Our first morning there we went to the historic downtown district. Again, we opted to take a guided tour. We were lucky to have a tour guide all to ourselves, so we were able to specify what we were most interested in seeing as we rode and walked through the area. In addition to an historical overview of the area, we wanted to see gardens and we certainly weren't disappointed. Most of the homes in the historic district are privately maintained.
Our tour guide even brought us to specific plants he loved most.
Piazzas (or porches) are one of the most distinctive features of Charleston architecture. They were intended as outdoor living spaces and to also shade homes from the sun.
Gardens were places for people to entertain their guests in the heat of summer.
An historic trust dictates the preservation of homes. This home was incredibly decorative, with hand carved plaster details.
Notice the fencing surrounding this home. It originally was owned by a slave trader who feared for his family's safety. Descendants of the original owner still reside in the home.
Because of its location on the coast, Charleston was cooler than the low country outside of the city.
Many of these mansion were built as summer homes for plantation owners.
They came to the city in the summer time to escape the heat and mosquitoes.
The district is a living museum and we could have easily spent more time there.
However, we wanted to visit Charles Towne Landing, the site of the original English settlement founded in Colonial South Carolina in 1670. There was a replica of a ketch on the landing, a vessel typical of what the young colony would have used for conducting trade on the eastern coast and in the West Indies.
After the colony moved across the river to Charleston's present location, the land was privately owned. Fortunately, the property was donated to the state and is now a state park. However, the original gardens and home still remain.
We enjoyed the well preserved private gardens.
Could one ever tire of azaleas in full bloom?
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
We were up early the next morning to spend the day at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. This plantation was founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, descendants of whom still own the property today.
It originally was a rice plantation. The old rice fields are now home to many varieties of wildlife.
The property includes four preserved and restored original slave cabins. Each cabin reflects a different period of the African experience on the plantation; from slavery to Reconstruction, through the 1920's and on to the 1960's. These cabins were the most interesting part of the tour for both Paul and me.
Some sections of the gardens on the plantation are more than 325 years old, making them the oldest unrestored gardens in America. This grand old oak is probably older than that.
We were interested to learn Magnolia is home to the oldest public gardens in America. They opened to the public in 1870 as a way for the family to generate income after the Civil War.
Knowing it was our last day before we drove home, we had to take just one more picture of the azaleas.
The next morning, we were up early and on the road. Time to go home and get back to reality!