South Carolina. The beautiful 1730 Georgian-style plantation house near Hampton Creek is one of the earliest examples of a temple front in American home architecture and one of the best examples of a wood frame house in South Carolina. Hampton is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can explore the mansion and the historic kitchen building, stroll among huge live oaks and fragrant camellia gardens, and visit what is left of the once huge, lushly green rice fields.
1950 Rutledge Rd, McClellanville, SC 29458, Phone: 843-546-9361
© Hopsewee Plantation
Located on the North Santee River in South Carolina’s Lowcountry close to Myrtle Beach and Charleston, Hopsewee Plantation was built between 1735 and 1740 and is best known as the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr. who signed the Declaration of Independence. It was one of the major rice plantations of its time. Today a private home, the building’s original design and unique architectural features have not been changed. Listed as National Historic Landmark, Hopsewee is open to the public and is beautifully furnished with original 18th and 19th century antiques. The guided tours take visitors through the house and two original slave cabins that still remain on the property. Lunch with Southern favorites such as shrimp and grits is served in The River Oak Cottage Tearoom.
494 Hopsewee Rd, Georgetown, SC 29440-5598, Phone: 843-546-7891
8.Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
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Located on Ashley River west of Ashley in Charleston County, the 464-acre Magnolia Plantation and Gardens was founded in 1676 by Thomas and Ann Drayton as a rice plantation. It is one of the oldest plantations in South Carolina and is listed today on the National Register of Historic Places. Magnolia Plantation, with the historic Drayton Hall, magnificent gardens and original dams and dikes, is open to the public. Ten rooms in the house are part of the guided tour. They are furnished with original early-American furniture, porcelain, quilts, and other Drayton family household items. Guides tell the story of life in the turbulent times of the country’s history, the lifestyle on the plantation, and the history of Drayton family. The lush formal garden is the oldest public garden in the country.
3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414, Phone: 843-571-1266
9.Mansfield Plantation Inc.
© Mansfield Plantation Inc.
Located on the scenic banks of the Black River about four miles from downtown Georgetown, Mansfield Plantation is a beautifully preserved 1718 antebellum rice plantation covering almost 1,000 acres of rice fields, pine forest, and cypress swamps. It was once one of the best rice producing plantations in America. Today, Mansfield Plantation is carefully preserved as an original rice plantation with the historic plantation home, a schoolhouse, live oak avenue, chapel, guest house, and gardens. It has the only still standing winnowing (rice processing) barn in Georgetown County. Mansfield Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now owned and operated as a Bed and Breakfast by the descendent of the original owners, John Rutledge Parker, and his wife, Sallie Middleton, Jr.
1776 Mansfield Rd, Georgetown, SC 29440, Phone: 843-546-6961
10.McLeod Plantation Historic Site
© McLeod Plantation Historic Site
Established in 1678 under the name Morris, McLeod Plantation is located on James Island near Charleston, South Carolina at Wappoo Creek. This 37-acre cotton plantation witnessed many historic events in its history. In 1780, General Sir Henry Clinton used the original house as his headquarters as he was planning the siege of Charleston. During the Civil War, the plantation was used by Confederate forces and as a hospital. In 1865, the house was occupied by African American soldiers from the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiments. The existing plantation house was built in 1858 in the Georgian style. There are also six clapboard slave cabins, a dairy building, a kitchen, a barn, a gin house for cotton, and a carriage house. The plantation is considered an important Gullah heritage site preserved in recognition of its historical and cultural significance. There are 45-minute guided tours through the plantation.
325 Country Club Dr, Charleston, SC 29412-2215, Phone: 843-762-9514
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Middleton Place is a 65-acre rice plantation about 15 miles from Charleston across the Ashley River. The plantation was built in a few phases during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it was home to several generations of the Middleton family. Today the plantation is a National Historic Landmark District and serves as a museum. Most of the original house was burned toward the end of the Civil War, and much was destroyed in the 1886 earthquake. Part of the plantation is the oldest landscaped garden in the country, and it follows the symmetry of 17th century European design. The garden is divided into parterres, sculpted terraces, and reflection pools with swans, surrounded by blooming camellias and azaleas.
4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414-7206, Phone: 843-556-6020
12.Millford Plantation Historic Site
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Millford Plantation (also called Manning's Folly) is located west of Pinewood, South Carolina in the High Hills of Santee region. The plantation house is considered one of the best examples of Greek revival style of residential architecture in the States. It was built in 1841 on 712 acres for John L. Manning and his wife. Located in a remote location difficult to access, the house is surprisingly imposing, with six massive carved Corinthian columns on granite bases. The walls are two feet thick and made of brick. Beautifully restored, the mansion is surrounded by an extensive garden with live oaks, cedars, pines, and magnolias dripping with Spanish moss. The last owner, Richard Hampton Jenrette, restored the house to its former glory in 1992 and donated it in 2008 to the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. The plantation mansion is decorated with original Duncan Phyfe furniture and precious artworks and is open to the public. The plantation is recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
7320 Milford Plantation Rd, Pinewood, SC 29125, Phone: 803-452-5282
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Redcliffe Plantation is a 369-acre cotton plantation built in 1859 for James Henry Hammond, congressman, governor and senator, three generations of his descendants, and numerous slaves who worked and lived in Redcliffe. The plantation is today open to the public. The opulent, beautifully restored Greek revival plantation house is now a house museum with original furniture and more than 4,000 artifacts. Visitors can have a guided tour of the mansion, two slave cabins, and magnificent lane of magnolia trees planted in 1860. The plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by the South Carolina State Park Service.
181 Redcliffe Rd, Beech Island, SC 29842-9535, Phone: 803-827-1473
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The Robert William Roper House is a historic house in Charleston, South Carolina built in 1838 for Robert W. Roper, a prominent local cotton planter. It was constructed on High Battery, with spectacular views of the Charleston harbor. The house is a fine example of the 19th Century Greek revival style, in contrast to most of Charleston architecture of the time, which was dominated by the 18th century Georgian style. Roper House was constructed on a massive scale with two-story-high Ionic columns that support a portico above a first floor pedestal base and an 18-foot high ceiling. The house was beautifully restored in 1968 by its last owner, Richard H. Jenrette, a Wall Street investment banker. The house is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Today it is a private home and is not open to the public, though it is part of several popular Charleston walking tours.
9 E Battery St; Charleston, South Carolina 29401, Phone: 843-225-0111
15.Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site
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Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site is a historic site in Union, South Carolina, where William H. Gist, the 68th governor of South Carolina, built his Georgian style brick home in 1830. He remodeled the house in 1860, adding front porches and two-level back and covering the brick with stucco to make it more in them modern Greek revival style. Rose Hill today offers visitors a picture of life on an upcountry cotton plantation of South Carolina from the antebellum era, through the Civil War, and into reconstruction. You’ll gain insight into the rich owners and slaves who made the lifestyle possible. The plantation is open to the visitors today, and you can stroll through the original plantation buildings and enjoy a magnificent rose garden on the beautifully landscaped grounds.
2677 Sardis Rd, Union, SC 29379-7904, Phone: 864-427-5966
16.Woodburn Historic House
© Woodburn Historic House
Woodburn is an elegant four-story clapboard plantation house built in 1830 as a summer house for Charles Cotseworth Pinckney and his family. It was common at the time for wealthy Charlestonians to spend summers in the cooler Upcountry Pendleton. The house is a great example of an early 19th century South Carolina Upcountry plantation house. Today the historic site includes the house museum with beautiful original antebellum antiques and many family household items. The house is surrounded by the original 10-acre plantation, three outbuildings, a copy of the Adger Victorian Carriage house, an 1810 log cookhouse, and a reproduction of a typical slave/tenant house.
130 History Ln, Pendleton, SC 29670-8700, Phone: 864-646-7249
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16 Best South Carolina Plantations
- Ashtabula Historic House, Photo: Ashtabula Historic House
- Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of travelview - Fotolia.com
- Charleston Tea Plantation, Photo: Courtesy of dcorneli - Fotolia.com
- Drayton Hall, Photo: Courtesy of FotoHamBorg - Fotolia.com
- Frampton Plantation House, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Bradshaw - Fotolia.com
- Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, Photo: Hampton Plantation State Historic Site
- Hopsewee Plantation, Photo: Hopsewee Plantation
- Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of Dave Allen - Fotolia.com
- Mansfield Plantation Inc., Photo: Mansfield Plantation Inc.
- McLeod Plantation Historic Site, Photo: McLeod Plantation Historic Site
- Middleton Place, Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Meunier - Fotolia.com
- Millford Plantation Historic Site, Photo: Courtesy of IKvyatkovskaya - Fotolia.com
- Redcliffe Plantation, Photo: Courtesy of Mikhail - Fotolia.com
- Roper House, Photo: Courtesy of Fotoluminate LLC - Fotolia.com
- Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site, Photo: Courtesy of DenisProduction.com - Fotolia.com
- Woodburn Historic House, Photo: Woodburn Historic House
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of FotoHamBorg - Fotolia.com