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The Middleton family has been one of Charleston’s most influential dynasties since the 17th century, though this once massive rice plantation was established in the 1730s by planter John Williams. Henry Middleton, president of the First Continental Congress, whose son, Arthur, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, inherited the estate in the 1740s, but most of the property was destroyed in the Civil War and the earthquake of 1886. What remains is still incredibly beautiful: the remaining properties have been restored over many years, and the 65 acres of fabulous gardens are laced with ornamental lakes, terraces, and plantings of camellias, azaleas, magnolias, and crape myrtle. Built in 1755 by Henry Middleton as a gentlemen’s guest quarters, what remains of the Dutch-gabled main house contains collections of fine silver, furniture by Thomas Elfe, rare first editions by Mark Catesby and John James Audubon, and portraits by Benjamin West and Thomas Sully. In the stable yards, craftspeople demonstrate life on a plantation of yesteryear. A plantation lunch is served at the Middleton Place Restaurant.