February 17, 2018
When it comes to wedding venues in Charleston, it’s nearly impossible to find one that doesn’t have a rich history! When the wedding planning process begins, these sites go from historic landmarks to a beautiful background for couples to say “I do!”. Fireplaces that were once used to warm families become canvases for floral installations. A piazza that served as a respite from the mid-summer heat turns into a game of “How many tables can we fit out here?”. But if those walls could talk, I think that their stories would drown out all of that beautiful decor and captivate each and every guest in the room!
As a self-proclaimed history nerd, there is nothing more exciting than learning about the amazing people and events that took place within this incredible city. And to be able to say your vows in the midst of all of that history is what makes Charleston truly one of a kind!
I’ve finally decided to put my obsession to good use, and am so excited to be starting a new blog series, History Behind the Venue. Once a month, I’ll be writing about one of the many historic venues here in Charleston, and telling you my favorite stories (which will be a challenge in and of itself…there are so many of them!).
So, without further ado, I’m going to kick this series off by telling you a little about one of the most breath-taking wedding venues in Charleston!
Middleton Place first came to be when Henry Middleton married Mary Williams in 1741. Mary was the only daughter of wealthy landowner, John Williams, and the land where Middleton Place stands today was a part of Mary’s dowry, along with a three story house overlooking the Ashley River. As soon as they were married, Henry began to develop the formal gardens that are still so beautiful today (although it took a considerable amount of work to restore them after the Civil War, but that’s another story altogether).
In 1742, Henry and Mary had their first child, a son named Arthur. While many, many Middletons and their descendants have made their mark on Middleton Place, Arthur Middleton is one of the most prominent, and one of my personal favorites!
Arthur Middleton was born at Middleton Place on June 26th, 1742. At twelve years old, he was sent to England for schooling. He didn’t return to South Carolina until 1763, when his father summoned him to help run the family’s plantations after his mother’s death (at one point, they owned 20 total!). It was then that Middleton Place began transitioning from a country home to a rice plantation.
The following year, he married Mary Izard, and in 1768, they began a grand tour of Europe, which lasted four years, and included the birth of their first child. I don’t know about you, but I would do just about anything to be able to go on a four year long honeymoon to Europe! Doesn’t that sounds amazing?
When they returned in 1771 is when Arthur’s story starts to get interesting. Like his father and grandfather, Arthur became increasingly involved in politics, serving in the First and Second Provincial Congresses in South Carolina.
When his father declined a third term as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776, Arthur was elected in his place. On June 22nd, 1776, he voted to declare independence from Great Britain, and later was one of four South Carolinians to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Yes, THE Declaration of Independence! How incredible is that? Event more incredible is that the house museum that exists at Middleton Place today has a rare facsimile copy of the Declaration of Independence on silk! I don’t know about you, but I think that that is amazing!
When the British set their sites on Charleston in 1780, Arthur took up arms to join in the defense of the city. When British forces overtook Charleston, he was arrested and thrown into the garrison (aka prison) in Saint Augustine, Florida. After a prisoner exchange in Philadelphia returned his freedom, he re-joined the Continental Congress.
After the British retreated from Charleston, Arthur went back to managing his properties.
One of my favorite fun facts as a florist: In 1786, one year before Arthur died, French botanist André Michaux brought the first Camellia Japonica to be planted in America to Middleton Place. Only one of the original plants remains today, but Charleston is now full of beautiful camellias, which are just now starting to bloom. Trust me, you don’t want to miss seeing Middleton Place during camellia season!
They even host special guided walking tours that focus on the blooming camellias, which you can learn more about here.
While this brings a close to the story of Arthur Middleton, I really only touched on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Middleton Place history. You can learn more via their website, which is a wealth of information, or better yet, on a guided house tour, where you can actually see that copy of the Declaration of Independence! I seriously can’t think of a more enticing reason to visit!
Would you love to learn more about the history behind your Charleston wedding venue? Leave a comment below, and I just might choose your venue as next month’s History at the Venue!
P.S. If you’re as obsessed with Middleton Place as I am, and want to learn more about getting married there, I would love to chat with you! Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can gush over their amazing gardens together!