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Hampton Plantation: Southern History and Literature in McClellanville, South Carolina

Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

When people come to Charleston, most of them stick to the downtown/ beaches/ Ashley River plantation circuit. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that--in fact, I'd highly recommend doing just that if it's your first trip here. 

But if you've got a little extra time or you feel like exploring a little further afield than most, there are plenty of amazing things to do in the Charleston area that are a bit off the beaten track. Hampton Plantation in McClellanville, South Carolina, is one of them. 


The homeplace of South Carolina's first Poet Laureate, Archibald Rutledge, Hampton Plantation is located in McClellanville which is an adorable fishing village about fourty-five minutes or so outside of Mount Pleasant. 

The History of Hampton Plantation

Built in 1735, this property is representative of much of the Lowcountry's history in the last 250 years. It is a great example of a Georgian plantation house (one of the best in the state, actually!), and it was a working rice plantation for many years before the Civil War. 

As you walk around the property, you'll notice that the kitchen stands to the side of the main house. This arrangement was for a simple reason: it makes for a much safer situation if a fire was to break out...and this was nearly inevitable when your only source of heating and light was an open fire! 

The 300 acre property was passed through the Horry, Rutledge, and Pinckney families through the years. If you're at all familiar with South Carolina history, all of these names will sound familiar as they were at the heart of SC social circles and politics for years. 

There's even record of George Washington coming to visit the property during one of his tours of the state! (See more about that below).

The plantation managed to escape any major damage during the Civil War, but (like many of the other large agricultural properties in the South) fell on hard times as the South struggled to find a new identity in the post-war years. 

By the early 1900s, the house was in the hands of the Rutledge family, and a young man by the name of Archibald Rutledge was growing up there. He was deeply interested in writing, and went on to have a storied career as a teacher and poet. Although he moved away from Hampton Plantation in his adult years to pursue his teaching and writing career, he often returned to the property during his vacation periods. 

Rutledge published more than 50 volumes of poetry--many of which revolved around his childhood at Hampton Plantation--and was named South Carolina's first poet laureate in 1934 for his vision and representation of the state.

He never married or had children, so he willed the property to the state after his death. It's now a hidden gem of South Carolina history that I highly recommend! 

Our Visit to Hampton Plantation

This past weekend, Charleston had some unseasonably cool temperatures (it actually dipped into the high 60s!), so I headed out with my husband, my sister, and Britton to explore Hampton Plantation. 

There was a house tour at noon and 2:00 p.m., but we completely missed it. I'd been to Hampton years before, and I remember the interior being gorgeous. So, if you head out there, don't be a doofus like I was, and make sure you go on the tour! 

We decided to walk on the grounds since we were out there. The grounds are free and are open year-round. 

I love these huge oak trees that you can find on old Southern properties. Landon really wanted me to get a closer picture but I have this teeny, tiny all-consuming fear of snakes, so this was as close as I dared go. (Side note: I'm not totally sure how I'm going to live on 7.5 acres of dense woodland without going outside. EVER. Because SNAKES.)

As we were all walking around the grounds, Amber found another tree (see below) and said, jokingly, "I bet George Washington was here."

And then we walked around to the other side of the tree, and BAM. Guess what was there? This little gold plaque that said, "George Washington saved this tree."

I kid you not.

So, now I really want to start a blog series called "GW WUZ HERE" and just list all of the places that Georgie W. managed to visit during his lifetime. That guy had to be booking it because it seems like there aren't too many pre-1790 dwellings/ public houses/ highways that don't have a sign proudly announcing their (tenuous) link to the first president himself. Thoughts? (It's an awesome idea, right?!)

Britton had a grand old time despite the fact that she was unaware of her closeness to a George Washington tree.

Britton and her Aunt Bee-Bee
I prowled around the outside of the house--I was so close, yet so far away. 

Here is my attempt at a quick peek into the inside of the house. I'm nothing if not persistent!

We sat on the rocking chairs on the front porch and relaxed for a few minutes. And by "relax," I mean, we took turns hopping up and running after Britton as she tried to run off the sides of the porch. 

Oh, just hanging out on the porch of my new house. Ha! (My new house does have a porch, just nothing nearly this grand.)

Quick family pic!

Britton on the joggling board, which is this long piece of wood that bounces and rocks. Joggling boards were really popular in the post-American Revolution South; they were also called "courting boards," since ladies and gents in LUV could sit on either end of the bench and then slowly bounce towards the middle.

Before we left, we walked down through the gardens to the rice fields. Not much was blooming since it's fall, but everything was still pretty and green.

Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, South Carolina

Our Education Tour of Hampton Plantation (An Update!)

So, I'm a firm believer that there's ALWAYS more experience in a historic site, and that there's nothing wrong with visiting it more than once! 

Now that we're homeschooling our daughter, we're continually on the lookout for some new ways to experience the world and expose her to history, both local and global. 

Along with a few friends, Britton, Gibson, and I headed back to Hampton Plantation for a hands-on educational experience that was perfect for young learners.

Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

We'd arranged a kid-friendly tour with the rangers before we arrived, so we paid at the small ranger hut and headed up to the house. 

Our wonderful (and infinitely patient) ranger guide started our tour outside of the kitchen, where we got to peek inside and see where the cooks once prepared extensive meals. We couldn't go inside because bats live inside, and the rangers are protecting their habitat. 

Next, the ranger shared a bit about rice production in the antebellum years and the kids were invited to feel rice before and after it was hulled. They then were able to use a large basket to throw rice around just as it was done 200 years ago!

Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

We headed into the house for the full tour after everyone had had a chance at the rice process. The kids got to stand in the massive fireplaces, practice waltzing in formal reception room, the touch the decorative elements on the walls, and ramble around the upstairs.

Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Our tour ended out in the backyard where the kids got to try playing with the toys that generations of kids at Hampton Plantation would've used. It was so much fun watching them chase the hoop, figure out a Jacob's ladder, and play graces.

Afterwards, the kids were still interested in exploring more of the property, so the group headed down to the rice field overlook and then walked through the gardens. We were able to see the family graveyard in the gardens, and this entire area of the property is quite serene.

What to Know before You Go

Hampton Plantation is located just off Highway 17 South about five minutes above McClellanville, South Carolina. The grounds are free, and the house tour is $7.50 per adult.

If you're traveling with kids, ask the ranger on duty if there are any scheduled family activities that day. Even if there aren't, you might get lucky! If you're visiting during a slow time, the rangers tend to go out of their way to help the visitors experience the historic site, and might be willing to pull out the box of old-timey toys.

You can also call ahead and request a family friendly tour. Depending on the number of people in your party, you may receive a small discount.

There are picnic tables available near the ranger station. They are uncovered, but they make for a great resting spot on a nice day.

The property does have restrooms near the ranger station. There are no facilities closer to the house.


Do you like visiting old houses? Would you like to add Hampton Plantation to your list of things to do on your Charleston visit?


Hampton Plantation: Southern History and Literature at Charleston's Hidden Plantation | CosmosMariners.com