Drayton HallA Distinctive Destination
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National Trust Historic Site Drayton Hall, located in Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the most iconic buildings in North America. Drayton Hall’s preservation philosophy was groundbreaking for its time and is unique among historic sites today.
In order to preserve the seven generations of history within its walls, a radical decision was made to stabilize the house rather than restore it to a particular period, and to preserve it as it was acquired from the family in the 1970s. Historic preservation is a broad discipline, but at its heart is the idea that old buildings enrich our lives and deserve our good stewardship.
Established in 1738, Drayton Hall is an icon of colonial America architecture and identity. After seven generations of family ownership, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and devastating hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. Never modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house is unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to become the focus for visitors. Surrounded by ancient live oaks and bordered by the historic Ashley River, the entire site—including the historic grounds with its broad vistas, vanished structures, and rare period features—serves as a testimony to America’s heritage.
“The most significant, undisturbed historic landscape in America.”Southern Landscape Historian Suzanne Turner
As the oldest unrestored plantation house in America still open to the public, Drayton Hall offers guided house tours and programs, including the annual Distinguished Speakers Series. Professional interpreters and educators bring to life the history of the site and the stories of its people, and share important insights into how African and European traditions blended to create the rich Lowcountry culture that exists today.
The site’s Sally Reahard Visitor Center includes an orientation hall, dedicated exhibit gallery, interpretive garden, educational facilities, an expanded and updated gift shop, and a rehabilitated Caretaker’s House with additional learning opportunities.
Currently on display in the Stephen and Laura Gates Gallery is “An Agreeable Prospect,” an exhibit showcasing artifacts and information related to the conception and building of Drayton Hall. Most notably it includes furniture from the Drayton family’s hairy paw suite of furniture, original artwork, archaeological artifacts including tools and ceramics used by the free and enslaved residents, and 3D animations illustrating how the main house was originally painted and furnished.
Drayton Hall is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated and administered by the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.
Benefits for National Trust Members
Purchase an Exhibits and Grounds ticket and receive a free house tour – valid for up to two people. Member discount applies to tickets purchased on-site only.
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The National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has awarded $3 million in grants to 40 places preserving Black history.See the List