In a city older than the country itself, history lovers and tourists face no shortage of opportunities to explore and enjoy history in the making.
One famous home, however, does not receive the full attention it deserves. Built in the 1740s by John Drayton, Drayton Hall stands on a 630-acre site in West Ashley and is included in the Ashley River Historic District. Remaining in the family for seven generations, the home is now maintained by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The home and site remain an impressive look into the architecture and history of Charleston, but in its current state Drayton Hall’s story cannot be fully told.
Last Friday saw the beginning of changing this sad take with the groundbreaking of Drayton Hall’s new visitor center.
Named in honor of Sally Reahard, who visited the Low Country only once in the 1930s but whose continuing contributions helped the National Trust acquire Drayton Hall, the new center will have room to display a portion of the artifacts currently unable to be shown in the home, in addition to displays that explore slavery on the plantation. However, its gallery space will be minimal as the Trust plans to build a larger gallery space during a future expansion.
The new visitors center has been a goal of the National Trust since acquiring the home in the 1970s. After concerns with area development and potential placing of the center to avoid competition with the home, a new preservation trust and governing board made completing the center a priority.
The ceremony was attended by, among other noble guests, Charleston’s Mayor Tecklenburg who praised the efforts of the National Trust and the governing board to maintain the beauty and importance of Drayton Hall. Mayor Tecklenburg was joined by descendants of the Drayton family and the former slaves who lived on the plantation in the official ceremony.