Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Magnolia Plantation is one of the most unique looking and one of the oldest plantations in South Carolina. The house we see today is the 3rd house after the first 2 burned down. Originally, the live oak lined path lead to the house. It is the one of 3 remaining plantations along the Ashley River. Most were burned down when the Union soldiers passed through during the Civil War. Magnolia is a mixed of Victorian, Georgian, and Gothic Revival architecture. It’s also one of the oldest tourist attractions in the south.


Live oak trees and Spanish moss pathway.

In 1676, Thomas and Ann Drayton built the plantation and a small formal garden. The property is still under the Drayton Family after 15 generations. They no longer live on the property but they hire employees that live in cabins throughout he property and when the family visits they stay in cabins. Pictures are not allowed in the house because it’s the family’s personal belongings we are looking and learning about.


The first home burned down accidentally during the American Revolution. The second home a 3 story manor constructed of cypress was burned down when the union soldiers torched it.

Magnolia is the oldest public attraction in the low country. They first opened their doors in 1870. They were famous for their gardens and flower collection which Reverend John Grimke-Drayton developed when he inherited the property in the 1840s.

Reverend John Grimke-Drayton was a Episcopal minister. He was the 2nd son to his parents. The property became his when his brother died in a hunting accident on the land. He had to change his name to Drayton to take over the property. His mom was Sarah Daniel Drayton. Through his father, Thomas Smith Grimke, he was the nephew of Sarah Grimke and Angelina Emily Grimke, known abolitionists. They have a very interesting history. I admit I am not into Civil War History but the stories of Reverend Drayton, his wife (a Philly socialite) and his Aunts the Grimke sisters made us more curious about Charleston and it’s history. He did own slaves to work his fields. He taught them to read and write which was illegal at the time but got away with it by calling it bible study. It’s interesting to learn how individuals viewed slavery and how they did what they could to make things better for them.

Reverend Dayton married to Julia Ewing, the daughter of a Philly lawyer. She was homesick and when they fell in love didn’t plan on living in the south and managing the plantation. He created the garden in hope she would miss Philadelphia less.




It was originally a rice plantation, dikes and dams along the river were used for irrigation and rice cultivation.


Recreation of a rice barge used to transport rice along the Ashley River. That was the main source and fastest way to transport back in the day.


Family crypt on the property. The crack on it is from the great earthquake of 1886 that hit the Charleston area.

We went on a guided tour with Adventure Sightseeing, Derrick was our guide and he did a great job.  He recommend Hall’s Chophouse, Slightly North of Broad, Magnolia and other restaurants in town to eat at. We have a list of places we’d like to try when we go back to Charleston. He was well informed about the history of the property and guided use though the gardens. Not much wildlife was out since it was a bit chilly.


Alligators are reptiles. When it’s cold they sit at the bottom of the swamp. Every once in a while they take a peek to see if it’s warm enough to bask.


The tannin from the Cypress trees color the water black. The water is clean but looks dirty due to the color. The pigment makes the scenery reflect nicely in the water.



The knobby looking this in the ground are called Cypress knees. They are the roots of the tree.

Unfortunately our tour didn’t include walking into the slave cabins. We would have liked to walk around and get pictures of them. We saw them from our tram ride of the swamp gardens.



The trees were really cool, a lot of them consisted of a few colors.


A random cabin.

My favorite guy on the property is Sylvester. He even has a white tip tail just like him. I was calling him Sylvester from Loony Tunes and found out it’s really his name. He’s really friendly.




The Civil War sent Reverend Drayton to North Carolina and Julia with their kids to Philadelphia. When they returned they were broke and their house burned down. To make his family money again the Reverend leased land to mining companies so they could mine phosphate for fertilizers. For income in 1870, they opened their property to guests that would arrive by the Ashley River.  They have been opening their doors ever since. We get to enjoy the Reverend John Grimke Drayton’s vision of the gardens.




8 thoughts on “Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

  1. I would have enjoyed listening to the history of the plantation, but Sylvester would have stolen my attention. 😉 What a cutie! Is he the personal pet of someone living there, or he the “plantation cat” who hangs out there on the veranda?

    It’s also interesting that the garden is built in swampland. It looks beautiful, but I’m not sure about having an alligator in your “pond” instead of goldfish or koi. I’d be worried the alligator would decide to visit the front lawn, or even my doorstep. 🙂

    1. I think he’s the plantation cat. He is taken care of. Very friendly.

      Yup, swampland. When our tour bus pulled it I was thinking – that’s the oddest looking plantation ever. Pretty neat. The river is pretty close but far back enough that it doesn’t flood. Think that’s what they said. I know! So many wild animal friends living in the yard. Guess they are use to it. I'[d like to see this place in spring but there will be so many bugs. I am afraid of bugs.

      1. I’d be worried about mosquitoes, which I hate. The first mosquito bite of the year makes wherever I got bitten red and swollen, and it itches for weeks. I also wonder if the former residents had to worry about malaria! But yeah, spiders, cockroaches, water bugs, cicadas—can’t stand them!

      2. We are going to Vancouver in May. 5 night Victoria and 5 in Vancouver. Have a whole bunch of walking hiking tours planned. I always say – I’m afraid of heights and ledges. I’m a sissy city girl, what trails are good for me? I leave out afriad of bugs and other things too. Oh our nature walks sometimes I run through areas if there are bugs. I don’t even run to catch a train. That’s a lie. I’ve run to catch a train if I had a bad craving and need to hit the store before it closes.

        The had yellow fever outbreaks in the south. Have to look it up. They did have some mosquito illnesses back in the day.

        Are you feeling better?

      3. I’m a lot better, thanks! The only problem is that I’ve been surprised at how easily fatigued I am. I tried taking a job assignment yesterday, and while it was very light duty, I felt like I’d been waiting on tables all day long. So today I’m recovering from that. I’ll try to work again tomorrow, but I won’t take on anything heavy or stressful! 🙂

        I think you’ll enjoy Vancouver. My younger daughter may be moving there in a few months. I doubt if you’ll have to walk along a ledge or do anything resembling mountain climbing, but I was told the views from the Coastal Mountains are spectacular. The skiing up there is supposed to be great, since they got a load of snow this winter. (I’m guessing you’re not into outdoor winter sports, though. Vancouver is supposed to be great if you love being outdoors. Not sure about bugs. I know parts of Canada have tons of mosquitoes in the summer, but on the western coast, I’ll bet it’s like Seattle and you won’t see any bugs worth noticing. 🙂

    1. We were there in January so there weren’t any bugs. It would be nice to see it in spring when all the flowers are in bloom but them we would have way more insect friends. I can’t imagine these grounds as rice patties and working them in summer.

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