July 6-9, 2014 - Charleston, South Carolina
We left Goose Creek RV on Sunday morning and drove south to Charleston, SC where we are staying Lake Aire RV Park. This park is in Hollywood which is a 20 minute drive from downtown Charleston. We are in a more rural area but still very close to the sights we want to see here.
The air conditioner/heater blower fan on our truck is stuck on high and cannot be turned off so Monday morning we took the truck to the Ford Dealership in Hollywood. We had to get a new blower switch and a new wiring harness - it seems that the squirrels, chipmunks, etc where we have been over the past few years have been doing a lot of chewing under the hood of our truck. This is the same wiring harness we had to replace within a few months of buying the truck as the squirrels in our driveway in Colorado chewed that one up. What is it about our truck that these critters like so well??
After dropping off the truck we took a beautiful drive along Ashley River Road which is designated a National Scenic Byway. Ashley River Road is lined with large oak trees and there are three historic plantations on it – Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place.
Our first stop was Drayton Hall which is the oldest un-restored plantation house still open to the public. John Drayton began construction of the house in 1738 and seven generations of Drayton’s have been tied to this plantation. Rice was grown using slave labor and after the Civil War they dug up phosphate along the banks of the Ashley River to be processed into fertilizer. This house survived being used as a staging area by both Colonial and British forces during the Revolutionary War, earthquakes and hurricanes and in 1974 it was sold to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The interior is being preserved as it was originally built and they are even trying to preserve the original paint.
This ceiling in one of the side rooms is beautifully carved plaster. All the ceilings in the house were carved plaster like this one but this is the only ceiling to survive. The roof has leaked since the house was built and the ceilings in all the other rooms have been ruined.
A privy is one of the few outbuildings remaining on the property. We did not walk around the grounds as there is not much left of the original gardens and fields. This is a large and beautiful house but has many structural problems which, hopefully, the trust can overcome to keep it open for future visitors.
Our next stop was at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens which was founded in 1676 by the Drayton family. The Drayton’s son, John, built Drayton Hall because he was not the oldest son and consequently would not inherit Magnolia Plantation. The property is still owned by the Drayton family and is home to the eleventh generation of Draytons. The original house was burned during the aftermath of the Civil War and was rebuilt. During this time Magnolia was first opened to the public, becoming the first private gardens opened to visitors. We toured the house but were not allowed to take pictures. The house has beautiful antiques, porcelain, quilts and other heirlooms the family has collected.
Magnolia became known for its gardens in the 1840’s when the Reverend John Grimke-Drayton inherited the property and developed them. He is said to have brought the first azaleas to America. We braved the heat and humidity (mid 90’s and heat index over 100o) and walked around the gardens. We really like the moss hanging from the oak trees.
There were not a lot of flowers blooming in the gardens at this time of the year - it must be beautiful in the spring. We really liked these beautiful red flowers.
Down the road was Middleton Place but after walking the gardens in Magnolia we were hot and tired and not up to doing any more touring so we just drove past this plantation. Middleton was begun by John Williams, an early South Carolina planter, in the late 1730s. Williams’ son-in-law, Henry Middleton, completed the house’s main section and its north and south flankers, and began work on the elaborate gardens. The Civil War and the earthquake of 1866 destroyed most of the home, but restoration was begun in 1916. In the 1970s Middleton was transferred to the Middleton Place Foundation where it remains today. Besides the house and gardens there is a large equestrian center and an Inn on the property.
We enjoyed seeing these historic properties but are ready to go home and relax with the air conditioner in the 5th wheel.
Tuesday we went to the National Park Service Visitor Education Center in Liberty Square and boarded the ferry “The Spirit of the Low Country” for our cruise to Fort Sumter National Monument.
After our 30 minute ferry ride we arrived at Fort Sumter where the opening shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861.
Fort Sumter today bears only a superficial resemblance to its original appearance. Its multi-tiered work of 1861 was reduced largely to rubble during the Civil War. Battery Huger, built across the parade ground at the time of the Spanish-American War, dominates the interior. The view from Battery Huger shows some of the walls that have been excavated from the rubble.
In the foreground is a 10-inch mortar that was unearthed during excavations in 1959 and is similar to the one which fired the signal shot from Fort Johnson on April 12, 1961. Behind the mortar are two 15-inch Rodmans – Rodmans were the largest guns used in combat during the Civil War.
After spending an hour touring around the Fort we boarded the ferry for our trip back to Liberty Square. We went past Patriots Point and could see the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown with the destroyer USS Laffey on one side and the submarine USS Clamagore on the other side.
We watched this large cargo ship going under the beautiful Ravenel Bridge. We also saw some dolphins in Charleston Harbor.
We enjoyed our visit to Fort Sumter and learning all about its role in the Civil War but we will be glad to get back to the air conditioned Jeep – another hot and humid day.
Wednesday we drove back into Charleston to Liberty Square where we boarded the Schooner Price for a harbor cruise. The Pride is an 84-foot authentic Tall Ship and is 64-foot 11-inches in length. This will be our first time on a sail boat and we are really excited to get started.
Rex helped the crew raise and trim the sails (black and white because the settings on the camera accidently got changed).
Sailing is great – no engine noises, just the sound of the wind in the sails! It was a lot cooler out on the water and we saw some dolphins again on this cruise.
We had a great time and really enjoyed sailing – this could become our preferred way to cruise from now on.