Tour Private Gardens in historic Charleston

Charleston Tea Party Private Tour

This tour is for the discerning visitor who wishes to experience Old Charleston as a guest, not a tourist. Laura Wichmann Hipp is your knowledgeable and charming guide. A native who loves and knows well the city in which she was born, Laura takes discerning visitors to her friends’ private homes and gardens, in fact caters each tour to the special interests of her visitors. This is the ultimate insider experience and a rare chance for a visitor to see the “real Charleston.”

Your hostess serves tea following lunch

Tours week days  from 9:00 AM  to 12:00. The tour ends at lunchtime with an invitation to Tea at Laura’s home overlooking the Ashley River.

For reservations or more information: Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-577-5896.


Charleston: Ghosts, Gullah and Tea

The Charleston Tea Party Private Tour sounds about as genteel as it gets. The brochure features a photo of guide Laura Wichmann Hipp (“married to G. Preston Hipp of Charleston”) in a broad-brimmed hat, looking ready to snatch Rhett Butler away from an unsuspecting Scarlett O’Hara. It promises to emphasize architecture and preservation in the city’s historic district, with a grand finale of tea served in the guide’s private garden.

The Washington Post

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Charleston Festivals Launch First Signs of Spring with Walking the Preferred Mode of Transportation

Francis Marion Square is full of white enclosed tents  for the Wine and Food Festival that began March 6.  Bacchus is there in the spirit of conviviality, mirth, and enjoyment of all good tastes and comradeship in which Charleston abounds.  “Ho!  Everyone that thirsteth. Come ye to the water!”  It started wet and chilly here, but chances are not as chilly as where you are, from what I see on the news.  No snow and ice are to be found here.  “For lo, the winter is past.”  Red Bud is in bloom and the purple Japanese Tulip tree, what you may call Magnolia.  “Daffy Down Dilly is come up to town; in her yellow petticoat and her green gown.”

We were kindly the guests of Lisa and Glenn Kline of Houston, who bought our beloved kitchen house on Legare Street.  The Wine and Food Festival culminated with the Jazz Brunch at the Gov. Thomas Bennett House in the garden.  It was actually warm!  The sunshine day was what you picture more of Easter  than the day we spring forward.  Our table started with the most delicious poached egg on an open face benne seed biscuit with an artistic sprinkling of tomato bits and candied bacon, baby arugula, melting Gruyere cheese , and lemon mayonnaise. My husband, who is used to only the best homemade fare, aptly said,”This is not your salad for the masses.”  We then found out it was only our table and one other who had that menu.  I told our server to tell the chef how impressed we were.  Rick Widman at that next table popped over to say it is on the menu at HIS restaurant, 208 King Street KITCHEN, next door to his Fulton Lane Inn, where he used to have the Victoria House Inn.  I have done tours for years out of his inns but never imagined he would venture into the realm of restaurants.  We do break out of the box every now and then, as has his daughter, Lauren, home for sunshine from phd studies in psychology from Wheaton C0llege in Illinois.   She is called to take her counseling skills to places of need around the world, perhaps Turkey.  See KITCHEN208.COM for her dad’s restaurant with great fare and fresh air.

CAMELLIAS are in full bloom, our winter flower that peeks in late February, early March.  I have a platter mounded on my table of choice camellias from the 19th century summer home of the Draytons of Magnolia Plantation, owned now by the Shelbournes in Summerville, some of our best friends and our teenage Godson, Sloan.  While my husband was on a quail shoot at Edisto, I got a spur of the moment quick get-away to bask in their company, home, and camellia garden over last weekend, just as people on my tour get away with friends to invest themselves in what really refreshes the soul, time apart spent with loved ones in a beautiful place like Charleston.  I awoke to see the windows full of camellia bushes, gargantuan in size, all in full bloom.  You can imagine the choice camellias there from the Drayton’s time in the 19th century.  Magnolia Gardens and Plantation now has the largest planting of different varieties of camellias in the world.  Gardens here were designed to peek for the highlight of the social season, The Races, held at Washington Race Course in the 18th and 19th centuries, now Hampton Park.  Plantation owners were the breeders and trainers of these magnificent thoroughbreds.  Camellias compliment the season of festivals beginning today.

Charleston Art and Antiques Forum,  celebrating 300 years of Georgian architecture in Charleston,  is March 12-16.   Our own Tom Savage, past curator here of the Nathaniel Russell House before moving on to the White House and now Winterthur, will be back home speaking at the Forum.  Charleston Antique Show sponsored by Historic Charleston Foundation is unlike any other in its quality of furniture and fine arts as well as in the authenticity of the Old Charleston experience.  It’s no flee market.  The prices reflect it.  You get what you pay for, and it is worth it.  It is March 21-23.

Overlapping the Charleston Antique Show, the city swings into high gear with The Festival of Houses and Gardens, March 20-April 19.  All through college I was their indispensable volunteer docent for these spring candlelight tours for the Historic Charleston Foundation, being moved hither, dither and yon, to wherever they had a need.  The rest of the year I gave tours on weekends and holidays of the Edmonston -Alston House and the Nathanial Russell House.  Frances Edmunds, the director for almost 40 years, was my role model and tutor.  I was blessed to receive a dual education while in college at The College of Charleston, the best a home grown girl could have.  I rose to be Assistant Administrator of the Edmonston-Alson House at 21 E.Battery, a job I stepped into when I graduated from college.  Remembering to lock the door behind me was a challenge!

Come as soon as you can get down your icy road or onto a flight out of your snow and sleet.  I hear there are new great flights into Charleston.  Spring comes in March to Charleston.

WALKING is the best way to see Charleston.  Whoever calls me first can determine the mode of transportation for that day, our feet, or my van.  As on a golf course, the price is the same whether you walk or ride.  As I wrote this paragraph, a lady called for a 60th birthday celebration in Charleston, cheering that they get to walk April 1st. We start with breakfast on the Battery in one of the mansions overlooking the Harbor.  Walking, we stay South of Broad.  We go into the home of the doctor who delivered me, unsurpassed in antiquities and plaster and woodwork.  We see gardens and end with High Tea at noon in my house overlooking the Ashley River.  I gave a walking tour to a happy Yoga class here from Texas for a retreat.  We covered so much of the nooks and crannies of Old Charleston on foot.  They inspired me to stay active with walking tours offered as well as my van tour. Varnetta, who works for me,  spoke to them at High Tea at my house in her Gullah dialect, saying, “My Daddy was a fushamun cross de Cupper…”  I told Varnetta while making the tea fare together that there was no one else in the world I’d rather be with preparing for this group.  We are a team.  You can meet her on Tuesdays and Fridays, she who my husband calls the core of our family’s sanity.  I can’t wait to hear from you as your plans shape up to visit the Holy City of Charleston, which like George Washington, was first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of all Americans.–Laura Wichmann Hipp–843-577-5896

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Charleston Under Attack

Christmas Day 1863 Charleston was under attack.  The War that had started in April, 1860 at Ft. Sumter, when occupied by Union forces, had shifted from the harbor, forts, and islands to the Peninsula of Charleston.  The Peninsula is the Holy City.  It is the concentration of 18th and 19th century humble houses and mansions;  houses of worship and stately buildings.  The homes were occupied by old men, women, and children, as well as by slaves and free persons of color.  There was no peace on earth or good will towards Charleston Christmas Day 1863.  One hundred and fifty years ago, the City was under relentless bombardment by Union ships firing in on the defenceless citizens of all who were not able-bodied enough to be off at war.  Civilians in Charleston died on Christmas Day.  Cannons were aimed at where Union shelling had  started fires in an attempt to increase the flames to “destroy that harmful place”.

Sherman had received word from General Halleck to proceed to  “sow salt on the site afterwards …to prevent future crops of nullification and secession.” They all remembered John C. Calhoun and the Nullification Movement of 1832 that had been the South’s efforts to correct the nation’s course under the Tariff of Abomination.   But it was not Sherman who was here.  He had been received into the life changing experience of Charleston hospitality ten years earlier when stationed here at Ft. Moultrie.  He had danced with Charleston girls, in particular, Caroline Pettigru Carson, daughter of prominent Charleston lawyer and president of the South Carolina Historical Society, James Louis Pettigru.  Perhaps his discourse with the father of this young widow with whom he danced influenced this lawyer’s views, for J.L Pettigru became an ardent Unionist, yet respected and beloved by Charlestonians despite differences of opinions and able to carry on his law practice in Charleston during The War and because of The War.  His daughter Caroline ‘s husband had died leaving her with two toddler boys.  What was she doing going to a dance the same year her husband died when in mourning wearing black?  Playing the part for Margaret Mitchell to model Scarlett after, of course, just as George Trenholm, blockade runner, cotton merchant and Treasurer of the Secretary for The Confederate States of America was modeling the part for Rhett Butler as one the wealthiest men on the continent.  His home on Rutledge was given to Caroline Carson by Sherman at the end of The War, only she could not accept.  How could she ever return to live in Charleston after what Sherman had done to the South?  Their relationship was notorious.  Trenholm got his mansion back; it is now Ashley Hall girls school. ( Our eldest graduated from there four years ago in her long white silk gown, which she wore again June 1 for the party we had in her honor At Home.  If you care to read reflections of it, proceed  with caution to the following entries.)

Despite all Charleston has endured, she has survived as an 18th and 19th century city.  We started the first Preservation Society in America in 1920.  That is a long time to have had the awareness of the importance of preservation.  In 1931 Charleston passed the first city zoning ordinance that set apart the Old and Historic District from  incompatible development.  One hundred and fifty years after the worst Christmas ever, Charleston is awhirl with Christmas parties and black tie debutante balls, packed churches for midnight mass, and coats and ties for Christmas Dinner.  The silver glistens, the white linen sets off the family china.  Carols are sung round the piano.  Oyster roasts are held with the setting sun as the backdrop.

But this Christmas Eve,  caroling was done in ICU by some of the party weary debutantes and Hipp sisters and me.  We wanted  to bring Christmas cheer and good will as we shifted our focus onto the real meaning of Christmas in giving gifts of the heart.  While caroling, a nurse delivered us a note, “Will you please sing ‘Oh Holy Night’ for my husband in room 1?”  Though two of the six of us could not hit the notes on key,  while blissfully unaware, the overall effect was angelic as I heard from down the hall.  The staff also appreciated our bringing Christmas to them as they had to work on Christmas Eve.  The magic sparkle of Christmas falls where you least expect it,  “where meek souls will receive” often far from the glitter.

Imagine… the Spirit of Christmas in the midst of the hardships of the relentless bombardment of Charleston Christmas Day and night 1863.  In the midst of dodging cannon balls, “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given”.  In the lower peninsula, there were no Christmas Eve services, no caroling through the city or round the tree, no presents waiting to be unwrapped, “Yet in the dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.  The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

I hope in 2014 you are able to give yourself and loved ones the life enriching gift of the experience of the Holy City of Charleston.   You hear quotes from primary sources, which are the means by which you are transported back in time.   Remembering from where we have come is important in the health of a society.  As Americans, born to Liberty, we need to remember who we are.  Founding Fathers are quoted as well.  The humble shall hear thereof and be glad.  Ask me to tell you the story of the freed slave of 1848, Lewis the carpenter, from Edisto, who  was an entrepreneur.  He started “repairing Charleston houses” with his new-found freedom.  Pretty soon he was buying, restoring, and “flipping” houses of Charleston, because in 1848 there were already historic houses over a hundred years old.  There is so much history here, one lifetime is too short to uncover it all.  I keep scratching the surface and sharing with you my findings.

Come!  All who are thirsty, come to the water.  Walk along Folly Beach where George Gershwin collaborated with Dubose Heyward to compose Porgy and Bess, the first American opera.  Go into the private properties with me and set your feet to a saner tempo.  For the streets of Charleston have something to give those that walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer.  As the Charleston Renaissance artists and writers showed, it is a city mellowed by time.

Laura Wichmann Hipp  843-577-5896

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Filed under artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Charleston real estate, Christmas in Charleston, historic churches of Charleston, History, The Holiday Season, War of Northern Aggression

The Holidays Begin with a Rebel Yell

White caps are on the chilly scene outside my window upstairs as I gaze out on the Ashley River.  This particular spot is the favorite feeding ground of the dolphins in from the nearby ocean.  Their fins have been weaving in and out in this window framed living picture, their morning feed in this choppy water.   The sight of them reminds me of my own summer play time in the surf at Kiawah with my husband for a precious two night stay at the Sanctuary after our daughter’s party.  We rode our bikes to the deserted end of this barrier island, Kevin’s story, which will follow, being composed in my mind for miles of wood paths and beach spinning.

I feel today like a mother hen concerned for her brood.  I know that many on my tour who have been in the warmth of my home and table are experiencing the trials of bad weather.  At each meal my husband prays safety for all who are traveling this season.  As I hear about familiar parts of the country hit with this early winter storm from where my tour guests have come, I wonder how you are and if you feel my heart-strings connected to you.  I am lifting you up.  Some of you know… Aslan is on the move!

Many have asked,” How did the party go?” of which I wrote  last time.  We are still partying!  We ushered in “the season” with our June 1st party and dance honoring our daughter, Olivia, now 21.  We rolled up the Aubusson and oriental rugs from our double house front drawing-room; the ballroom it became, voila!  My first boyfriend, Bruce Wallace,  and his Rocky and the Rollers Band from Florida played Beach Music and we danced the night away.  We put the rugs on the one rug remnant as if miraculously cut to fit our back yard, which Stevie Leasure with Carpet Baggers provided.  The back yard with the couches of the front drawing-room was transformed into an outdoor living room.  Mariana Hay of Croghan’s Jewel Box on King provided the many small prismed chandeliers with candles hanging from our Live Oak and our new raised vegetable beds of our vertical garden.  We had a bar on the top floor porch accessible only through our bedroom, the inner sanctum where none of our friends or family had ever been.  Jeff , the workman who restored the second floor porch floor and inside plaster walls was the bartender on the porch, the work of his hands and beautiful for situation with the view of the setting sun and Ashley River.  Reserved tents were never put up.  We were blessed with perfect weather on either side of rain in the wettest summer on record.

We had one hundred pounds of the freshest local shrimp ever seen at a black tie event, provided by Tommy Edwards, who had caught it off Sullivans Island in his shrimp boat and had peeled it all with his wife. Husband Preston and  daughter Olivia danced the first dance and wowed everyone with their love as they shagged, the South Carolina State dance.  Preston SO stole the show dancing the night away with all the young beauties, especially Taylor Swift’s Charleston equal, Elizabeth Scarborough, that her  mother was so embarrassed that she decided she had to had to help throw an oyster roast this Christmas for Olivia with the Freshleys and Bairds at Live Oak Plantation, home and working plantation of the doctor who delivered our three girls, Dr. Rebecca Gregorie Baird and her doctor husband, David.  They are doctors to support their farming habit.  We buy free range eggs and grass-fed beef from them where “the livin is easy”,  at least for the cows and chickens.  Their two eldest, Wills and Janie, have graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis.  Our Godson, their youngest, Gregorie Baird is infected with the same patriotism, saying he tears up every time we sing My Country T’is of Thee, which is every Sunday at St. Philip’s, the oldest congregation south of Virginia.  There is something still about the South..

We still have not put the rugs back down in the front drawing-room  at Thanksgiving, though it is time with the drafts of old Charleston houses.  My husband had two small dinner dance parties in November to lessen the blow of my being another year older.   Maine lobster was flown in and served on a bed of creamy grits with hot grape tomatoes and freshly grated corn, a recipe I first enjoyed at STARS restaurant.  Prosciutto wrapped blanched asparagus was passed.  Ron Yeager, who I grew up with from James Island, was the chef.  We all felt very grown up.  I especially feel that way when I look in the mirror.  Sobering.  But all was lighthearted and gay at the parties, as if we were  the young things.  My husband looks ten years younger than he is.  I believe I do, too, when looking at him.  Come have a look for yourself.  He occasionally pops in on my tours at lunch.

Dare to give a party this season.  Bring people together.  Break out of the routine and make the season bright for your family, friends and neighbors.  “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”  Though it is pressure and expense to prepare, the gift to others and the memories to savor make it worth it in the end.

Help and encouragement come in unexpected places.  Before the June first black tie party for our daughter, I was feeling weighted down, oppressed by the negative expectations of those closest to me, you know the kind who get antsy that all your plans are going to flop and that the first party of “the season” is going to be a memorable embarrassment.  As my new friend, Judith Wadson from Bermuda says, it’s your own flees that bite the hardest.  It is part of the human condition.  We are shaped by people’s assessments of us.  Peer pressure can be for good or ill.  It continues all our lives.  Loved ones can put labels on you, and you are pigeon holed to all abroad, all in good humor,  but nonetheless trapped in your own self-image of other’s making that you have accepted and worn.  I am familiar with it; I felt it in school.

A few days before the party, I was following my list, planting white flowers in the front garden for the all white debutante look, “majoring in minors” as my husband calls it, when I cried out to the Lord to give me a sign that I was going to defy expectations and produce a winning success.  Along came an acquaintance I knew from 21 years ago, walking with his partner.  He still works as a men’s hair dresser as he did when another hairdresser,Kevin, worked with him back when I was  pregnant with Olivia, 21 years ago.  I always have wondered how Kevin is today, if he is still alive, still married, and still…well, straight.

KEVIN’S STORY is the exception, I know.  If ever there was a man born to be a homosexual, it was Kevin.  He fit the full stereotype of the limp wrist, effeminate, expressive  type.  He was a practicing homosexual living with his architect partner.  This partner had designed and built a house for the two of them.  Kevin had it made.  He loved his partner and loved his job. He loved his life.

Kevin’s partner’s mother would invite them to Sunday dinner after church.  Kevin loved the whole cultural package.  He had not been raised in the church, had never read or heard the Bible, had never sung the hymns.  It was all a new experience in the wonder of life in all its fullness.  The congregation loved them as they loved his partner’s mother.  Kevin felt warmed and embraced.  The pastor asked if anyone would like to join the church and get baptised.  Kevin was amazed that they were open to new members like himself, an infant in the faith, untaught, unchurched.  Yes, this was the only church he had ever known.  He would join and get baptised.

And so, they gave him a Bible.  “A Bible?  You’re giving me a Bible?!  No one has ever given me a Bible!”  He had heard of it but had never held one in his own hands.  He knew it was holy.  He also knew what to do with it, that it was not an ornament to be placed on a shelf to collect dust.

He read it.  He started at the beginning.  Faithfully he would plow through the stories of Genesis, Exodus, and then  Leviticus.  He was stunned; how graphic and specific the law was.  Incredulous, he read out loud to his partner where it said, “a man shall not lie with a man; this is an abomination to the Lord.”  “What can this mean?” he asked his partner, perplexed.  “Look”, said his partner uneasily and perturbed, “if you’re gonna try to justify our lifestyle by THAT BOOK—FORGET IT!”  There the schism began.  His partner hoped that would be the end of That Book in their lives.  But it was only the beginning.  Kevin had read enough to have become convinced of who God was, that His ways are not our ways.  Kevin responded out of the abundance of his heart, “If this book says we are not supposed to be living like this, then we must be wrong, because this is THE BIBLE!”  The consequences were profound.  It was not an easy decision to stay the course with the Bible rather than with his partner.  He did stay, thinking he could love his partner to the truth of That Book, but he had rejected it long before Kevin came into his life.

Kevin ended up getting married.  To a woman.   She was a young widow whose husband had taken his life.  We went to the wedding 21 years ago.  There was great hilarity at this wedding.  “For lo, the winter is past, and the spring has come to the land…”

I lost touch with Kevin, only knowing him for a season before my life changed by having three children.  The hairdresser who walked by my front garden was my link.  I dared to ask if he remembered him.  “Yes, of course.”  “Is he still married?”  “Oh, yes.”  “To the same woman?”  “Yes, yes.”  “Is he…still involved with the church?”  “Oh, for heaven’s sakes, yes.”  “How do you know?”  “Because every time they come to town to visit us at the hair salon with their son, every other word is ‘God bless you.’ ”  “He has a son?”  “OH, yes, he’s 18 now.”  “A life that would not have been  on this earth if his father had not…”  “That’s right…  It was just the time when my partner and I first came to Charleston, 21 years ago, that Kevin got married,”  he said.  He introduced me to his long-standing partner on the walk with him in front of my house.

We humans are complex creatures, with the innate ability to defy expectations others pin on us like a donkey’s tale.  As Dr. Eban Alexander, neurosurgeon and author says,  “We make real choices.  True thought is not the brain’s affair.  But we have been so trained to associate our brains with what we think and who we are that we have lost the ability to realize that we are much more than the physical bodies that do our bidding.  True thought is pre-physical.  It is the thinking- behind- the -thinking that is responsible for all the genuinely consequential choices we make in the world.  A thinking that is not dependent on linear deduction, but that moves fast as lightning, making connections on all different levels, bringing them together.”

Kevin’s story of defying the odds gave me the inspiration I needed.  Miracles began to happen as it all came together.  With each accomplished detail leading to The Party came from me a rebel yell, for “Shouts of joy and songs of victory are in the tents of the righteous.”  “Whoo-Hoo!”   Olivia imitates me to perfection.  I grabbed the victory from the jaws of defeat with each shout of thanksgiving, with Kevin’s story for inspiration.  The party was a game changer, they said, unpretentious, though over the top, with white flowers evrywhere, roses, lillies, and snapdragons, using our Charleston home as it was built to be used for entertaining.

Break out!  Defy the labels on you, or that you have put on others.  See others as whole people, not as stereotypes.  Be creative; turn off the noise and  tune in.  We have so much creativity within us the world has yet to see, symphonies to compose, books to write, poems and songs teasing our minds.  I believe that just as there is “great perplexity among the nations concerning the seas and the roaring of its waves” as sea levels rise and storms increase, as predicted by Jesus, one of the many signs of His Second Advent, so deeper sea levels of His creative force, measure for measure,  are rising across the land.  Within this new and deeper wave of His Spirit, there are answers to the mess we’ve made in the world.  We are the solution, each one of us, His still, small voice speaking to direct those who have an ear to hear.

Like the pathologist, Daniel Massi, our daughter Delia’s Godfather, saving Ft Jackson hospital tens of thousands of dollars by eliminating the wasteful out hospital spending, and Jane Nicholas, back to Charleston for our first College Prep highschool reunion, asking with her fellow workers in Pensacola, Florida in their county office what would the Lord have them do with each decision, saving the government money there as well, so too we in our sphere can make a difference, as only we can. This is my hope for America, my hope for the New Year, my Christmas message.   Think of that baby conceived to an unwed mother who defied the odds, labels, and humble beginnings and became proclaimed King of the Jews.   May we hear the angels sing, “Peace. Good will to all men.”  Listen.  Can you hear? As my friend Pringle says, you don’t have to be a saint to hear Jesus speak.  As my father says, Christians don’t have a cornerstone on God. He loves us all.  We are each his delight!  We are His preoccupation as a parent with his child.  His heart thrills when we look His way and thank Him,  the giver of all we enjoy, the ultimate lover of our souls.

God bless us, every one.  Stay safe and warm.  Call me when you can come on a tour, or when you need to share.  Leave a comment.  Thank you for reading to the end of this long-awaited freshly pressed post from my personal  life and inner thoughts not shared on a tour.–Laura Wichmann Hipp  843-577-5896

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Filed under breaking routine, Christmas in Charleston, heart tug, national architect from Charleston, saving on wasteful spending, The Holiday Season

You’ve got a Friend

We are having a party soon in honour of our eldest of three daughters, the Oxford frequenter. Her escort, Hamilton, is worthy of mention because, here for dinner tonight, he has lifted my spirits from fear and trembling to soar with the champions. He said, “You should have a reality T.V. show to track the progression to this party, the most authentic Charleston event ever. (Flattery will get you everywhere, especially when I am most in need of it!  Not thata reality TV show is my thing.)

Though I should leave it up to a caterer, I cannot help but include some of our tried and true family receipts. I should not have but did let Hamp. taste a melon scoop of my home made iced creams. History is my thing, and the first iced creams were made by hand. So far we have ginger, raspberry, and banana rum currant. We have mini iced cream cones for the young people to get a taste! Cover an empty cereal box with white wrapping paper, punch holes in and you have an iced cream mini cone holder! Hamp thinks this will be a hit.

The other real authentic thing is THE SHRIMP. I hate to tell you that people do not take a chance on local shrimp for big formal events. Better to go with the frozen prepeeled firm shrimp, they think. We are having my shrimp man, Tommy, who takes his shrimp boat out to sea along the coast of Charleston, bring us 100 lbs of shrimp. And peeled and deveined! A pretty penny, but our guests are worth it. Right now they are “roe shrimp”, not as firm or pretty, but oh, so good and tender.

The other authentic thing to be served is that wild boar from our land. A Charlestonian has also given me his tried and true receipt for the most tender beef and is loaning me his meat slicer. I tried out the method on the family tonight with Hamp as our dinner guest, without the slicer. It and the melt in your mouth flat pole beans were not wasted on him.

An encouraging word goes a long way, restoring the spirit and refreshing the soul. He believes in me. He believes this is going to be the most authentic Charleston party ever. He is connecting me to that hope rising within counteracting the infectious dread my husband  said, “Just wake me up when it’s over.” Where would we be without those whose guttural response is an encouraging word?

Thank you to those who give that encouraging word about my tour for others to read. Inviting people into our home makes one vulnerable. When I’m down and troubled, and I need a helping hand, I thank God for James Taylor and those on my tour who have expressed appreciation to remind me, “You have a Friend.” Thank you!

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Beware! You Gotta Serve Somebody

“It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody,” says Bob Dylan. Thank you, my guests, for allowing me, your servant, the opportunity and privilege to “shout to the North and the South, sing to the East and the West,”  “from the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring.” It is indescribable, uncontainable this experience of sharing the passion of the Holy City of Charleston with you.  For those of us who are blessed to be called Charlestonians, our city is hallowed ground, set apart for a special purpose, peculiar, distinct and different, which is what the word “holy” means in Greek.

I believe it was the Jewish people who gave Charleston the nick name the Holy City.  Who else could?  Our guarantee of religious freedom and tolerance in our colony brought us some of the first Jewish immigrants.  When the Marquis de Lafayette visited every state for our 50th Anniversary as a nation, it was Charleston who first presented the Jewish congregations to the Nation’s Guest along with Christian congregations and ethnic and civic societies.  It was here that his secretary Levasseur first wrote of the disproportional  contribution the Jewish volunteers made to the American Cause for LIBERTY.  Here they were considered “A Portion of the People”.

We are geographically set apart on the Peninsula for a special purpose and grow more peculiar, distinct and different as the rest of the world changes and we preserve our heritage both architecturally and culturally.  “Where are the sky scrapers, the business section” many of you ask.  “I need to get my bearings.”  I answer, “Our church steeples are still our sky scrapers.”Despite wars, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, Earthquake of 1886, British bombardment, Union bombardment,  ransacking, and the ravages of time, Charleston still looks like the oldest city in America.  We formed the first Preservation Society of any city in the nation in 1920 under Susan Pringle Frost.

“People come here who have heard rumors from friends of an old city still left with high walls, and gardens barely visible through wrought iron gates, of houses with plum colored roofs.  We have something new for their eyes to see.  If you are weary of the syncopated unrest of a crazy world, come here and set your feet to a saner tempo.  ‘What would we gain by that’, you ask; ‘all we’d accomplish would be to get out of step with the rest of the world.’  We do not argue the point, but if you would only do it for a bit, you would leave us wiser than when you came; for the streets of Charleston have something to give them who walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer.”

Beware!  The Holy City of Charleston is infectious!  I am a servant of the Holy City as one says trying to convert you at every turn, to allow that passion I have to be yours as well.  It is a rich history here with many layers still to be unpeeled, held within family portraits, papers, diaries, letters, and unpublished novels.  Charles Waring, editor of the salmon papers of the Charleston Mercury, told me last night at The Wedding at St. Philip’s on Church Street of our minister’s daughter, Katie, that he has an unpublished novel by an ancestor of his family about Lafeyette!  I want to read that historic fiction, as those of you who have heard me wax poetic about this French Founding Father can imagine. One life time is too short to discover all the facets of our city’s heritage.  Come and see!  “Ho!  Everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the water.  Ye that have no money, come ye buy and eat. Wherefore do you give your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not?”

I look forward to meeting you, feeding both body and soul if you are in a receptive mood.  A sumptuous feast of the senses awaits you!–Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-577-5896

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Filed under 1824-1825, artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, breaking routine, Charleston is world's top spot, Francis Marion, heart tug, historic churches of Charleston, History, Lafayette in America

Local Food, Locally Sourced, on the Wild Side!

I have smoked and slow cooked my first wild boar.  I feel like one of the boys now.  The hardwood charcoal did the job along with Albert Heyward who shot the young thing from our land in the country.  I smoked it with hickory chips on our simple round charcoal grill in the back garden.  Actually it is the pork that flavored our okra soup this week, though I was afraid to admit it.

Tackling a wild boar, even though a small one is Nothing compared to tackling twenty five years of marriage to the same man, Preston Hipp!  Now that is Wild!  Our silver anniversary is today and I did not need a thing.  What did The Man do?  He gave me silver, naturally, from Croghans, no less, a well worn path created for his mother by his father, Charles Rucker Hipp.  Preston’s family came to Charleston because of the Heywards, whose ancestor Thomas Heyward signed the Declaration of Independence., whose descendant shot that wild boar, you see.  What was the silver he gave me?  Come and see!  It is something I do not have and something I will always cherish.  Two gifts actually.  He was giddy with excitement like the young man he was when he had the diamond ring in his pocket for a few weeks before he asked me to marry him.

He gave me this morning at breakfast an old silver basket lined in an etched glass vase for which I picked the last of the daffodils on John’s Island.  It had arrived that very day to Croghans.  But then he saw a silver jar to hold tea leaves he thought, a tea caddy, and  Lover that he is,  he bought that for me, too.  I asked why both, why not one or the other.  He said he liked that one and wanted me to have that, too.  I will keep it on the tea tray cart to add more tea when serving.  The real miracle he said is that they are from the man who the real estate market has not been kind to these last few years.  A silver wedding anniversary only comes around once.  We have the silver punch bowl that was the silver anniversary gift from Mr. Harleston to his wife, Frances, from Birlant’s Antique store where he proudly bought it.  That punch bowl graced many a table for church events as I was growing up before she passed it on to me.  Little did I know that in referring to it as their silver wedding anniversary gift, I was setting a standard for my own.

A day of wine and roses it has been.  Kind thoughts of guests for today’s Charleston Tea Party Private Tour, and friends…but then my husband says we should share the hurts of life, lest all should think we live behind a veneer of perfection.  My beloved mother, who has kept the walking tour going until last spring, is turning into an octogenarian this month.  She alas has begun this week treatment for the C word in her throat we all hate.  My own husband, 53, the most loved and best looking man in Charleston, fit as a fiddle, has  that prostate C word, too.

We are not immune to the visisitudes of life; but we are blessed with a community of life as it should be being lived out.  It is not just a shell of a city of historic houses.  There is a heritage of the faith of our fathers that runs deep and steadies us still.  It is an attitude of gratitude.  Come, partake; eat and drink.  You will leave us wiser than when you came.

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Filed under Antiques Shop Til We Drop Tour, Charleston real estate, for foodies, historic churches of Charleston, Mother-Daughter Tour, Uncategorized, Where to Shop

Come Quick! Spring is Bursting out all Over

“Times, they are a changin.”  Azaleas in January and February?  Yes, at least here in Charleston.  We cannot keep it back.  Like the rising sea levels, spring keeps on coming.  Preston and I got married April 9, TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO this coming April!  Our Silver Wedding Anniversary.  I am such a lover of silver but I cannot think of A THING I need.  When we got married in April, we had photos taken across the street from St. Philip’s in the grave yard because the azaleas were in full bloom.  This is February, not March or April, and they are in bloom now!  Consider the fig tree…  Now the promoters of Charleston tourism do not want you to know this flower report because they are afraid you will cancel your plans for the spring tour season.  Do not cancel. We will have plenty else in bloom then.  I am just saying that you should come quick, NOW, if you can.  You will have the Holy City (and me) to yourself!  It is empty of visitors and is so beautiful, especially a treat not to be delayed for those in blizzard and freezing conditions up North and out West.

We have had nonstop rain, but now the sun is out, and the sky is a deep blue, illuminating what looked so gray, now transformed to brilliant colors.  White By the Gate is my glorious, snowy white camellia in bloom in the back garden right by the back steps, so white it is an affront to all impurity. Our Old Charleston Carolina Gray brick wall has green moss appliqued by time on rose brick making that brick more than just building material. The very bricks have become saturated with emanations of heroism.  What deeds of sacrifice and patient toil have gone into this city’s making and preservation!  Charleston is a City Mellowed By Time, as captured by the Charleston Renaissance artist, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.  Once you get Charleston under your skin, she gets in your blood, bidding you to return, like a pilgrimage to refresh the soul and to set it in order, or as a lover with her siren call.  As a vegetable lady street vender with her wheel barrow said who went away and then moved back,”Chas’n keep  dem uda places from seemin natchel.”  Ain’t it just the trute!

I discovered a new shop that I had only run past and noted before.  It is hidden away on Burns Lane between Meeting and King, The Hidden Countship.  It is actually owned by count and countess.  (My brother’s Godson, Edward Scarborough, works there.  His father and I sailed together on the sailing team at the College of Charleston, he the senior and i the lowly freshman.)  The Count and Countess were in Savannah, leaving for Italy, when someone challenged them to come to Charleston saying they had not seen the South if they had not been here, and so close to Savannah.  They delayed their return home a day, came to Charleston, and bought a house here the next day!  They prefer Charleston to anywhere in Italy!  Wow!  No wonder Conde Naste voted the same way, with Charleston being the number one destination in The Whole Wide World!  We are blessed beyond measure!  A delightful retired Dartmouth professor, Dr.D’Lia, on my tour introduced me to this shop.  It is filled with interesting things, new and old.  I have a painting of an Italian villa, La Peggio, in an arch over my dining room door, which they have on their ad card.

For those who go on my Shop Till You Drop Antiques Tour, it is added!  You can see my most recent purchase, a functional piece of equipment, an 18th century mahogany linen press.  It is in the humble butler’s pantry, a room newly wallpapered along with my dining room in Fra Angelica’s glistening gold as in San Marco in Florence.  The light has to be right in both places to capture it.  I am using the linen press for storage of cookbooks and crystal and china, but also for additional counter space!  The trays slide out, one inch high, so as to provide additional space to plate food when the marble counters are full of dishes.  A practical piece it is,  for me to enjoy using as well as regarding from the kitchen.  Thank you, Lord, and thank you, the guests on my tour!  I am enjoying the fruits of my labor.

If you cannot find an affordable place big enough, I have a vacation rental by owner in downtown Charleston some of you may wish to consider.  It is booked for most of May but has openings for the last week of February and most of March. It is listed with Home Away # 5127820805, and VRBO #404882  as Charleston Tea Party Private Tour Launches Vacation Rental.  I has 3 bedrooms, a living room, dining area, and a full kitchen, and two full baths.  It sleeps up to 7.  I have enjoyed furnishing it with vintage finds from Charleston antique shops and estate sales.  It is not luxurious, but is easy, with a two car garage, unheard of in Charleston.   It is within walking distance of Hominy Grill, a popular restaurant where you  must have fried grits.  It is better than it sounds!  there is also a free trolley pick up a minute walk away to take you all over the historic city’s peninsula.

I love it when people can stay a week, not because I make more money, but because you get free nights if you stay past 4 days!  I want you to come and experience what it is like to live here.  My vacation rental is for those who make Charleston part of their spiritual renewal, what keeps them hanging on.  Times they are a changin, but Charleston just improves, like a good rich wine.  Come!  Drink deeply!  Call me for a tour or a stay or both at 843-577-5896–Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Filed under Antiques Shop Til We Drop Tour, artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Charleston is world's top spot, Conde Naste, for foodies, Gardening, Gullah Culture, heart tug, historic churches of Charleston, Other Places, Restaurants, shopping basket, Vacation Rental By Owner, wheel barrow, Where to Shop, Where to Stay