South Carolina: Redcliffe Plantation

Redcliffe Plantation was completed in 1859 by James Henry Hammond and is the smallest of his many plantations. He named it Redcliffe because the dirt is red around the house and it sits up high. It was his show plantation, the party house, or the place to show off just how well he and his family were doing. The plantation is now a South Carolina State Park and historical site. The land is 369 acres and includes gardens, cacti, slave quarters, a visitors center, and a lane lined with 155 year old magnolias trees. The redcliffe Plantation was donated to South Carolina in 1973 by a decendent who was the editor for Life and Time. The house is four stories and a mix of 60/70’s and 1800’s style furnishings. South Carolina decided to leave the house as it was when donated to show both the history and how it was modernized and lived in. There are only three tours a day of the house. They start at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. The 11am tours are sometimes set aside for school groups so they suggest calling ahead if that’s the tour you want to take. Tours can be paid for at the visitor center and I suggest arriving a bit early. If you miss the start of the tour then the visitor center is closed and it’s a pretty quick walk through of the points of interest and you’ll end up waiting a long time untill the next one. Unless of course you’re planning to just enjoy the grounds, bring your dog and a picnic, because that’s allowed on the grounds.

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The Hammonds were slave owners and cotton growers. The phrase “Cotton is King!” comes from James Henry Hammond. He kept extensive records that allow historians to trace back through and give names and stories to the slaves who worked on the plantations and even speculate where in Africa some of them came from, their deaths are all marked along with births and all sorts of miscellany details. They even have diaries from the family. Everything within the house when it was donated is considered historical artifacts and protected, including as our tour guide told us, trash like blotting paper that they should have thrown out. Almost everything within the mansion is an original from the era it was put in the house.

 

It was interesting to walk through with our enthusiastic tour guide who told us all sorts of stories from the stuff she’d combed through. It’s about $5 for a tour of the house and the rest of the park is free. I enjoyed the park and the tour of the mansion but it’s a bit in the middle of nowhere and there isn’t much to do if you were hoping to just go on the tour and then wander around, especially since you can’t enter the house unless you’re on a tour and if there is a tour going on you can’t enter the visitors center which is full of information as well like a tiny museum.

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