Drayton Hall, in the Carolina "Low Country" near Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the most handsome examples of Palladian architecture in North America. The house was built for John Drayton, begun in 1738 and completed in 1742, using both free and slave labor. The seven-bay double pile plantation house stands in a 630-acre site that is part of the plantation based on indigo and rice.
Drayton Hall is the only plantation house on the Ashley River to survive the American Revolution and Civil War intact. Seven generations of Drayton heirs preserved the house in all but original condition, though the flanking outbuildings have not survived: an earthquake destroyed the laundry house in 1886 and a hurricane destroyed the kitchen in 1893 .
The house has a deep recessed double portico on the west "front" (actually the rear of the dwelling, though this elevation faces the approach from Ashley River Road), shading the house from afternoon sun and offering open-air summer living space. The floor plan of Drayton is Palladian, with a central entrance stair hall, containing a symmetrical divided staircase, backed by a large saloon, flanked by square and rectangular chambers . Pedimented chimneypieces in the house are in the tectonic manner popularized by William Kent. There is fine plasterwork in several of the rooms of the main floor, which is raised above a half-basement.
The South Carolina Department of Archives and History claims that Drayton Hall is "without question one of the finest of all surviving plantation houses in America".
Drayton Hall is managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which opened the house to the public in 1977 and presents both sides of the historic plantation economy exemplified by Drayton, black and white. A first guide to the house, Drayton Hall was published in 2005.
It was often considered one of the best gardens in the United States.