Sandlapper Slept Here
Mansfield Plantation, Near Georgetown
Plantations are, in several ways, the most imposing facet of southern history. An opportunity to lodge at one—a real one—in the modern day isn’t to be passed up. You can do that. Reserve accommodations at Mansfield, a literal "bed and breakfast plantation."
Gone are the 18th- and 19th-century laborers, but left behind is the empty village (complete with chapel) where they lived. Gone are the steamships that churned upriver from Georgetown to transport the rice crop, but remaining are dikes and part of the tidal control apparatus. Deer, turkeys, alligators and waterfowl still roam the vast acreage as they did before the war. (Which war? All of them.)
Just as natural is its lazy tranquility. It’s a mile-and-a-half drive along the dirt entrance road from Highway 701, so traffic noise is negligible at the plantation proper. At night, open a window of your cottage and let millions of insects and birds sing you to sleep.
This historical treasure was made to order for owner Sally Smith Cahalan, who with her husband Jim moved "home" to her inherited plantation two years ago. Sally was the historical director of "Wheatland," home place of President James Buchanan in Pennsylvania. She’s completing work on her doctorate in American studies. Jim, though more recently a computer professional, has a Ph.D. in ante-bellum history. Both have taught history courses in college.
Now they have 900 acres of history underfoot. The plantation’s guest houses had been opened as a bed and breakfast for several years. The Cahalans expanded the offerings to accommodate hunt groups; duck hunting packages include dinner, lodging and a full country breakfast after the early morning hunt. (Don’t worry—nonhunting guests also benefit fully from Sally’s kitchen creations.) They offer plantation tours and host weddings and other events. A wine festival is staged on the grounds each autumn.
Mansfield attracts many vacationers who want to do the coast but avoid the busyness of commercialized beach towns. The weekend we visited, guests included a young couple from Atlanta who were making day trips to Charleston and other coastal attractions.
We opted to hang around the plantation. A stroll along the dike startled several young ’gators in the water below. Red-winged blackbirds, once the bane of rice growers, and other fowl claim the fields. (Serious birders are a significant portion of Mansfield guests.) An historic winnowing mill still stands. Bikes are available for riding the shady lanes.
Sally collects antiques. You’ll enjoy the Victorian furniture and portraits. An 1850s piano is in the parlor, where you see ornate woodwork around the doors and fixtures. Yet the design of the main house is "remarkably simple," Sally notes. "Nothing like Gone With the Wind."
In our room was an elegant writing desk/bookcase with a collection of time-worn miniature readers, and a beautiful leather-top table. Gently open a volume to a poem by Shelley. Here, it reads like contemporary literature.
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT MANSFIELD PLANTATION
MANSFIELD PLANTATION (Route 8, Box 590, Georgetown, SC 29440; (800) 355-3223, (843) 546-6961; www.mansfieldplantation.com) has 3 guest houses (2 with 2 rooms, 1 with 4 rooms) with private baths; $95/night. No smoking inside. Children okay. Pets okay (5-paw rating, Pets Welcome).
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