Charleston South Carolina, has been on my bucket list for ages. I always heard wonderful things about the charm, the trees, the food, and the ambiance. Even though I was only in town for two days, I managed to squeeze in plenty of mini adventures.
Located a mere 20 minutes from Zero George Street, Boone Hall Plantation is one of America’s oldest working, living plantations. Located in the Mount Pleasant suburb near Charleston, it has been open to the public for over 50 years, but its history spans more than three centuries. Given as a land grant to Major John Boone, Boone Hall was first established in 1681.
Boone Hall Plantation has been open to the public since 1956. The McRae Family, purchased the plantation in 1955, and it was Mrs. McRae, who furnished the house with antiques and began giving tours. Today, the McRae Family, still owns the property, and they continue to make improvements to the plantation, so that visitors can experience what plantation life was really like in the 1800s.
The present plantation manor house dates to 1935. This house is not the original Boone home; it’s actually the fourth building on the site. The others having been lost to fire and/ or torn down for the new structure by Thomas Stone in the early 20th century, designed after the traditional southern plantation style.
The famous avenue of oaks, is a three-quarter mile drive, lined with massive Spanish moss draped oaks, that date back to 1743. Bordering the avenue of oaks are nine original slave cabins, which was once home to the plantation’s house servants and skilled craftsmen. The brick cabins on Slave Street were reserved for the most high-ranking slaves, (if that’s 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.
Two brothers, John and Henry Horlbeck, bought the plantation in 1817. They converted the back of the plantation near the Wampancheone Creek, into the Horlbeck Brickyard. In the decade before the Civil War, it’s estimated that the brother’s brickyard produced 4 million bricks each year. The plantation’s slaves made all of these bricks by hand.
The Horlbeck’s brickyard quickly evolved from a few kilns used by some of the plantation’s 225 slaves, into a thriving enterprise, that served all of Charleston. The Horlbeck brother’s had large pecan groves planted on their land– this is the reason why Boone Hall is one of the last remaining active plantations in America today.
If you love history, you’ll love visiting Boone Hall. It’s ownership has changed many times, from John Boone, to a Russian prince, to the current McRae family.
The plantation features, live demonstrations, a coach tour, and beautiful gardens. Visitors can tour the historic Charleston property on their own, or take part in the guided tours through the slave cabins and the mansion on the property.
In addition to the historical aspects, Boone Hall hosts a small cafe (meh), gift shop, 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. The house is kind of your typical Georgian-columned antebellum affair, no photos allowed inside, and minimal opportunity for touring the inside. We were only allowed in the formal dining room, the library, and a screened in side-porch. The rest of the house was off limits. I didn’t mind much, because what I really traveled to the Boone Plantation to see were those nearly 350 year old oaks.
Witnesses today, report seeing a strange sight near the creek. At sunset, these witnesses all describe seeing a strange woman standing in the grass near the road. She is seen moving her hands in a repetitive thrusting motion. She wears ragged dark clothes and her face is downward toward her jerking hands. No one has ever seen her face, as its covered by her loose hair. Many witnesses have stated they saw the pale light of dusk pass through the figure. Since she has always been seen in the same area it’s believed that she’s the ghost of a slave, that worked at the 18th century brickyard.