Driving out to Middleton Place, a former plantation which boasts the oldest gardens in America, the clouds rolled in over Charleston, SC. About 45 minutes later we arrived with our mother at Middleton Place. Stepping from the car, thunder clapped and we accepted the proffered umbrellas. Meandering through the gardens which took our breath away, the heavens opened and we felt a bit like heroines in a Jane Austen novel walking through wet and European inspired landscaped gardens.
Dashing to the House Museum, a stately brick building built in 1775 that flanked the original family home (burned by Union troops in 1865 just two months before the end of the Civil War), we made it inside only slightly damp. We were met by Tracey Todd and Warren Cobb two of the knowledgeable and friendly members of the staff assembled by Charles Duell that make up Middleton Place Foundation. Charles, a descendant of the Middletons entrusted with this awe inspiring piece of history, formed the Foundation in the 1970s to protect the property and share his passion for its history. As thunder rolled and lightning streaked across the sky, Tracey took us from room to room regaling us with the Middleton family history spanning several generations.
Happily the storm had quieted by the time we were to walk from the House Museum to the restaurant on the property for dinner. The dining room has walls of glass overlooking lagoons framed by oak trees dripping with Spanish moss– a picturesque and enchanted backdrop to the shrimp and grits, decadent desserts and wine. We wandered through the woods to the Inn at Middleton Place just as it was getting dark. A modern collection of buildings built to take advantage of their environment make up the Inn. We loved the swimming pool which is on a hilltop hovering above the banks of the river below and the river’s namesake suite, the Ashley River Suite.
Charles Duell’s passion for preservation of history is admirable and inspiring. To remember where we’ve come from and what’s come before us can help us know where we want to go.