The enslaved worked hard to create Drayton Hall. The estate is one of the most remarkable houses in North America; in fact, it is the earliest and finest example of Palladian architecture in the United States.
Along with the main house, the landscape and gardens of Drayton Hall have been admired through the centuries and show many examples of how human influences of the past have sculpted the features of the present.
The landscape of John Drayton is an expression of an 18th-century gentleman’s country seat, conceived along with the construction of Drayton Hall, which is centrally embedded within an early-English, picturesque landscape. John was also credited with utilizing many existing trees and native plants in his garden, while the landscape was further embellished with exotic plants by John’s son, Charles Drayton.
There is continuous studying of the historic structures for clues that tell everyone how the main house and surviving outbuildings were designed, built and used, how they changed over time, and what stories they have to tell about the people who lived and worked here. Because Drayton Hall has never been restored, there is a rare opportunity to study materials and designs from every period in the house’s history—all the way back to the time of its construction.
Drayton Hall’s preservation philosophy was groundbreaking for its time and is unique among historic sites today. In order to preserve the seven generations of history within its walls, a radical decision was made to stabilize the house rather than restore it to a particular period, and to preserve it as it was acquired from the family in the 1970s.
Little is known about John Drayton’s life prior to purchasing the tract of land in 1738 on which he would construct Drayton Hall. Born into one of South Carolina’s leading colonial families around 1715, Drayton is virtually absent from the public record until his purchase of the property. His wealth was facilitated by the institution of slavery. While no documents survive from this period to provide the exact number of enslaved individuals owned by John Drayton, he owned more than 100 commercial plantations totaling approximately 76,000 acres of land, and the figure is likely in the thousands.
A full range of options are offered for groups of varying sizes, ages, and interests – including professionally guided house tours, an interactive program on African American history, standards-based K-12 educational programming and packages with some of Charleston’s premier historic sites.
The latest addition to Drayton Hall’s new Sally Reahard Visitor Center is our museum cafe brought to you by Rudi’s Old Village Cafe and Wine Bar!
3380 Ashley River Road
Charleston, SC 29414
Video created in partnership with our friends Charleston Locals