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Red Bridge, Magnolia Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina | by Thad Roan - Bridgepix
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Red Bridge, Magnolia Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina

Bridgepixing the Red Bridge at Magnolia Gardens near Charleston, South Carolina. Additional Bridge Photos and a Bridge Blog at


Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (70 acres, 28 hectares) is historic house with gardens located on the Ashley River at 3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina, United States. It is one of the oldest plantations in the south, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 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 on an adjoining property.


Originally a rice plantation, Magnolia became known for its gardens after the Reverend John Grimke Drayton inherited the property in the 1840s and began to rework its gardens in an English style. According to legend, he built the gardens to lure his bride south from her native Philadelphia. He was among the first to utilize Camellia japonica in an outdoor setting (1820s), and is said to have introduced the first azaleas to America. Dripping with pink and red azalea flowers and framed by live oak trees, the gardens of Magnolia on the Ashley were quite well known in the Antebellum period, and were photographed by Mathew Brady, who would later become famous for his photographs of the American Civil War. Another visitor to Magnolia in this period was John James Audubon for whom Magnolia's Audubon Swamp Garden is named.


(Magnolia plantation owner Rev. John Grimke Drayton--who was obliged to adopt the Drayton surname--was a nephew of Sarah Grimke and Angelina Emily Grimke. During the Civil War, Percival Drayton achieved fame as an officer of the United States Navy, at one point involved in an engagement against Port Royal, South Carolina, whose troops were commanded by his brother, Thomas.)


The manor house was burned during the Civil War, possibly by Union troops, but more probably by the newly freed slaves, as was believed in a letter from the Reverend's mother. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Reverend Drayton was forced to open the gardens as a tourist attraction. So, in 1870, "Magnolia-on-the-Ashley" became the first man-made tourist attraction in the United States. As such, some of the notable visitors to Magnolia included Henry Ford, George Gershwin, Eleanor Roosevelt and Orson Welles.


Today, Magnolia Plantation is a thriving tourist attraction with a restored plantation house, slave cabins and a slavery history tour, a nature train, a marsh boat tour, a wildlife area, a petting zoo and, of course, gardens. Many of today's attractions were built starting in 1975 during the garden's renewal. Major garden features include many azalea plantings, as well as:


* Barbados Tropical Garden - indoor tropical garden.


* Biblical Garden - plants mentioned in the Bible, with an Old Testament area commemorating the twelve tribes of Israel, and New Testament area representing the twelve disciples.


* Camellia Collection - First Camellia japonica plantings date from the 1820s, with current plantings containing nearly 900 varieties, of which almost 150 originated from the gardens' own nursery.


* Cattail Wildlife Refuge - approximately 500 acres (2 km²), with tower for bird observation.


* Cypress Lake - Bald cypress trees, up to 100 years old, along riverbanks and wetlands.


* Flowerdale (50 acres) - Oldest sections established 1680. Formal plantings of annuals set within triangular beds enclosed by boxwood hedges. Two large camellias date from the 1840s.


* Long Bridge - Built in the 1840s, one of seven bridges on the grounds.


* Maze - replica of England's famous Hampton Court maze, but planted with from some 500 Camellia sasanqua interspersed with Burford holly. Nearly 14 miles (23 km) of pathways.


* Nature Center and Zoo - domesticated animals typical to Southern plantations, injured or orphaned native animals, and exotic birds including Malayan jungle fowl, guinea hens, and peacocks.


* Plantatation House - Oldest section built prior to the Revolutionary War near Summerville, South Carolina, and transported down the Ashley River after the Civil War. The wide verandah and huge columns are a fairly recent addition. (Wikipedia)


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Taken on March 9, 2003