Originally a fruit orchard, Drayton Hall was built somewhere around 1738, thus making it over 265 years old. Considered one of the earliest and finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in the United States, it is part of the most significant, undisturbed historic landscapes in America. Inside, the amazing, undisturbed wood and plaster carvings are a testimony to the artful skills of the master craftsmen of the day.
There are no furnishings in the home. All the surviving furniture and rugs have been stored away over the years for safe keeping. Arrangements have been made recently to display for viewing the furnishings of Drayton Hall in Williamsburg, Virginia. There is a plan to build a museum on sight to house the furnishings when the needed money becomes available.
Due to the fragile nature of the decor, some sections of the house are off limits, but can be observed within marked-off areas. In those 265 years, the interior walls have been painted only twice. At the beginning of the tour, while sitting under one of the massive oaks in full view of Drayton Hall, the guide requested that we be careful not to touch the painted walls or to inadvertently bump into them. The aged paint could crumble at the slightest touch and be lost forever--difficult for me because I like to touch everything.
Years ago, Charlotta Drayton, the last of the Drayton's to use the estate, made a decision to preserve Drayton Hall and not restore it. For the weeks she stayed at the house, the only modern conveniences she had installed were a wood-burning stove and an icebox that was later replaced by a refrigerator, powered through an extension cord plugged in at the Victorian caretaker’s cottage. She called it "camping out." In 1974, the National Trust for Historic Preservation purchased the house and 125 acres from the Drayton's with the mission to fulfill Charlotta's wishes and keep it in near-original condition.
A trip to Charleston would not be complete without a visit to majestic Drayton Hall, if you are looking for the complete southern experience. From the moment you enter the gate and drive up the narrow causeway toward the columned porticos of the front entrance, you sense a change in time, a transference of today into yesterday. And when you climb the stone stairs facing the Ashley River and step through the door, the sudden rush of air carries you back to the era of English gardens, rice fields and plantation living. You will treasure the tour and the pictures.