Historic Structures

Drayton Hall, Charleston South Carolina

Date added: May 4, 2016 Categories: South Carolina House Mansion Plantations & Farms Georgian

John Drayton, who had Drayton Hall constructed 1738-1742, was one of the most prominent citizens of South Carolina, as reflected by his appointment to the King's Royal Council of the Province, Obviously desiring a house which would be a reflection of his wealth and status, Drayton commissioned one of the finest Georgian/Palladian houses in the colonies. Although occupied by General Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War, the house was not substantially damaged and would pass on to John Drayton's son, grandson and great-grandson. The latter died a premature death, leaving the property to his 5-year-old son, Charles Henry Drayton.

While Charles Henry was a minor, the house and property were maintained by his uncle, Dr. John Drayton. Tradition holds that during the latter part of the Civil War, John Drayton used the house as a hospital for the treatment of smallpox and it is believed that the fear of contagion prevented Union troops from burning the house. At any event, Drayton survived the Union sweep through the area, being one of only a handful of houses to remain intact.

While the house was not razed, the ravages of the war had led to the deterioration of the building and the decimation of the family's fortune. During the late 1870,s, however, Charles Henry Drayton recouped his wealth through the mining of phosphate. The land surrounding Drayton Hall contained a very rich deposit of phosphate, which could be easily stip-mined. From his profits, Drayton built a mansion in Charleston and also proceeded to renovate Drayton Hall. His improvements, however, were highly sympathetic to the architectural character of the building, and did not include such disruptive innovations as plumbing, gas lighting, etc.

During the century following Charles Henry Drayton's repairs to the house, the Drayton family retained ownership, but by the early 1970's the building was vacant and deteriorating. However, in 1974 the house was purchased by the National Trust of Historic Preservation, which currently maintains the building as a museum of Georgian architectural design.