When I decided that I would take the time to look around and see what there was to see in my hometown– or at least near it– the one place I knew that I wanted to visit was Middleton Place.
It’s also the one place that I figured I was the least likely to ever see. If you’re visiting Charleston, chances are you’re on a vacation that you took a great deal of time to plan out and budget for, but if you live here and plan to just hop over to the gardens for an afternoon– nope. What am I saying here? Well, Middleton (at least for my family) can be prohibitively expensive– $25 for adults, $15 for students 14+, and $10 for children 6-13. I have a very vivid memory of my husband and I (naive and in our very early twenties) making the trip out to Middleton. We got out of the car and made our way to the ticket booth where our jaws dropped as we totaled our admission price in our heads. We went to a local park instead and never really discussed going again. A slap in the face, and really a bit of a shame.
This year, though, I discovered that in January some of the local attractions (houses and gardens) are discounting their admissions (and in some cases pass programs) for those who live in the tri-county area. I don’t know how long will be occurring since the “Be a Tourist in Your Hometown” program is being discontinued, but I’m certainly happy that my mother found it and pointed it out to me this year. Middleton is offering prices of just a $10 admission for an adult instead of the usual $25 . Of course, all the extra tours and carriage rides are still the same very expensive prices– I think I was quoted $18 for the carriage ride, but I don’t remember precisely and they don’t say on their website. The low admission price is also good for January weekends only– an entirely hit-or-miss proposition.
All of this is to say that I finally found myself joining my parents a couple of weeks ago on a 72 degree partly cloudy January Saturday in the one place in town that I never thought I’d be able to see.
And it was beautiful.
Can you imagine what this would be like in the Spring?
Don’t think that the property was barren, though.
The camelias were in bloom in many places.
The gates that lead to the rest of the property were a bit intimidating to me. Perhaps some would feel compelled to walk through them, but I felt a little as if I was about to intrude upon someone’s home. It really is probably just the history geek in me. Yes, I didn’t just major in English, folks; I spent many, many, many hours, days, years working studying, researching, and writing about American History, primarily–gasp–Charleston, SC. Sometimes I really think if just a few things had happened in a different order, I’d be digging up artifacts at a historic dig site or cataloging items in a dusty museum.
There really was something a bit foreboding about those gates, though. It was almost as if they were asking, “Do you really want to take a step backwards into history? A lot of history? Are you ready for this?” Of course, that’s probably just me.
Turns out that I really didn’t at the moment, because right after I took this shot of the ruins of the main house (burned by Union troops and then completely destroyed by an earthquake just 20 years later), I turned around, walked out of the gate and snapped a shot of the house museum.
Of course, I turned around and walked back through the gates to rejoin my folks who probably wondered what the heck I was doing. Just being weird, Mom and Dad. Just being weird.
This is the house museum– it was originally the guest house. So… if this was the guest house, can you imagine what the main house looked like?
A view of the back of the, ahem, guest house.
And then we have…
Sorry, I’ve been playing a lot with perspective and depth of field.
And leading lines and shapes and patterns and…okay…yeah, so….
As if the “front yard” wasn’t already stunning enough, this is the view from the side of the house. Middleton Place’s restaurant is the building over there on the right.
This is looking down at the pond (which had an alligator in it, of course)– still on the side of the house. Then you turn around and start working your way down the path behind the back right corner of the house to see…
more of the pond and the old Spring House and Plantation Chapel. You can’t see them well, but there were pansies planted around the base of the building.
Continuing to walk down the path takes you to the Rice Mill, and the butterfly lakes. If you’ve ever seen the pictures of Middleton from overhead and noticed the perfectly symmetrical lakes, this is what it all looks like up close. Not nearly as impressive, but impressive nonetheless. And look at those clouds. And that sky. And all those happy, little trees.
Okay, if you didn’t get that, then -1- you didn’t watch PBS as a kid because you only had 4 channels to choose from and this funny guy with a crazy afro could paint, man, he could paint or -2- you aren’t old and I am, which causes me to weep just a little. Just google “happy little trees.”
I’m stopping now, I promise. Maybe. It does kind of look like a painting, though. Okay, maybe not a painting, but it reminds me of the puzzles I used to put together when I was a kid–uh, teenager– uh twenty-something until I had kids and could no longer put puzzles together because they wouldn’t last on the table for more than three-and-a-half minutes.
Wait. I said I was stopping, didn’t I?
Another view of the rice mill pond– this looks back toward the bridge from the vantage point of the rice mill. You can go in the various buildings– there are artifacts and information inside of them.
When you leave the rice mill, you can follow a few paths that will take you to the inn. They mostly look like this:
And the inn, normally also prohibitively expensive (several hundred a night) is under $100 a night for January weekends as well. I didn’t take many shots of the inn, and those I did aren’t particularly impressive–assuming any one of the prior shots is– but in the interest of giving you an idea of what the inn looks like, I will share them even if they are a tad embarrassing. Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll stop now.
The buildings where the rooms are located remind me a little of summer camp,
though, while I didn’t go inside, they are certainly rooms from the poshest summer camp I can think of. Don’t believe me? Check out the Inn online here.
Behind the Inn, there are comfy adirondack chairs and benches where you can take a break
in order to better to contemplate the river view, which includes this lovely old dock far in the distance.
After a little while, we returned to the house museum area and crossed the bridge (not a short walk)
where I found this fun little bumble bee fellow…er lady…er fellow– clearly I have forgotten my lesson on bees– just hanging out with a little pollen on his/her nose.
That’s water behind him. Look how blue. It really didn’t seem that blue at the time, but wow.
There were other insects and water fowl and reptiles out there, too, but rather than bore you with those, I’ll take you to where we went next– the working farm-yard.
More than just wandering around buildings, you’re given the opportunity to not just see the animals, but to walk among them. Of course, it is a working farm, so I spent most of my time trying not to remember that the restaurant was right next door, but I’m squeamish like that.
She is not amused.
Neither were they.
This fellow just wanted to eat in peace, and this creature…this chicken, rooster, fowl, bird ( I am a city-girl)…
followed us around three-quarters of the farm-yard and a little beyond.
I do not kid, either. All over the place. All over.
The farm area was one of my favorite places on the grounds. It was calm
in its own way.
There were other places to explore:
and objects, both familiar
and not so familiar all at the same time (it’s an old gas pump).
And there were craftsmen making various goods in addition to exhibits that provided a glimpse into what life may have been like when the plantation was operational.
I apparently like to photograph chairs. Did you know there is a whole Flickr group that solely takes pictures of chairs. It’s amazing how impressive some of the photographs are. But that’s another post.
I have some pictures of the crafts people, but I don’t know that I want to post their photos online– doesn’t seem quite right.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit, do. It really is a remarkable location with a wealth of beauty and a sense of history that is nothing short of awe-inspiring (or maybe that’s just because of my history geek nature), which is saying something when you live in a city that is so steeped in the early annals of American history
As for me, I hope to save my pennies so that I may return in the spring in time to see the azaleas bloom. I may even take one of the carriage rides.
EIther way, if you’re a horticultural buff as well as a history buff, they have a garden shop where you may purchase your very own living piece of the gardens– and you don’t have to pay admission to shop in the garden center.
This one now resides in my parents yard.
Beautiful, isn’t it?