Boone Hall Plantation claims to be “America’s Most Photographed Plantation.” I was extremely impressed while visiting the plantation, not only by the scenery, but also by their thorough commitment to maintaining and teaching its history.
From the moment you drive onto the property, you can turn the car radio to Boone Hall’s very own station, which gives you an overview of the site while you drive down the long, long path lined by live oak trees.
While you sit back and take in the scenery, to your right, you’ll see a variety of crops planted. The plantation has been producing crops for over 320 years, making it one of the oldest continually working farms in the nation. “Boone Hall Farms” still produces peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, and pumpkins, in addition to other seasonal fruits and vegetables. You can actually purchase your own fresh produce from the Boone Hall Farms Market, which sits off the main highway. (The market also offers a full line of locally grown South Carolina seafood, meats, spices, and canned preserves. While there, you can even grab lunch at the cafe.)
As you continue to drive, on your left, you will see a row of nine preserved slave cabins. These are typically your first stop. Each cabin has been set up to display a different stage of slave life – even using life-sized mannequins and furniture to help illustrate the recorded narratives and photos. These cabins are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and in the African American Historic Places in South Carolina. The cabins, along with various other sites throughout the Charleston area, are part of an on-going effort of the historical community to delve into “African-American heritage tourism.” Frequently, period actors will do special presentations at the site.
Why African American heritage tourism? When African Americans attempt to trace their ancestry, it has been found that nearly half end up tracing ancestors back to Charleston. Learning about Charleston’s roll as a hub of the slave trade and southern agricultural industry is a critical part of understanding the history of the city and South.
History of Boone Hall Plantation
The Pioneer - Major John Boone
There are several different theories as to how John Boone came to own the plantation during the 1600s. Some claim that the land was a wedding gift, while others claim that he got a series of land grants. Regardless of the truth, my research tells me that Major John Boone was a rough character – a pioneer who wasn’t afraid the break the rules for personal gain.
On the Boone family web page, there are claims that John Boone was the son of a butcher and barber in Devonshire. He emigrated initially as “a servant . . . an ambitious man” who “became a successful merchant (if by some unsavory businesses) and married into another monied Carolina family.”
It’s pretty bad when your own family recalls your business as “unsavory.” However, this didn’t deter John. Once established, he was elected to the Grand Council during the 1680s. Yet, even at this stage of life, he was discovered as being involved in the illegal trade of Indians, association with pirates, and stolen goods. He was removed from his post – not once – but twice!
John and Elizabeth’s descendants would eventually become the founding fathers known as Edward Rutledge and John Rutledge. When John died, his oldest son, Thomas, made the Plantation his home. It stayed in the Boone family until 1811.
The Brickmakers –Henry & John Horlbeck
After the Boones, the plantation switched hands several times until being purchased by the brothers Henry and John Horlbeck, who owned a brick business. The brothers built many houses and public spaces in downtown Charleston using the brick from their plantations, of which by 1850, Boone Hall was producing 4,000,000 bricks per year using 85 slaves. In addition to the brick business, the Horlbeck family made several changes to the plantation. They completed the avenue of oaks that lead up to the plantation house, and they also planted pecan trees. By end of the century, Boone Hall was one of the leading producers of pecans in the United States. Shortly after Henry Horlbeck died, his children sold their interests in the plantation, which is described as only having a wooden dwelling house (along with a few buildings for the business).
The Diplomats – Thomas & Alexandra Stone
Ambassador Stone, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Philip
The Racing Prince – Dimitri & Audrey Jorjadze
He also liked to race thoroughbreds – which led him to Boone Hall. Most notable of his horses was Princequillo, who in 1943 was the fastest distance runner in the United States. Princequillo is still considered to be the best long-distance runner, with the exception of Kelso, in American racing history. In today’s world, you might be more familiar with Princequillo’s granddaughters – Triple Crown winner Secretariat and her chief rival – Sham.
Current Owners–The McRaes
The prince and his wife sold the plantation to Dr. Henry Deas in 1945, who in turn sold to Harris M. McRae and his wife Nancy in 1955. The McRaes continued to farm the land with a focus on growing peach trees, and eventually opened the plantation to public tours in 1956.
While the house itself is not original to the plantation, it is stunning – and is still used by the modern-day owners. For this reason, you cannot go upstairs.
The Colonial Revival style house is approximately 10,000 sq. feet with 7 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms. It’s cantilevered staircase is one of three surviving in Charleston – and therefore, the owners don’t use it. While the entry rooms are impressive, it’s the loggia that grabs most people’s attention. The room’s vaulted ceilings of exposed brick and cement, combined with the brick herringbone floors, give a stark contrast to the rest of the house. Additionally, the attached game room and wine cellar are walled with cypress panels, which some believe were repurposed from the original house.
Photos are not permitted inside the house, so I've pulled the below from an online slideshow. Follow the link to see more pictures of the inside:
The current owners have a variety of events throughout the year. The upcoming pumpkin patch is a great opportunity to visit the site and pick your own pumpkin – pay by the pound!
Pumpkin patch via Country Living
Posts are a combination of my own research, visits, and conversations, plus various information found around the web. I try to provide sources, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!