We’d gotten a great tip the day we took the loaner car out to shop. Aye mates, shark teeth can be found on Folly Beach. If I can quote our son, “Shark teeth would definitely complete your collection!” Sunday morning off we went, returning with a handful of shells, mahi mahi from Crosby’s seafood and yes, one small shark’s tooth.
The remainder of the day was devoted to feeling the spirit of an earlier age as we left behind the 21st Century and explored Middleton Place with the oldest landscaped gardens in America. This restored and multi-faceted plantation was first established in 1705 and Henry Middleton acquired it through marriage to Mary Williams in 1741. For 125 years the property was the family seat of four generations of Middletons who played important roles in American history. It has stayed under the same family stewardship for over 300 years.
The gardens, laid out in 1741, were expanded during the 1800 and 1900’s with “romantic” additions. In addition to Middleton Place House two brick flanker houses were constructed one on either side of the three-story brick main house. In 1865 Union troops set fire to Middleton Place, destroying the main and the north flanker houses beyond repair.
The less severely damaged south flanker was restored by the family in 1869-1870 to be their residence. Not long after the Civil War and the Great Earthquake of 1886 the property slid into neglect. Early in the 20th century direct descendant of Henry Middleton inherited Middleton Place and together with his energetic bride spent many years restoring and enhancing the gardens.
But the former plantation, situated overlooking the upper Ashley River is more than gardens; secret, sunken and otherwise. Today we can walk around the grounds and find the Carriage House; spinning and textile stall; candle, soap, corn grinding and tanning stall; a Cooperage stall, pottery stall, blacksmith shop; a slew of various farm animals; a demonstration rice field and more.
Our first stop was the restaurant (the booklet didn’t say it was anything prior, so maybe it was added in the 1970s) with indoor and outdoor seating. Your choice of a tasty Low Country buffet or order a la carte from a soup and salad menu. Excellent food and sorry, but I had to snicker when the ladies at the table nearby asked what She Crab Soup was. The waiter said, “You must not be from around here.” No ma’am; they were from California.