Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (70 acres, 28 hectares) is a historic house with gardens located on the Ashley River at 3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston County, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest plantations in the South, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Magnolia Plantation is located near Charleston and directly across the Ashley River from North Charleston. The house and gardens are open daily; an admission fee is charged.
The plantation dates to 1676, when Thomas and Ann Drayton built a house and small formal garden on the site. (The plantation remains under the control of the Drayton family after 15 generations.) The historic Drayton Hall was built in 1738 by John Drayton, father of judge John Drayton, Jr., on an adjoining property. Magnolia was originally a rice plantation, with extensive earthworks of dams and dikes built in fields along the river for irrigating land for rice cultivation. African slaves from rice-growing regions created the works. As time went on, the slaves developed a creolized Gullah language and culture, retaining many elements from Africa.
Magnolia Plantation is operated as a house museum and tourist attraction. It has a reconstructed and restored plantation house, based on what was built after the Civil War. The oldest section was built prior to the Revolutionary War near Summerville. It was transported down the Ashley River after the Civil War and added to the house during its rebuilding. The wide verandah and huge columns were added more recently.
Of the five cabins on site, four were built in slavery times and one about 1900. They have been restored to differing periods: 1850 and other decades after the war, into the twentieth century, as they housed free as well as enslaved workers. The interpretive program reflects African-American history at the plantation, From Slavery to Freedom. Archeological work is revealing more about the lives of both slaves and free black workers, who were skilled gardeners and craftsmen.
Other elements of the plantation emphasize the natural setting: a nature train, a marsh boat tour, and a wildlife area. A petting zoo and the gardens feature a kind of cultivated nature. Many of today's attractions were built starting in 1975 during the garden's renewal.