Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is dedicated to telling the story of the “Forgotten Founder”, and I found the park to be almost as forgotten as the man. Tucked away in a small corner of Mount Pleasant, the national historic site sits on all that remains of Pinckney’s former plantation. A single building is all there is to see, but the story told inside makes it worth the effort to visit.
I’m not exactly a national park fanatic, but I’m just one step down that ladder from the top. I have the goal to eventually visit every national park site in the country, and I’ve finally visited all the sites in South Carolina, but it took a while to visit this particular site. Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is often overshadowed by the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park.
But I was glad I eventually carved out an hour during a trip to Charleston to visit this national historic site. I had no idea the influence Charles Pinckney had on the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. But his story goes deeper than just that monumental monument.
Visiting the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
I turned onto Long Point Road behind a long string of cars with an equally long string behind me. It was my first time on this road, so I wondered where could this many people be heading? I saw the first turn signal a few minutes later, then another, and another. One by one every single car in front and behind turned right toward Boone Hall Plantation. But not me; I continued another minute on the road and turned left to Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.
Mine was the only car in the dirt parking lot, other than the park ranger’s white pickup truck. I grabbed my notepad and camera bag, heading toward the only building in site. It was quiet. I was alone. This was strange, I thought.
It was a small historic site. Ruins of an old building’s foundation, a single concrete path winding into the distance, and the brilliant white plantation house. It’s not the original plantation house; that one was destroyed decades ago. In fact, there was nothing historical remaining at the historical site. This was getting stranger, I thought.
After walking through a covered shelter, where I found tables, water, and restrooms, I entered the one-story plantation house. A park ranger greeted me with a smile, “Welcome to the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. Have you visited with us before?”
Charles Pinckney, the Forgotten Founder
The park ranger was so excited I had come to visit. I imagine he never received many visitors, but I could also tell he was just passionate about recounting the story of Charles Pinckney. A movie played in one room of the plantation house and a gift shop occupied another.
But the most interesting exhibit was the first place the ranger guided me: a massive family tree of The Pinckneys of South Carolina. Reading the information, it was clear the Pinckneys played a prominent role in both Colonial Charleston and the American Revolutionary War.
Charles Pinckney, born in 1757 in Charleston, began his political career at the age of 21 when he was elected to the General Assembly of South Carolina. After serving a single term, he joined the state militia and was captured in Charleston during the Revolutionary War.
In 1787, Pinckney was one of four Charlestonians elected to the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia. Pinckney worked to create an early draft of the U.S. Constitution that eventually went unused. On September 17, 1787, Pinckney signed the Constitution.
His story does not end there. Pinckney would go on to serve four terms as South Carolia governor, two terms as a United States senator, and one term as a representative. Despite his political achievements, financially he was ruined in 1814 and forced to sell Snee Plantation where the national historic site is located today.
Things to Do
Begin the exploration of Charles Pinckney National Historic Site at the Visitor Center and Museum located inside the 1828 plantation house. Inside, you’ll find three films playing on a schedule throughout the day, exhibits on the Pinckney family, and a small gift shop.
Head outside to explore the 28-acre property. A ½-mile trail winds through the property along a creek and takes about ten minutes to walk.