Completion of Historic Wetlands Conservation Project (Phase 1)

By Eric Becker, Manager of Landscapes, Horticulture, and Modern Facilities


In 2013, an initiative began to evaluate and produce management plans for the preservation and conservation of some of the historic rice fields and ponds on Drayton Hall property.  Historically, rice production was likely occurring here sometime around the end of the 17th century. The use of the fields and ponds for this function continued until the redevelopment of the property by John Drayton in the 1740s. Over the years, maintenance and use of the entire pond system had greatly diminished and the natural environment crept back in, attempting to reclaim a long-lost ecosystem. Unfortunately, this system (shown above) was unhealthy, lacking in good water quality and control, overgrown and breeched impoundments, and infested with invasive aquatic and wetland plants.

Working with Folk Land Management, the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust evaluated and adopted a management plan for this historic system to re-establish the integrity and function of the impoundments; replace, add and increase the water flow capacity, pond depth and holding capacity; reduce and remove invasive plants; add habitat for colonial bird species while increasing the seasonal water surface and food sources for migrating waterfowl; and to better allow access and interpretive potential in the future (Phase II). Work on Phase I began in March of this year and finished in August; it was supported, in part, through funding from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, the Dominion Foundation and Gail and Parker Gilbert. The results of these partnerships speak for themselves in the images below.

With the challenge of the recent Hurricane Matthew, the system was not only put to the test, but finally provided the necessary water, assisting to refill the ponds. The impoundments held, and although overwhelmed by this major event, the water control systems functioned much better than last year’s more impactful flooding.




A Historic Survivor

by Carter C. Hudgins, President and CEO

Drayton Hall Ponds

Drayton Hall welcomed Hurricane Matthew to the Lowcountry with secured windows, barricaded doors and a decade of preventative tree maintenance that resulted in relatively few damages to the property. Thanks to the ongoing stewardship efforts of staff and a focus on disaster preparation and management, only minor amounts of rain entered the historic main house, and less than 30 trees were toppled. Though record rains and a significant tidal surge resulted in the ponds overflowing and eroding portions of the entrance road (shown above), none of Drayton Hall’s historic live oaks or magnolias were impacted, and I strongly believe this stands as a testament to our recent efforts to proactively prune, fertilize and stabilize the site’s horticultural gems. Without the generosity of the Friends of Drayton Hall and their support of our historic trees, the storm could have resulted in the loss of significant landscape features.

Still, hurricane cleanup is/and will continue to be part of the daily routine for Drayton Hall’s landscape staff and partners, including Bartlett Tree Experts, shown below as they help us to remove a downed tree. For now, the roads have been resurfaced, the site has returned to normal operation and we look forward to welcoming you onsite in the days ahead.

Matthew’s impact from preparation to damage and clean-up to restoration:





“John Hope: Botanist of the Scottish Enlightenment”

Henry Noltie headshot

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series – Thursday, April 21

Speaker: Henry Noltie, Ph.D., Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh


Today, we tend to imagine that inter-continental travel is a recent phenomenon – in fact it has always taken place, it merely took slightly longer. For example, such was the renown of the Edinburgh Medical School in the 18th century, that it drew students from as far afield as Russia and India in the east, and from the American colonies (including the Caribbean) in the west. One such student was Charles Drayton, who made the transatlantic trip to study botany and materia medica in 1767 under the famed professor John Hope. In keeping with this theme, Dr. Noltie will journey from Scotland to Charleston to speak about the botanical information Charles Drayton brought with him back from Scotland as he made the same trip just about 250 years prior. Dr. Noltie will additionally focus on John Hope and some of his other American pupils, including Benjamin Rush, who was in the same year as Drayton, and an exciting new project that has seen the rebuilding of the house that Hope built, to designs by John Adam, to house his head gardener, and as a lecture room that Drayton would have sat in had he arrived in Edinburgh ten years later.

Since 1986, after studying botany at Oxford and Museum Studies at Leicester, Henry Noltie, Ph.D., has worked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) as a curator and taxonomist. For 14 years he worked on the Flora of Bhutan project, writing the first account of the plants of that remote Himalayan Kingdom and leading the team for its concluding years. He wrote two of the volumes of the Flora, relating to the monocots, for which he received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. Since 2000, his work has been on historical aspects of the rich herbarium and illustrations collections of the RBGE, especially relating to India, which has combined nomenclatural research with historical and art-history studies and the mounting of exhibitions at the RBGE gallery, Inverleith House. A series of publications on Scottish East India Company surgeons, and the botanical drawings they commissioned from Indian artists in the late 18th and early 19th century, has resulted. This work was extended into SE Asia in a collaboration with the British Library on the collections of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. His work on the Scottish Enlightenment botanist John Hope also took visual materials for its starting point – the unique collection of Hope’s teaching drawings preserved at RBGE led to the writing of a short biography in 2011. His most recent work is a two-volume work on Hugh Cleghorn (1820–1895), a pioneering Forest Conservator, but also the source of one of the largest collections of botanical drawings and books in the RBGE collection.

About Drayton Hall  Founded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

Click here for information on all of our 2016 Distinguished Speakers.

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series
is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.

Francis Marion Hotel

Mark your Calendars: the 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series

Website HeaderThe Friends of Drayton Hall are pleased to present the third season of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Beginning with the opening event of the 2016 season, you’ll experience a range of thought-provoking presentations related to America’s history and culture by some of today’s most respected historians, archaeologists, and curators. Speakers will also highlight the connections of Charleston and Drayton Hall to their research interests, and answer questions from the audience. For additional information on this year’s speakers, please visit the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series website.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SCFMlogo


Thursday, February 18, 2016
Patricia Lowe Smith, Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
The Best Portico: Rehabilitating an Architectural Icon

Thursday, March 24, 2016
Dean Jonathan Holloway, Dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies
Curating the Black Atlantic: Race, Memory, and Museum Making

Thursday, April 21, 2016
Henry Noltie, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
John Hope: Botanist of the Scottish Enlightenment


Thursday, September 15, 2016
Sarah Stroud Clarke, Archaeologist & Curator of Collections, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
What Lies Beneath: The Archaeology of the pre-Drayton Era

Thursday, October 20, 2016
Dr. William M. Kelso, Director of Research & Interpretation, Historic Jamestowne
Jamestown, The Buried Truth

Thursday, November 17, 2016 – SPONSORED BY CHIPSTONE 
Dr. David S. Shields, Carolina Distinguished Professor and the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters, University of South Carolina
Creating the World Orchard                              


South Carolina Society Hall
72 Meeting Street, Charleston SC 29401

Ample on-street parking and public lot parking
is available within a block of the South Carolina Society Hall

Doors open at 5:30 pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30 pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

For more information, please contact: Tara White Odom, Development Events Coordinator, 843-769-2627 or by e-mail

Building Bridges Symposium Highlights Latest Research and Discoveries from Drayton Hall

header1Join us on January 29 and 30 for Breaking Ground and Building Bridges, a symposium that brings together leading scholars from Charleston’s preservation and history organizations to present new research on the material culture of the Carolina Lowcountry. Over the course of two days, speakers will discuss exciting initiatives and cutting–edge research projects related to archaeology, the decorative arts, social history, and post-Reconstruction Charleston. Critically-acclaimed artist Jonathan Green will give the Keynote Address at the Building Bridges Symposium.

This year, Drayton Hall will be represented in the program by Cameron Moon, Preservation Coordinator, who will present “The Caretaker’s House: Vernacular Architecture and the Postbellum African American Community at Drayton Hall” on Friday at 2:15 pm. Ms. Moon will speak about how her research of the caretaker’s house has led to a better understanding of the African American community living at Drayton Hall from the late 19th to mid-20th century and has helped to develop a more accurate portrayal of the tenant houses and landscape during phosphate mining.


c. 1915, one of the earlier photographs of the caretaker’s house shows it in its original location next to the main house. This is a rare view, as it is of the back of the house and shows its original footprint before an addition on the back was built in 1923.

The Symposium is a collaboration between Historic Charleston Foundation, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, The Charleston Museum and Preservation Society of Charleston to facilitate dialogue among many of the Lowcountry Institutions. All proceeds will benefit the sponsoring institutions. Symposium tickets are $125/person for the general public and free for students.

See full schedule and purchase tickets


Camerodrayton_hs_06n Moon is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning and a minor in Anthropology. Her honors thesis chronicled the adaptive reuse of the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street and its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. Before joining the DHPT staff in September 2014, she worked for Edgewood Builders, where she learned construction, preservation, and restoration techniques at Medway Plantation and houses in the historic district. Cameron is currently working on ongoing Drayton Hall conservation projects as well as converting the museum shop, housed in the former caretaker’s house, into an interpretive museum space.

“Writing Drayton Hall’s Next Chapter” by Robert Behre

Portico by Robert Behre staff

Drayton Hall’s projecting double portico facing S.C. Highway 61 is considered the front of the house and is perhaps its most iconic feature. The renovation work, seen above, is expected to be done by year’s end. ROBERT BEHRE/STAFF

Great article in the Post & Courier by columnist Robert Behre on our new President and CEO Carter C. Hudgins, PhD., and Drayton Hall’s upcoming plans, including a new facility with exhibit space for many of the site’s collections objects and archaeological artifacts and a new nature trail around its historic rice ponds.

Post and Courier Online

Writing Drayton Hall’s Next Chapter by Robert Behre – Post and Courier – pdf

Read the transcript here:

Post and Courier – October 31, 2015

Writing Drayton Hall’s Next Chapter

By Robert Behre

It would not be inaccurate to say Carter C. Hudgins began his career at Drayton Hall by mowing the grass many years ago and now he is outstanding in his field.

Hudgins, who followed his father’s footsteps into a career of preservation, recently became president and CEO of the iconic Lowcountry house museum and one of South Carolina’s most famous and enduring works of architecture.

And he says the real change there is still to come.

Hudgins is taking the reins at a pivotal time as the site begins a new life, one directed by a local board, the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, rather than by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has given up control but still retains ownership.

He is quick to detail the plans, which include more staff, new buildings and a continued commitment to preserving and interpreting the mid-18th century house and its grounds.

“We are a world-class site,” he says. “We want a world-class engagement with the public.”

No, there are no plans to put furniture in the grand main house or restore it back to its original 1750 appearance.

But the trust expects to begin construction next year on a new building project that not only will handle the routine functions of a welcome center, gift shop and restrooms but will eventually display many of the furnishings and artifacts connected to the Drayton family and the home they built.

“We are actively acquiring objects,” Hudgins says. “We want to be able to show what was in the house, but not with the goal of refurnishing it.”

Instead, the goal is to expand visitors’ experiences without placing further wear and tear on the historic house itself.

Preservation is challenging here because the house is open to the public, and some 60,000 people a year visit it. That’s more feet and weight than most houses are designed for.

Balancing public access and preservation is the crux of Drayton Hall’s mission, and the new building will help.

Drayton Hall already has plenty of items to put in it. Its collection includes more than one million archaeological artifacts and several hundred individual other objects, including dozens of pieces of furniture, one of which is considered perhaps the finest ever produced in Colonial America.

The grounds also will get work soon, with plans to drain the ponds, trim vegetation from their banks and build a new nature trail around them.

Hudgins says Drayton Hall is working with Ducks Unlimited to make sure this work respects wildlife, not just history.

The new attention to Drayton Hall comes at an auspicious time, as there is a growing realization of the importance of how the history and architecture of the city of Charleston blends into the history and landscape of its surrounding plantations.

This interdependence is highlighted in the Charleston World Heritage’s efforts to get the Lowcountry listed as a world heritage site, the highest such designation possible.

The coalition’s new statement on Charleston’s significance begins, “The plantation culture of Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry represents an exceptional example of human manipulation of land to exploit natural resources and create a distinct social and economic system that infuenced the geo-cultural region from the late 17th into the late 19th centuries.”

That might sound a bit fancy and academic, but it really boils down to this: Preserving buildings and landscapes like Drayton Hall is every bit as critical as preservation downtown.

Reach Robert Behre at (843) 937-5771 or at

The Garden of Eden & A Brief History of Gardens Around The World


Photo by Jerry Harpur of Les Quatre Vents, Quebec.

Monday, October 10: Why Are Gardens Important?

Ben Headshot

Ben Lenhardt, Chairman of the Garden Conservancy

Benjamin F. Lenhardt, Jr., chairman of the Garden Conservancy and a member of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Botanic Garden, will show more than 250 slides of beautiful gardens around the world while giving a brief history of gardens, beginning with the Garden of Eden.

Lenhardt will then talk about the various roles gardens play in everyday life, farming, and business, while providing beauty and comfort. He will conclude with a description of the Garden Conservancy’s efforts to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public. The Garden Conservancy’s new book Outstanding American Gardens will be on sale at the lecture.

When: Monday Oct. 12 at 6:30pm

Where: Charleston Museum Auditorium, 360 Meeting Street, 29403

Price: Free for Members; Non-Members: $15

 Sponsored by Bartlett Tree Experts.

Lecture Plant Giveaway courtesy of Abide-A-While Garden Center

McDaniel’s Tenure Praised for “Public History Leadership”

Dr. George W. McDaniel

Dr. George W. McDaniel, President Emeritus of Drayton Hall

We were delighted to learn that The Southern Garden History Society ran a wonderful tribute to Drayton Hall’s recently retired President and Executive Director George W. McDaniel in the Spring 2015 issue of its members’ newsletter, Magnolia. Written by Editor Kenneth M. McFarland, the article praised Dr. McDaniel’s leadership, noting his accomplishments and influence over his 25-year-plus tenure.

Click here to read the complete article: George McDaniel and Drayton Hall

About the Society: The Southern Garden History Society was founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in May 1982, as an outgrowth of a continuing series of biennial conferences on Restoring Southern Gardens and Landscapes, held at Old Salem. The purpose of the society is to stimulate interest in Southern garden and landscape history, in historic horticulture, and in the preservation of historic gardens and landscapes in the South. Membership is open to any individual, family, corporation, or organization interested in the aims and purposes of the society.  .

Interested in learning more about Southern historic landscapes? Discover Drayton Hall and what Southern Landscape Historian Suzanne Turner calls “The most significant, undisturbed historic landscape in America.”


Job Announcement: Landscape Technician

view-from-portico-dh-landscape-1020x377Reporting to the Manager of Landscapes, Horticulture and Facilities. the Landscape Technician (LT) will assist in the maintenance and preservation of Drayton Hall’s historic landscape. The LT will work with other Preservation staff contributing to the achievement, support and compliance of the established and future landscape objectives as outlined in Drayton Hall’s Landscape Master Plan or as new projects and plans are initiated.


  • Contribute to the overall success of Drayton Hall in achieving its mission.
  • Maintain and present the landscape according to the highest professional horticultural standards. Primary responsibilities include turf maintenance including: trimming, mowing, pest control, fertilizing; garden duties including proper planting techniques, watering, fertilizing and mulching; removal of invasive plant material and dead plant material; general knowledge of aquatics.
  • Operation, inventory and maintenance of assigned landscape tools, equipment and machinery.
  • Perform duties to the highest standards of landscape maintenance for maximum presentation of historic gardens, trees, parking lots, woodland walks and the cemetery.
  • Work with and monitor volunteers in assigned duties within selected landscape and garden areas.
  • Ensure that all property signs and garden interpretation are well maintained and unobstructed.
  • Assist in emergency storm preparations and recovery, as required.
  • Develop knowledge of the site and its history by attending enhancement programs and reviewing the site landscape plans and horticulture documents.
  • Attend all meetings as required and help ensure effective communications.
  • Become knowledgeable in site security procedures.
  • Assist with special events and programming as needed, including arriving early and staying late to open/close the site, some evenings, weekends or holidays might be required.
  • Work as a cooperative member of a team, and be willing to lead, follow, and support colleagues in a tactful, positive way.
  • May perform other duties as assigned.

Physical Demands and Work Environment

  • The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this position. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the functions.
  • While performing the duties of this position, the employee is regularly required to talk and hear. The employee frequently is required to use hands or fingers, handle, or feel objects, tools or controls. The employee is required to stand, walk, sit, reach with hands and arms; climb or balance; and stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. The employee may have exposure to moderate noise, crowds at functions or events, and at times variances in weather.
  • The employee must be able to lift items over 80 pounds and perform manual labor as required. The employee must be able to work outdoors. Specific vision abilities required by this position include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, and the ability to adjust focus.


  • Technical Certification or Associates Degree or higher in horticulture/landscape maintenance or in a closely related field,  with 1 year applied work experience; or High School Diploma plus 5 years work experience in landscape/horticulture maintenance.
  • Demonstrated ability to operate and maintain landscape equipment including tractors, commercial mowers, and other power equipment.
  • Safe and current driving record.
  • Ensure all work is performed in a safe manner; also demonstrate an understanding of instructions and deadlines, yet take initiative and work independently.

Position Details

  • Department: Preservation
  • Reports To: Manager of Landscapes, Horticulture and Facilities
  • FLSA Status: Non-Exempt
  • Employment Status: Full-Time

Please send a resume and cover letter to:

Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
ATTN: Eric Becker
3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
Or electronically to

The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust is an equal opportunity employer.

Image courtesy of Drayton Hall

A Trip Back in Time: The Old Georgetown Road

By Jessica Garrett

One sunny morning in October of 2012, I crossed the Ravenel Bridge from Charleston into Mt. Pleasant, and I kept driving until I reached the banks of Jeremy Creek in the village of McClellanville.

Old Georgetown RoadI had traveled there to meet with Selden “Bud” Hill, director of McClellanville’s Village Museum, and Michael Prevost, president of White Oak Forestry and board member of Drayton Hall Preservation Trust. Bud and Mike had told me that they were interested in getting a 6.6-mile portion of a nearby road—the Old Georgetown Road, often referred to as the King’s Highway—listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a means of preserving the road in perpetuity. This was in the suggestion of none other than Drayton Hall’s executive director George McDaniel, who had met with Mike and Bud to discuss the road’s preservation the year before.

That morning Bud and Mike introduced me to the road’s long history: to its origins with the Sewee Indians and its use as a trading path; to a number of great South Carolinians who lived along it like Edward Rutledge, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and Thomas Lynch, Jr, the youngest signer of the Constitution; to its role in the Revolutionary War under the command of the “Swampfox,” General Francis Marion, and in the development of St. James, Santee’s economy; and to its use as part of the official north-south post route as early as 1773, a route traveled by the nation’s first president on his 1791 “Tour of the Southern States.”

Then we hopped in Mike’s Ford F250. We headed west, out of the village of McClellanville, and north on Highway 17. We turned off on Rutledge Road and traveled for about a mile before we turned left onto a lonely dirt road, surrounded only by the forest. This was it. This was the Old Georgetown Road.

And what struck me right then was that you didn’t have to close your eyes to imagine what the road looked like in the 18th century. The road and the longleaf pine forest looked just like the first descriptions I had read: when George Washington described it as “sand and pine barrens, with very few inhabitants,” as he traveled the road during his 1791 tour of the southern states (Lossing 1860, 181); and when Archibald Rutledge, the nation’s first poet laureate described the St. James, Santee Episcopal Church, built along the road in 1768 as “a shrine in the wilderness, flanked on three sides by the immense loneliness of the pine forest.”

St. James ChurchStanding in the ancient church only enhanced the sense of timelessness I felt. Often called the Brick Church at Wambaw, it is built in the Georgian style with pedimented porticos supported by four round columns of brick and offering tall wooden box pews in the interior. It is sparsely beautiful, and its architecture, craftsmanship and state of preservation seem to beckon stories from centuries past to come forth and mingle with the present.

What makes the Old Georgetown Road even more remarkable than its historical appearance is that this 6.6-mile section of the Old Georgetown Road is one of the last and longest continuously unpaved public portions of the 1,300-mile pre-Revolutionary road that connected Charleston, South Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts (Dollarhide, 1997, 1). As local resident David Doar recounted in his 1907 Sketch of the Agricultural Society of St. James, Santee, “From the earliest of times until the railroad was established the road running through the Parish formed one of the links which made the most direct route of travel from Charleston to the North, then our people were in the world, for all who were bound to the most settled part of the United States had to pass this way” (Doar, 1907, 26).

The first to “pass this way” were the Sewee Indians. Your mind’s eye doesn’t need much convincing to narrow the road and transform it into the Sewee’s Broad path. There you can see the Sewee laden with goods they had derived from the deer and bear they had hunted—from skins to fishing line and glue—would trade with the tribes like Kiawah, Stono, Edisto, Ashepoo, Combahee, Wimbee, Coosa, and Santee to the north and west. (Miles 2004, 10). No bears to fear (or hunt) today, but walk no more than ten feet and your steps can become as slow and deliberate as the British explorer and naturalist John Lawson’s as he journeyed throughout the region in 1701 learning from the Sewee and the new French Huguenot settlers, most of whom Lawson notes, “follow a Trade with the Indians, living very conveniently for that Interest” (Lawson, 1709, 12). Despite the vast wilderness he encountered on his travels, Lawson still referred to the Old Georgetown Road—then, in 1701!—as “the Road from Charles-Town, and the rest of the English Settlement”. Even in these early colonial days, the road was more of a highway that connected all of the English colonies than the sandy path it appeared to be.

About a third of the way along the road, south of Rutledge Road, is Jones Pond (which is not a pond at all). It is one of South Carolina’s unique Carolina Bays, an unexplained, isolated wetland. Here the sun, clouds, fresh water, and cypress limbs are tangled together, the line between reality and reflection hard to determine. Jones Pond is at once peaceful and a little spooky, and no doubt part of British General Banastre Tarleton’s inspiration for the nickname he gave to General Francis Marion, the “Swampfox.” Look closely at the clumps of marsh grass and cypress, and Marion appears, crouching behind them ordering General Peter Horry to “move to Wambaw, where forage can be had….as your new position at Wambaw will be more secure, your men will not be so much harassed. I wrote to you in my last that no boats or persons should pass from or to Charles Town without you or my passport.” In Carolina Bays like this one, Marion hid and protected his men, all while ensuring that the only route to Charleston—the Old Georgetown Road—remained blocked to the British. Old Georgetown Road
Of course, travelers from Drayton Hall no doubt “passed this way” too. While researchers have not found documentation, if William Henry Drayton, John Drayton’s oldest son, travelled overland to Philadelphia after being elected to serve in the Continental Congress in 1778, he would have taken this route. Just ten years prior, a British surveyor had described the road as “very good, but sandy in a few places” and no doubt that same streetscape would have greeted William Henry Drayton. Along with him might have traveled his young, inquisitive, and very bright son, John, born in 1766, who attended school in New Jersey while William was serving the nation in Philadelphia. Would he have enjoyed stopping at the taverns along the way or feeling the water under his feet as they ferried across the South and then the North Santee? Later, John would become a regular traveler along the road. He and his wife Hester Rose Tidyman owned Hopeland plantation, located on Memim Creek, a tributary of the North Santee River. John served as governor three times, and as governor’s duties demanded, he would have journeyed south along the road to travel to Charleston and Columbia. In his internationally acclaimed book, A View of South Carolina, as Respects Her Natural and Civil Concerns, and in his Carolinian Florist, this astute observer and writer described the flora, fauna, and agricultural practices one would have seen in the region.

William Henry Drayton’s niece, Charlotte Drayton Manigault, surely traveled along the Old Georgetown Road “to the North” in the 18th and 19th centuries too. Charlotte was the daughter of Charles Drayton, third owner of Drayton Hall, and she married Joseph Manigault. While they lived “in the city” at the house known today as the Joseph Manigault House (owned and operated by the Charleston Museum), they also owned a plantation called White Oak on the north bank of the North Santee River and not far from her cousin, Gov. John Drayton. Perhaps her father, Charles Drayton, headed north to visit her from Drayton Hall on occasion. Maybe the extended Drayton family came together at St. James, Santee Episcopal Church. Their travels would not have been solitary for with them would probably have been their slaves, serving as carriage drivers, footmen, or grooms for the horses, and who might have used the trip to bring news back to the enslaved community at Drayton Hall.

The Draytons’ use of the road seems even more certain when you consider who else chose to journey down it in 1791. Indeed, the nation’s first president George Washington selected the road as part of his “Tour of the Southern States.” According to his biographers, Washington was a meticulous planner: one biographer writes, “he had mapped the route, calculated the mileage, estimated the rate of progress, and planned the length of his stop at each town” (Lipsomb, 1993, 2). If the road was dependable enough for our first president, then surely it was the one South Carolinians along the coast would have used. Perhaps, too, this is a reason to start calling the road “The President’s Highway” instead of the King’s Highway.

For a road so important to the burgeoning nation, it’s decidedly off the beaten path today, and of course that is no doubt why it remains so well preserved. As soon as Route 40 (modern-day Highway 17) was completed in 1929, it became the primary way to travel between Charleston and Georgetown. As a Mrs. W.S. Allan wrote in her April 1930 presentation, entitled “The Kings Highway,”—a moniker that seems to have become common only in the 20th century—this new route “after the manner of modern highways, demonstrates its belief in the geometric axiom that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, by leaving the old winding King’s Highway at times for a shortening of the road” (Allan, 1930 12).

Mrs. Allan’s speech reveals something new about the Old Georgetown Road: the road, preserved and un-updated, even if rarely traveled, could serve as a means to evoke the state’s past. Her description of the route is more of a timeline than a narrative—connecting the individuals who were born at or lived in the plantations along the road and important events in South Carolina history. In her description of Eldorado plantation, for example, Mrs. Allan not only mentions it was built by General Thomas Pinckney, but she also tells the story of how Pinckney’s marriage to a daughter of Rebecca Motte connects this site to the “patriotic burning of her home at Fort Motte to prevent its falling into enemy hands” (Allan, 1930, 8). She is proud of her heritage and of the places that ignite passion for local history.

In truth, Mrs. Allan captures the emotional side of heritage tourism—of connecting to the past through travel—which continued to bring people like her to the Old Georgetown Road in the first half of the 20th century. Her conclusion is full of nostalgia and love for history as she writes “But oh! For those who can sense it, the glamour of the past is still there over it all as surely as the gray moss on the age old oaks along ‘The King’s Highway’” (Allan, 1930, 18).

photos from the celebration of the designation of the King’s Highway

The King’s Highway was added to the National Register of Historic Places last October. The ceremony was held at St. James Santee Episcopal Church on Oct. 19th. L-r, first row: Eric Emerson, Jessica Garrett (author), Bud Hill, Michael Prevost. Second row: The Rev. Jennie Olbrych, Drayton Hall Executive Director George W. McDaniel, Elizabeth Johnson.

And it is Mrs. Allan’s conclusion that brings me back to present day, or at least near present day. For it is was on a sunny Sunday afternoon this past fall, on October 19th, that a group of forty or so South Carolinians gathered at the St. James, Santee Episcopal Church to celebrate the addition of the Old Georgetown Road to the National Register of Historic Places. Bud Hill, Mike Prevost and George McDaniel were back together in the very place where they had first discussed how to preserve the road in perpetuity. Also at the ceremony was Eric Emerson, Director of the SC Department of Archives and History and advisory council member of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust. Eric’s agency helped craft an application that gained approval first at the state level, eventually at the national level.

Together with local residents, we commemorated the history of the Old Georgetown Road, and we celebrated its preservation. More than that, though, we reveled in the fact that because the Old Georgetown Road still looks so untouched by the passage of time, anyone who travels along it today can so very easily imagine being part of South Carolina’s past—whether walking alongside the Sewee who traded along this Broad Path, attending services with members of the Brick Church who would go on to become signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, performing reconnaissance under Francis Marion’s orders, or witnessing George Washington and his retinue passing down the road as the nation’s first president, or even perhaps traveling with Charles Drayton from Drayton Hall going to visit his daughter Charlotte and his nephew John on their plantations on or near the Santee River.

Jessica Garrett served as Drayton Hall’s director of development until 2011. Today she continues to work in historic preservation and conservation as a freelance writer. She lives in Charleston with her husband and four young children. 


Allan, Mrs. W.S. “The King’s Highway” (lecture delivered to the Rebecca Motte Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Charleston, SC, April 12, 1930).

Doar, David. A Sketch of the Agricultural Society of St. James Santee, South Carolina and an Address on the Traditions and Reminiscences of the Parish, Delivered Before Society July 4, 1907. Reprinted by the St. James Santee Historical Society.

Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1735-1815. North Salt Lake, UT: Heritage Quest, 1997.

Lipscomb, Terry W. South Carolina in 1791: George Washington’s Southern Tour. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1993.

Lossing, Benson J., ed. The Diary of George Washington from 1789 to 1791: Embracing the Opening of the First Congress; and His Tours through New England, Long Island, and the Southern States; together with His Journal of a Tour to the Ohio in 1753. New York: Charles B. Richardson and Co., 1860. Page numbers refer to the original.

Miles, Suzannah Smith. East Cooper Gazetteer. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2004. Page numbers refer to the original.