Middleton Place Plantation and Inn in Summerville, South Carolina came to my attention on the internet. The website presented Middleton Place with all the glitz and glamour of a resort. National Geographic featured Middleton Place in April, 2008 on the National Geographic Stay List. Without further hesitation, our family embarked on a three day weekend.
The drive from North Carolina to South Carolina turned into a beautiful one. We took I-95 South to I-26 to the Summerville Exit. From Summerville, we took highway 17A to 165 and then onto Bacon’s Bridge Road. On 61 South (or Ashley River Road), we found Middleton Place.
Unfolding from car positions, we disembarked aching legs and sore bottoms to the moist air of the southern swamps. In the night heat, tree frogs were everywhere and our children were leaping from one to another with great interest.
We entered the unadorned, simple Welcome Center. A marble lobby, this was not. Internet impressions were dashed and suddenly, disappointment seized us. Pamphlets and brochures busied our hands to disguise our hearts as my husband registered us. Cheap is not what I’d proclaim this adventure. Reassurance about what we were paying for was instantly required. The southern generosity of hospitable apples and coffee greeted my doubts as small comfort. Pocketing the apples, we hoped Middleton Place really had the horses promised.
Punching an appreciated safety code, the rickety gate ticked open to a clocking noise that sounded like a leisurely carriage ride. A storm had knocked out the ground lighting. At our room, car headlights helped us cross a patio of lumpy brick to unload our goods. One child clung to me while I wondered about maid service. The other child was critiquing the place with the eye of one who had enjoyed luxury cruises and resorts. Where’s the concierge?
The door opened and I knew I did not want to live in the 1700s. My luggage might have been lightweight, but my attitude was not. What was I expecting? There is no doubt, I wanted comfort, cushy pillows, and good lighting everywhere. The children wanted more than 13 cable channels. For them, it was shameful to arrive at a resort and not have full cable line-up. Too disappointed, I didn’t remind them that people in the 18th century didn’t have television.
I wouldn’t understand then, but we were here to experience 1700s plantation life. Modern conveniences became a blessing. Do not take an attitude like mine to Middleton Place. You will be visiting for all the wrong reasons.
Glad for morning, we readied for the complimentary breakfast that I was hoping was cooked-to-order. We drove to the dining room unaware of what to expect, but driving was not necessary. As we arrived at the dining room, we started to get the idea of another era. For us self-proclaimed country folk, this was a foreign land.
Breakfast had a lovely outdoor deck with a gorgeous woodlands view. Feeling out of sorts, I was caught between sulking and feeling spoiled. The food was country continental with grits and shrimp, warm bacon and sausage. The second morning, I tasted the sausage and became grateful for Jimmy Dean. The pastries were true southern delights along with more modern pre-packaged amenities like yogurts, cereal and 21st century coffee.
Yes, I agree with National Geographic about their 2008 Stay List. As I recommend this lovely, historical place, let me suggest two things at this point. One: Arrive in the daylight. Two: Don’t drive to breakfast. Three: Take a digital camera with disk and extra batteries. Four: Arrive with an attitude ready to experience 18th century plantation life. Let me repeat that: You will not view the 1700s. You will “experience” it.
Your accommodations at the Inn at Middleton Place will be expensive. The Grand Room will be close to $300.00 per night. The rate will include hygiene products made by Middleton Place, blow dryer, iron and board, coffee maker and supplies, as well as all other common hotel products. The Grand Room also includes a robe. Historical Garden admissions will be included in your room stay.
One delightful note about our stay. Our family did not use bug spray and we were not bug bitten. Considering the swamp surrounding us, this was astonishing. Middleton Place planted citronella bushes strategically and allowed them to thrive. The method was quite effective.
Middleton Place Historical Gardens
Daylight revealed Middleton Place with character and majesty. The gardens are so immense that you cannot complete the tour in a day, or even two. There are 65 acres of precise symmetry, all balanced perfectly with statuaries, ponds, terraces, alleys and garden rooms. These gardens are the oldest American gardens in existence today. You can walk the same pathways that Henry Middleton and all his visitors walked. The walk for our family was totally relaxing and inspiring. The smells, sights and experiences of the gardens were outstanding. We were transported into the 1700s. Day vanished our restlessness and our expectations were surpassed.
The gardens are a maze of historic brick and old cobblestones. The land sculpture looks like a butterfly from the air. Sitting gardens are launched in the open and tucked away for privacy. Bushes blend with flowers and colors to create asylums for birds. Outdoor chapels and interesting niches exist to accent the many types of landscapes. The gardens are a summer dream of bold warmth and southern personality.
The Edmondston-Alston House
The Edmondston-Alston House was built in 1825. The tour inside is a treasure trove of artifacts and antique history related to Charles Edmondston and Charles Alston of South Carolina.
The House Museum
The House Museum was built in 1755. Henry Middleton built the house as a gentlemen’s guest quarters. The house overlooks the Ashley River and contains the many artifacts and treasures of Henry Middleton and family.
Middleton Inn is a recipient of the American Institute of Architects highest award. Though the Inn is considered contemporary compared to Middleton Place, you will still find that it is not the Doubletree or even the Marriot.
Horseback Riding reservations can be made at Middleton Place upon your arrival. You are encouraged to make reservations as this is one of the most popular activities at Middleton Place. Our family took this tour twice. Awesome is a small word for the experience. The ride was anything but boring, dull or monotonous. The guide leads you along the swamps and rice patties. During the ride, the guide trotted and walked us past rice patties and waterways. We watched alligators and birds in the distance. There were turtles and squirrels and seabirds. The horses are gentle, well-behaved and very well cared for. This activity is highly recommended. Truthfully, it is one of the best trail rides I have ever taken.
Historical Slavery Information
One of the fascinating features of the plantation was the tour of the slavery quarters. The old slavery quarters still exist with all of the old items and artifacts. However, most interesting was buildings complete with a list of names of the slaves who once served at Middleton Place. If you believe your descendants came from the Charleston area, or from Middleton Place, there is a wealth of information available to you.
Middleton Place is a historical landmark and provides several other activities during your stay. There is a swimming pool in a private garden area. If you would like, you can also go kayaking in the swamp/rice patties. You will see sheep and lamb and peacocks. Do not hesitate to make Middleton Place and Inn one of your future vacation spots.
Visit the Middleton Place website for historical and architectural facts about this renown plantation. At this website, you will also find current rates and accommodation information for your planned trip.