With its plethora of antebellum homes, colonial-era buildings and 18th century churches, history buffs have plenty to see and do in Charleston, South Carolina. But just across the Ravenel Bridge in Mount Pleasant, SC, is a landmark worthy of the short drive off the peninsula.
The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site offers visitors the opportunity to learn about America’s forgotten founder.
A longtime proponent of a strong central government, Charles Pinckney was one of the first to call for a general convention to amend the nation’s ineffective governing document — the Articles of Confederation.
At the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia, he argued forcefully for the protection of property interests and establishing a central government with a clear separation of powers. His draft of the constitution contained 30 or more provisions that were incorporated into the final document.
While he was overlooked by historians after his death, today Pinckney is recognized for the important role he played in framing the fundamental laws that transformed a loose organization of former British colonies into a powerful democratic nation.
In addition to serving as a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, he was a U.S. senator and four-term governor of South Carolina.
The 28-acre national historic site sits on a small portion of Pinckney’s 715-acre coastal country estate known as Snee Farm. His father purchased the property in 1754 to raise cattle, and grow rice and indigo.
Archaeologists believe all the Pinckney-era buildings were destroyed by hurricanes in the early 19th century. When William Matthews purchased the property in 1828, he razed the damaged plantation house and built a new one in the same location. Made of native cypress and pine, the tidewater cottage now serves as the historic site’s visitor center.
Inside are exhibits on Charles Pinckney and his political career, as well as the impact slavery had on the new nation. Displays also feature artifacts unearthed by archaeologists that included Chinese porcelain, and French and English tableware, slave-made pottery, wine and liquor bottles, British and American coins and a silver spoon bearing the initials of Charles Pinckney’s parents.
The historic site also features a trail that takes you down the roadway that once connected Snee Farm to US Highway 17 past archaeological excavations of slave quarters. The mulched path continues along a lush tidal wetland with towering magnolias, magnificent live oaks, wax myrtles and yaupon holly. A short spur trail leads to a boardwalk overlooking a small branch of Wampacheone Creek.
To learn more about history and heritage in South Carolina, visit DiscoverSouthCarolina.com/heritage.