The plantation was established in 1741 by Henry Middleton, President of the First Continental Congress, and was home to generations of the family including Henry's son, Arthur Middleton, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence; Arthur Middleton's son, Henry Middleton, Governor of South Carolina and U.S. Minister to Russia; and his son in turn, Williams Middleton, who signed the Ordinance of Secession.
The original main house was three stories tall, built of brick in Jacobean-style and flanked by two story wings. The north wing contained a library and ballroom, while the south wing was used as a guest house.
New records show that Middleton Place imported water buffalo from Constantinople in the late 1700s. These records show that these water buffalo were the first in the United States.
In 1865, near the end of the Civil War, the plantation was burned and looted by Union troops in retaliation for the owner's signing of the Ordinance of Secession. The soldiers killed and ate five of the water buffalo and stole six. These six later showed up in Central Park Zoo. Only the south building survived (built 1755), which is now the Middleton Place House Museum. Its gardens were further damaged by the great Charleston earthquake of 1886, and lay neglected until inherited by J. J. Pringle Smith in 1916, who then began their restoration. In 1941, on the garden's bicentennial, the Garden Club of America presented it with the Bulkley Medal "in commemoration of Two Hundred Years of enduring Beauty."
In 1974 Smith's heirs donated the plantation to the non-profit Middleton Place Foundation.
Today the plantation's house museum contains a collection of Middleton family furniture, paintings, books, and documents dating from the 1740s through the 1880s. The formal gardens consist of symmetric landscaped terraces, allées, ponds, and garden rooms. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has named them one of six American gardens of international importance.
The property is listed at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
Arthur Middleton was born at the house, and is buried there.
10 miles southeast of Summerville on South Carolina Rt. 61. / 12.5 miles northwest of Charleston on Rt. 61. It is open daily; an admission fee is charged.