Earlier this fall I had a conference on the east coast and as a treat to myself I decided to go a little early and spend a few days in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston has been on my list for ages, I’ve only heard wonderful things about the charm, the weather, the food, and the ambiance. I was only in town for two and a half days, but I managed to squeeze in plenty of mini adventures. I knew I wanted to tour an old plantation; there are a couple of large ones operating as farms and historical tourist destinations in and around Charleston. I read reviews from other bloggers (Janssen, Holly, and Kristin), and looked up where they were in relation to my hotel, but the deciding factor that made me choose Boone Hall was this gorgeous avenue of ancient oak trees leading up to the main house; three-quarters of a mile, lined with 100 trees.
I mean….come on. This isn’t real, right?!
The house is kind of your typical Georgian-columned antebellum affair, no photos allowed inside, minimal opportunity for touring the inside. But again, I did not come to see the house. (Actually, that’s only partially true. Once upon a time I was an architecture major and this is the exact kind of building that I would have gone ga-ga over. In fact, I think I designed an antebellum plantation house for a class project once. That being said, we were only allowed in the formal dining room, the library, and a screened in side-porch. The rest of the house was strictly off limits. I would have loved to see the kitchen and some of the upstairs bedrooms.)
One of probably 15 remaining slave cabins on the property. Most slaves did not live in such structures, they lived in huts that were easily–and frequently–destroyed by tropical storms hitting the South Carolina coast. These brick cabins were reserved for the most high-ranking slaves (if that is even a thing) who worked in the house or did labor most essential to the immediate comfort and prestige of the Master. Field slaves lived in shacks and huts closer to the fields.
I took a ride around the plantation farm lands, they have a thriving local produce business in a number of different crops. The plantation also employs many local people to farm, give tours, and help maintain the property. My tour guide’s grandfather was a slave at Boone Hall and he said a number of the other plantation employees had ancestors who were slaves on this property. I am still thinking about that concept. As a white person from the Wild Wild West I certainly have very little perspective or right to an opinion about the moral ethics of this, but it struck me as something that should require additional thought. And I’ve been thinking about it for almost a month now, more so as I continued to read a number of first-person slave narratives.
In addition to the historical aspects, Boone Hall hosts a small cafe (meh), gift shop (hrmph), and number of festivals, carnivals, fairs, and other events throughout the year to celebrate various holidays, crop harvests, and other pieces of plantation life.
I enjoyed my little meander around the plantation and the historical lessons from various guides, but what I truly came for were those gorgeous oak trees, huge and stately, dripping in Spanish moss.
If I ever turn up missing, the first place you should probably look is the branches of these trees. Chances are more than likely that I’ve run away from Real Life and am camping out in their arms waiting for the storm to pass. (Seriously, SO swoony!)