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

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Holy City By the Sea: Charleston, South Carolina

America is not only The New World, but it was also referred to by the early colonists as The Promised Land.  America was founded and formed deliberately after the pattern of Ancient Israel. As with the children of Israel’s Exodus, there was a mass Exodus from Europe, “to escape the tyranny of the oppressors,”  the European governments, as the people were being taxed every which way possible.  As Charles Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” He gave a litany of every way in which they were being taxed and taken advantage by their governments in France and in Great Britain.  Civilization had grown in sophistication, but so had government’s intrusion into their daily lives.

Just as there was the mass Exodus of several million Jewish people from Egypt led by Moses, Europeans came to America en mass. They had been in the pressure cooker too long.  They had HAD it! The word LIBERTY filled up all the blue of the sky in their minds.  LIBERTY was the siren call tempting them to leave all the familiarity of home and culture and to venture forth across the troubled waters to begin civilization all over again in a land they knew not, like Abraham.  Our Founding Fathers saw America as the Israel of the New World, the new Promised Land. Just as Jerusalem is the only place called Holy City, out of the new Promised Land, there was only one city in America that has kept the nick name, The Holy City.

Charleston, South Carolina is that city, founded in April 1670.  The air seems to be permeated in Charleston with an elusive charm and magic that makes first time visitors feel at home.  Charleston is like an old shoe.  She fits one and all alike. The Eight Lords Proprietors of England who were given this land by King Charles II kept a low profile during the reign of Olivier Cromwell, but when Cromwell died and his son Richard proved ineffectual, Great Britain had Eight Lords a Leaping!  These lords risked their lives, lands, and reputations to reestablish the monarchy.  The monarchy had been done away with in a big way.  Charles I had been beheaded!  These lords brought his son back from exile in the court of France and made him king of Great Britain.  In appreciation, King Charles II gave them land in the New World, Carolina. The lord who took the most interest in this colony was  Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury, in Dorset, England, for whom our two rivers are named, the Ashley and the Cooper.  His good friend and secretary was non other than John Locke.  THE  John Locke!  Together they wrote the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina.  Included was a protection of freedom of religion and freedom of speech with the provision that it was against the law to speak against anyone for their differences in faith.  Everyone had freedom of speech to share their faith, but the limitations were not to use it as an excuse to be critical of others’ differences in faith.

Keep it positive, was the mood of the wisdom of our Founders in order to avoid the wars and burnings at the stake of the Reformation of Europe, and earlier the beheadings with the scimitar in the Crusades.  Carolina had the widest range of religious freedom in America second only to Rhode Island in writing but in reality wider here than there. The line they included of not speaking against another for differences in faith was the same line and  law that Middle Eastern King Nebuchadnezzar made after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego  came out of the fiery furnace unsinged, whose accusers had told King Neb. that these foreign slaves he had promoted did not bend the knee to his statue of gold at the dedication when the music played dramatically. (Read of it, if you will, in the book of the prophet Daniel chapter 3.)

Founding Fathers named not only their mountains and towns Hebrew names but their children here in the New Promised Land.  My long time friend, Margaret Scott, told me today her ancestors who came here from England and joined Daniel Boone were none other than three brothers named Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo.  Now that was a lot of faith in having more sons to follow for their parents to have started that name pattern!  Early settlers and Founding Fathers also read in Hebrew and taught their children Hebrew.  Hebrew was taught in schools and universities.  Yale has Hebrew in its seal. Columbia University as well.  William Bradford, who wrote Of Plymouth Plantation, read the Bible in Hebrew. I was astounded when I had Ashley Hall foreign girls over for tea from China that the Christian among them is teaching herself to read in Hebrew!

There is no nation in the world as closely linked to Israel as America.  Charleston and Bermuda are on the same latitudinal line as Jerusalem.  Charleston is the Holy City By the Sea, Bermuda is called God’s Country, and Jerusalem is the Holy City of this planet Earth, center of three world religions, which are allowed next door to each other, just as in Charleston. When you live this close together, you gotta love your neighbor! “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.  It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”   Let’s have a revival of that song!

June is coming! I am sharing the love of June with you.  June McKnight is doing tours with me.  She is a native Charlestonian as well, a friend through the Garden Club of Charleston, Ashley Hall, and through the rising star of her young son, the chef, Daniel McKnight, intern under Nathalie Dupree. With the recent loss of my mother, who did the tours with me faithfully for about 25 years, God has raised up June to help.  She has immersed herself in study and made a 98 on the written and oral exam to become a licensed City of Charleston guide.   She has been interning with me since December. Shemitah is the siren call to me through that Still, Small Voice.  For such a time as this.

Laura Wichmann Hipp

Leave a comment

Filed under breaking routine, Shemitah

Come Quick! Spring is Bursting Out all Over with an Easter Message!

Purple clusters of wisteria, the most photographed in Charleston being the one along the fence of the Timothy Ford House across the street from the Nathaniel Russell House, 51 Meeting St, are now starting to show color with its first blossoms.  It will be coming on slowly with the cool weather and its many remaining clusters still in that translucent stage.  But that metamorphosis has begun from what looks like dead wood and lifeless burs  to luxurious clusters of wisteria dripping with Southern charm. My yellow Lady Banks Rose is in the first stages of bloom  along the yellow brick post that we share with the Coast Guard of Charleston.  We look across their lawn to the Ashley River.  The tiny clusters of yellow are in great abundance, especially noticeable behind our  bare twiggy citrus grove with the freeze having dropped their leaves for the second year.  We did get two grapefruit and lots of kumquats, which we ate.  Our two Meyer Lemons show no life and  may have to be replaced. Being this near the Ashley River, we felt safe.  One of my two Calamondin Orange trees is in green bud. Before the freeze, I got one harvest for Calamondin Marmalade. Taste and see! The large Formosa Azalea is showing color, and the first buds are open.  Light pink azalea blossoms surround towering pink tulips in our pedestal bowl on the white linen table, the picture of Easter! All the windows and doors were open in our house today with a robust breeze caressing the fluttering blossoms. A living, breathing house is a true Charleston home, designed to catch the breezes, not to be sealed up with storm windows that never open. The award winning garden on Montagu we visit is coming on with its first azalea blossoms opening.  We’ve only just begun! Johnny Jump-ups, blue and purple violas, adorn my flower boxes and candlesticks enjoying the cool weather. It is warm enough to harvest cilantro and lettuces and Swiss chard from my garden, as well as to plant tomatoes I grew from seed!

I took a branch of Red Bud to Cornelia’s baby born the first day of spring.  Her lips are like rosebuds!  Cornelia has given birth to the only grandchild of her parents and her FIRST baby at the tender age of 45!  She is the last of our friends to have a baby, the youngest of three sisters.  This baby’s grandmother was the only child of her mother.  This is a rare blood line to continue of Southern graciousness and charm. When this baby’s grandmother had her first of three girls, her mother’s advice was followed: Wear your white gloves for the important events in your life! She did… in delivery! I loved Harry D. Jones, this baby’s grandfather.  Harry D. would talk to me for hours with my taking notes on the memories of his escapades growing up in Charleston. There was a police officer known to all the boys downtown. He rode a bike.  He would chase boys outside in the early day when they should have been in school. They loved the chase. “—Ride the Rooster Just Like You Used To,” the truant boys would chant.  This Harry D. Jones grew up to be a fly fighter pilot in WWll, escaping the deadly chase of Nazi planes.  He returned home to finish college and to meet the love of his life, Catherine Oliver, at the College of Charleston, who later studied at the Sorbonne and was a Fulbright Scholar, teaching French for many years at Ashley Hall..  I am blessed often to go into the garden of Catherine’s good friend, Molly, who was there with her when Harry D. and Catherine met at the College of Charleston.

Magic is in the air this Spring 2015 as the world becomes a wonderland of hope and new possibilities. My own baby is now a tenth grader.  She is on spring break and slept in this morning.  In her long sleep, she indulged in dreams not cut off by the alarm.  She had two girlfriends spend the night but told me alone in the kitchen that she dreamed it was the time of Christ’s Second Advent.  She was in our home with our family and youth group friends from St. Philips.  She said that in the dream our home was a mansion. (My husband smiled proudly when I told him, as if her dream was stating reality.)  She was wishing in the dream that she had realized His Second Advent would be so soon.  She said she would have been bolder in telling more friends about Jesus, urging them to live for Him, taking more seriously the time.  She said life was carrying on as usual with her body feeling hunger, etc,  but all knew His coming was at hand.  The day had come when people least expected Him, and all eyes could behold Him.  Out of the mouths of babes!  Victoria’s dream this morning is my Easter message to you.  Can an Easter message be any more a message of renewal?

Just as the prophets foretold His first coming as the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, so the prophets also foretold his Second Coming as King over all the earth.  We believe that He shalt come to be our Judge. People abusing the system to get more money any way they can will be caught short.  Pray with me for those who are pulling down our democracy to turn from their ways while there is time.  “People get ready, there’s a train a comin…  All you need is faith to hear the whistle blowing.  You don’t need no ticket; you just get on board.”

In Charleston we are surrounded by what many call mansions.  It is the Life of the Spirit of Christ Jesus that makes these homes come alive with something real,  with the sense of community we have akin to the Kingdom of Heaven. It can happen anywhere.  At our High Tea after the tour, I pray, “So create a desire within us to desire what You desire for us, that at Your Son Jesus’ Second Advent, He may find in us A Mansion, prepared for Himself, who lives and reigns with You, one God, now and Forever!”

Maybe that is what our daughter Victoria dreamed, that she had prepared a mansion within, fit for Him, with many lovely rooms…

A deep history lesson with The Charleston Tea Party Private Tour awaits your arrival.  Life is precious. Call us at 843-708-2228 for a morning tour, year round, weekdays, beginning with breakfast overlooking the harbor and Ft. Sumter, ending with High Tea at my house overlooking the Ashley River, with many beautiful sights and lessons from history where we step inside and in between. Charleston is a treasure trove of architectural beauty enhanced by well tended gardens coming into bloom this April. Wherever you are, lift up your head and have a  Happy Easter! Laura Wichmann Hipp 843 708 2228

Leave a comment

Filed under Calamondin Marmalade, Charleston in spring, Easter in Charleston, for foodies, Gardening, Historic Charleston Foundation, Meyer Lemons

Sherman’s March to the Sea 150 Years Ago

On February 1, 1865, the last month for Charleston in The War Between the States, Major General William T. Sherman began the Carolinas Campaign, as his army invaded South Carolina.

Many ask  if Sherman came to Charleston.  He received a message from General Halleck saying, “If you can reach Charleston, Destroy that harmful place.  If some salt can be sown on the site afterwards, perhaps that will prevent future crops of Nullification and Secession.”

Sherman responded saying, “As for Charleston, the truth of the matter is, The Whole of the Northern Army is Burning with insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on… Carolina, the Hellhole of Secession. I almost tremble at her fate.” The wide swath of destruction in raping, pillaging, and burning was more horrific than the memory in our collective consciousness. As Sherman aptly said, “War is Hell.”  His army’s rampage was more feared than Charleston’s threat of destruction by daily bombardment of Union ships, or by guns on our sea islands surrounding Charleston.  What Charlestonians endured as a city of defenseless women and children, and old and invalid men, in the city’s daily bombardment, is a drama yet to be portrayed by Hollywood, but with a heroic stand for their faith and courage, comparable to Churchill’s London and Essex of my mother’s childhood.

It was the threat of Sherman’s  March to the Sea in the end that made Charlestonians evacuate, after all they had endured.  Many went to small towns to family connections and to perfect strangers who would take them in.  Many went to Columbia.  Mary Boykin Chesnut said in her Diary from Dixie that the whole State was crowded into Columbia.  It was like one, great, big party.  She was reprimanded for her levity by her dour husband for having taffy pulls, reading frivolous novels in French, and  going for rides in her carriage with Mrs. President Jefferson Davis, preening in her fashionable but not updated styles.

Meanwhile, Sherman’s army was burning, raping, and pillaging plantations leading to Charleston.  He stopped.  Within fifteen miles of Charleston, he turned.  He bypassed the Peninsula of The Holy City and headed for the capital of the State, Columbia.   Raven Van der Horst Lewis died that night in child birth fleeing the burning of Columbia as Sherman’s raid came in. She had fled to Columbia for refuge from Van der Horst Plantation at Kiawah near Charleston. On my private tour, we see her large, gold framed portrait inside the home of the doctor who delivered me.  The child lived, from whom comes the present family, showing the value of one solitary life, la chaime!

Yes, Sherman came to Charleston.  But it was before The War, when he was stationed at Ft. Moultrie, ten years earlier.  He had danced with Charleston girls, one of whom was a young, pretty widow, Caroline Pettigru Carson.  She had lost her husband that same year.  She was dressed appropriately in black, but at a dance while in her first year of mourning? Of  what character does this Caroline remind you?  This Scarlet woman was the daughter of James Louis Pettigru, a highly respected lawyer, who remained a Unionist,  whose opinions were shaped perhaps by Sherman, a suitor of his daughter.  Her two toddler sons ten years later became soldiers.  She kept up a correspondence with Sherman and asked him to be on the lookout for them to see that they came to no harm.

Could it be that Sherman had a soft spot in his hard heart for Charleston?  He bypassed Charleston altogether, following the party to Columbia, burning the capital instead of Charleston.  Five Points and  very few buildings are all that survive there today from before The War.

He also said at the end of That Late Great Unpleasantness, “If anyone is not satisfied with war, go to Charleston.” We had had a fire in December 1861, not war related, The Great Conflagration of 1861, the largest fire in the city’s history.  It was a block to a block and a half wide, but many blocks long. “By five a.m. the city was wrapped in a living wall of fire, from the Cooper to the Ashley River, without a single gap to break its dread uniformity,”  wrote Emma Holmes in her journal.  It left an ugly scar through the middle of Charleston that looked like a war  ravaged  city.

Mrs. St. Julian Ravenel at 5 East Battery, wrote of 1865, “In returning to Charleston, it was a city of weed wild gardens, of grass strewn streets, of acres of voiceless and pitiful barrenness. That is Charleston wherein Rebellion loftily reared its head but five years ago.  The streets looked as if piled with diamonds, the glass lay shivered so thick on the ground.”  The Holy City had been ransacked by the “liberators” from Massachusetts.

In comparison, Hitler gave his officers the order to destroy Paris when he lost France.  In documentaries, when asked why they did not carry out the order, the reply was, “Paris is Paris to the world.  She belongs to everyone.”  Having tasted Charleston hospitality, and having experienced this City of Antiquity as it was already known before the history of The War Between the States,  having had some of his fondest memories of his young manhood created here dancing with Charleston girls, might he have thought of Caroline Pettigru Carson and his ties to the Old City? Why destroy one of the Union’s most valuable assets?

Charleston’s hospitality may have saved her from Sherman’s wrath.  A long period of neglect also saved Charleston from the destructive wave of “progress.”  Now progress is measured in terms of Preservation Progress, the title of out newsletter from the Preservation Society of Charleston, founded in 1921, the first preservation society of a city in the nation.

The Charleston Tea Party Private Tour believes Charleston’s protection today is dependent on our maintenance of our reputation for Southern hospitality.  It is up to us as individuals as well as businesses to keep this Spirit alive.  Charleston is a place of restoration as many make their pilgrimage here to regain what America has lost.  “If you are weary of the syncopated unrest of a crazy world, come here and set your feet to a saner tempo”, says Elizabeth O’Neill Verner in her book of prose, Mellowed by Time.    “You will leave us wiser than when you came.”

My tours are from 9-1:30, Monday through Friday.  I look forward to sharing my world with you.  My cell is 843-708-2228.  Laura Wichmann Hipp

1 Comment

Filed under 150th Anniversary of The War, artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Charleston is world's top spot, Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, Preservation Society of Charleston, Rhett Butler, War of Northern Aggression

Camellias are our Winter Roses; Persimmons and Calamondins our Winter Fruit

I dreamed that a profusion of roses was in bloom everywhere I went.  Despite the threat of thorns, I was exhilarated as I rode my bike at the sight of a new view of life in the everyday with such beautiful roses of all shades and scents and heady clusters.  I thought I must be in England.  I will have to go see my mother’s family and have a cup of tea, I thought. My mother was the rare English Rose of Beauty.  She loved giving tours with me and wanted nothing more than to get well to get back to them again.  We lost her to throat cancer in late August.

I awoke with a sense of expectation for the New Year.  Will it be filled with briars, or roses?  As I stepped into our back garden, what had been green buds were transformed overnight into round jewels of camellia balls about to open into many petaled delights.  With the winter green rye grass up, and now the camellias in bloom, we are a winter wonderland without the snow.   All summer and fall I scrub with leftover tea leaves the scale from under the foliage of camellias in anticipation of these winter delights.

Nothing speaks Charleston more than the camellia, developed by Andre Michaux here in the 18th century for the court of France.  In addition to introducing the camellia to North America through Charleston, he also brought us Crepe Myrtles, which are water nymphs, cursed, and put on land as these trees, with their fluid bark- like sculpture; and our beloved Tea Olive, the essence of Charleston when its tiny flower blooms in the spring and in the fall. Charleston gardens were designed to bloom in the winter for the highlight of the social season in the 18th and 19th centuries, The Races.  Many of the plantation owners were the trainers and breeders of these magnificent thoroughbreds. The Races were held at Washington Race Course, now Hampton Park, near The Citadel.  Hampton Park is a beautiful camellia and rose garden with a pedestrian bridge over a pond.

My white table cloth is now the snowy contrast to show off the three arrangements I have of camellias.  Two bowls are of silver and the center is a ver de gris pedestal bowl with handles on either side and classical swags.  My husband bought it for me one year for our anniversary from The Charleston Garden Shop.  I use wet oases in it to arrange my jewels of camellias interspersed with a few calamondins to give it a zing!

Calamondin oranges are being made into marmalade in my kitchen, the perfect thing on a cold winter’s night.  I risked life and limb to pluck these winter fruits yesterday on the tip top of our ladder in our back garden while hugging the tree’s upper branches.  Ours reach for the sky.  They are no bigger than golf balls, but they make the Queen of Marmalades. Our family had a calamondin deseeding party with our three daughters and friend, Jon, ’round the table after dinner last night.  We played vintage albums on our new phonograph we got from Santa!  We laughed until tears came to our eyes, giddy with light-hearted low stress after the holidays.  Now, for the adding of sugar to my copper jam pan;  nothing saves time in marmalade making like a copper pot.  It cuts the time in half.

For those who have been followers of my calamondin marmalade in the past, I did not have any to share last year due to the rare freeze.  I only put up one batch.  This year there is only enough for one batch as well; however, I will be serving it upon request at our tea parties at the end of the tour in jam tarts and in glistening dressing over golden beets and goat cheese, Russian onion dome style.  These are a few of my favorite things. It is served on Blue and White Cantonware China, the 18th and 19th century everyday ware of Charleston, shipped here in abundance on clipper ships. The English Tea Clippers were the fastest.

Persimmons are the luminescent orbs of transparency, like tiny Chinese lanterns,  hanging from an otherwise leafless tree in our back garden.  There is an abundance of persimmons despite my having picked at least 50 to put in floral arrangements and to make persimmon sorbet.  They have been bitten by frost, which is good for them; their chalkiness has been transformed into sweet, velvet lushness to the palate. My handy husband got out his loppers, and I got out my big round basket; he lopped, and I danced underneath to catch the persimmons.  Those that split were an invitation I could not refuse to receive to my salivating mouth.  If not me, then the squirrels and birds will get them.  When I go out before dawn, I hear an early bird squawking that the persimmons are its feast, not mine. Many have been transformed into persimmon sorbet with the help of cool Simple Syrup, and my electric ice cream maker. One calamondin is the citrus in place of  a squeeze of lemon that marries well with persimmons to give it that… je ne sais quoi!  My friend, Pringle, thinks I must have subtle spices included, but it is clean-and-easy and the best thing you have ever put into your mouth. Come while the supply lasts.  Persimmon pudding and persimmon bread to follow. Persimmon bits tossed in a salad with the different lettuce leaves, garlic and chopped swiss chard from my raised beds in the back garden made this an all fresh garden to table salad in January grown here on Tradd Street in Charleston.  Why didn’t I think to put persimmon in our kale salad tonight?

My neighbors, the Deans of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits,  Lee Manigault and Suzanne Pollak, are invited to pick persimmons in my back garden. According to Lee, they have been having to BUY them for their recipe Twelve-Months-a-Year Parsley Salad on page 31 in their newly published book : The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits; with Etiquette and Recipes.  P.S. Who do I have to thank for this Christmas gift?  It is my favorite read with only Lee and Suzanne’s signatures.

It is a good year.  Look for the Good News.  Report it to others.  My husband’s numbers are good.  The dream of roses foretold it.  The Dream Maker is on the move, listening and speaking in that still, small voice.

Come to Charleston to renew your dreams, and to feel afresh the Wonder of Life.  Charleston is where Magic happens, which is one of the reasons she is called The Holy City.  Her history makes America’s history make more sense when you understand what first happened here, and the correlation to quotes from the Founding Fathers and diarists.  I never tire of telling it.  Few really know it. It is like looking at the moon that you have gazed at all your life, but from a side you have never seen before.

Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday.  Make a long weekend of it. The South Carolina Wildlife Exhibition will be in February followed by the Charleston Wine and Food Festival  March 4-8; then the Cooper River Bridge Run, and the Festival of Houses and Gardens. Charleston Arts and Antique Forum is coming up soon as well.

As Audrey Hepburn said of Paris, Charleston is always a good idea.

Call me on my cell phone for reservations at 843-708-2228.  Tours are weekday mornings starting at 9.

Laura Wichmann Hipp, founder of the Charleston Tea Party Private Tour

Our 1773 tea party was before Boston’s!

1 Comment

Filed under breaking routine, Calamondin Marmalade, camellias, Charleston Arts and Antiques Forum, Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Charleston is world's top spot, Charleston Wine and Food Festival, Cooper River Bridge Run, Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, Festival of Houses, for foodies, Founding Fathers, Gardening, heart tug, Historic Charleston Foundation, January in Charleston, persimmons--puddings and sorbet, private lunch and group meeting conference room, reservations, small private convention venue, Suzanne Pollack and Lee Manigault, The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits., Valentines Day

Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour 2014

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a good read must be in want of a hot cuppa tea.  Reach over to the wall and pull the needle pointed bell pull and have your scullery servant put the kettle on for a pot of tea.  Now, start singing, “I’m dreaming of a white-less Christmas!  Just like the ones I used to know,” in Old Charleston.  Just think, no snow to shovel, no salt to smear your windshield, no bones to break slipping on the ice!  I know you may really miss all that, but you will adjust in no time.  “Oh, the weather up North is frightful, but down South it’s so delightful.  And since you are invited on my tour to go, leave the snow, leave the snow, leave the snow!”

Come here and set your feet to a saner tempo.  You will think you are in a Dickensian London.  The warm days are producing a  gentle fog at night over the water and at the morning’s light.  Many houses have the soft glow of gas lights on either side of the front door donned with a fresh wreath. With the indigenous materials in abundance to work with of magnolia leaves, popcorn berry trees, and shaggy cedar, there is an Old World look about us that makes even those from off feel they have arrived home.  We keep all the other places from seeming natural. Christmas is when we are looking most authentically ourselves, dressed up for the Holidays, like my husband tall and handsome in black tie, his tails flying as he dances to Beach Music, our South Carolina State Dance.  You should have seen him at our daughter’s debut dancing with the tall and beautiful Miss Elizabeth Scarborough, a Taylor Swift impersonator on stage last summer in Myrtle Beach and Charleston debutante this season.  HOT!

My beloved went out this afternoon on what we call “de bo-at’ –Gullah for our family boat, and zipped over to Morris Island with “the boys” to play Bocci on the beach today.  How was your first Wednesday in Advent?  While he and his constant companion, Chesterfield, our English Springer Spaniel, were gone experiencing a slice of Lowcountry heaven, our college graduate first born daughter, Olivia, and I put up live green cedar garlands and red bows on our second floor porch railing overlooking the Ashley River.  It is great to have her home for the holidays.  With days of sun and laughter like today, the green garlands may have golden highlights before Christmas is over! Turkey Gumbo was delicious tonight, my reward after emptying the spice cupboard, cleaning, consolidating, and reorganizing it while Hubbie was out..  Whew!  I love that organized feel and easy turn of the rotating spices.   I cleared out about a dozen salt and pepper disposable canisters meant for the boat making my husband laugh with hilarity and incredulity when he saw them in his cubbie.

Christmas Cake preparation was the real achievement tonight after plowing through my mother’s and my hand written, hand cut and pasted recipe book that will not close. Picture a wide V.  Brandy is poured over the glass bowl of currants and sultanas with care, in hopes that your family soon will be here.  There will be English steamed Christmas pudding in vintage molds, mince meat tarts, and baked ham with muscadine and peach chutney. It’s the Hap-Happiest Time of the Year! Come let us spread some cheer to you and yours.  My brother and I both will be making and baking my dear English mother’s Christmas recipes, comparing notes, keeping our English- Charleston family traditions alive into this next generation, as she has past them down to us.

My tours are week days from 9 to 1:30, starting with a full Southern breakfast and the fattest Christmas tree overlooking the Charleston Harbor.  This house on High Battery is dressed to the nines for Christmas.  We also go into the house of the doctor who delivered me. (Thank you, Dr. Wilson! Thank you, Mumse!)  His ceiling is probably the most elaborate with more layers in the plaster and woodwork than any house in Charleston. I love the acorn, and egg and dart motif. It was built in 1856 by a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.  Christmas 1860 is the focus of our history on my Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour.  Camellias are our winter flower in bloom in our gardens.  I will take you into one that won a national garden award, in which I am the only guide allowed in by the owners, who are hard working,generous friends of mine.

The greening of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, known in the 18th century as the most elegant church in the English colonies, will be this Friday, as will the Garden Club of Charleston’s decorating of the Joseph Manigault House.

Call me to reserve a spot on my private tour as I take small groups. The tour ends with an invitation to a High Christmas Tea at my home on Tradd Street.  I hope to see you soon.  843-577-5896  Laura Wichmann Hipp

Post Script  I went to the Garden Club Tea at the Joseph Manigault House yesterday.  You must see it dressed up for Christmas as it would have looked in the time of the Manigaults, the early 1800’s. It is on the corner of John and Meeting Streets across from the Charleston Museum. It is open for tours daily. Out of the corner of my eye, I detected clutter on the stairs to the third floor.  Just as my children would leave toys where they last were playing, so too there are 18th and 19th centuries toys as if where the Manigault children last left them before being called down to dinner.This Christmas Tea for Garden Club members yesterday is the only time this museum house is used for entertaining as it was designed to be with homemade tea fare and coffee punch. Garden Club members keep up the garden all year.  I went with my fellow member, June McKnight, who was responsible for the pomanders hanging in the windows in an upstairs room. She is coming over to make some more with me for my windows, too!  Everyone was congratulating June on acing the City of Charleston Guide exam.  She made a 98!  The last time it was offered, sisters Therese and Mary Helen were two of four to pass out of 40!  It is an oral and written exam.  June has been interning with me and will be helping me with tours.  Like my precious, late mother, who did the tours with me for 25 years, June is a pretty,petite, elegant, and very well read lady.  She is reading everything she can get her hands on to do with Historic Charleston, all the classics.  I am encouraging her to have some available for you to purchase from her since she as well as I highly recommend them and quote from them on our tour.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas in Charleston, English steamed pudding in vintage molds, for foodies, group meeting facilities, Gullah Culture, More English Than the English, small private convention venue, The Holiday Season, Vacation Rental By Owner

Living in the Present without Desecrating the Past

The oldest church edifice in the city.  It is still a dynamic church today, upholding the Faith of our Fathers.

The oldest church edifice in the city. It is still a dynamic church today, upholding the Faith of our Fathers.

Living in the present without desecrating the past is still the challenge to Charleston, America’s most historic looking city.  Since the advent of the automobile, Charleston has had the threat of the new American definition of progress challenging historic houses’ right to exist.  Due to the indefatigable efforts of early 20th century preservationists like Susan Pringle Frost, founder of the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1920, who outbid Standard Oil for 18th century houses on Rainbow Row, where a service station would have been built along East Bay, followed by Francis Edmunds, director of the Historic Charleston Foundation for almost 40 years, who  furthered the charge, Charleston is the most distinctly preserved historic city in America. It has always been a challenge; it still is.  The preservation of the Old Charleston way of life, sense of place, and close knit community is what I give you a taste of as if you were old friends from off visiting me for the first time, as well as the history as seen from a South Carolina perspective.  So much American history took place right in the Charleston Harbor, which we see at breakfast from my friend’s home and B&B on East Battery.  Hands on history is the best way to learn, with quotes from diaries and letters and speeches. George Washington’s words at Ground Zero, the neighborhood of his inauguration, still pertain to us.  He like many of our Founding Fathers looked ahead to where we are today, knowing the challenges that come with the blessings of Liberty they procured for us.  Just as “the Spirit of God hovered over the waters” at the Genesis of creation, so, too, the mind of the Founding Fathers contained the vision and pitfalls of all that was to come. “Propitious smiles from Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards eternal rules of Order and Right, which Heaven has ordained.  The preservation of the sacred fire of LIBERTY… is the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

Herringbone brickwork lined and creeping fig vine with a hand-wrought bench by Rick Averett.  A scallop in the middle matches the stone disc above.  The circular stone was the keystone to one of the stone access lids on either side of the bench.  They were access lids to the two cisterns behind the main house where rainwater was collected.

Herringbone brickwork lined in creeping fig vine with a hand-wrought bench by Rick Averett. A scallop in the middle matches the stone disc above. The circular stone was the keystone to one of the stone access lids on either side of the bench. They were access lids to the two cisterns behind the main house where rainwater was collected.

And so the experiment of LIBERTY goes on.  We are the ones upon whom those sacred fires depend to burn brightly. “As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light kindled here has shown unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation.  We have noted these things here so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your Fathers have obtained  WITH SO MUCH HARDSHIP. ”    William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation. May we each rise to the challenges in our daily walk to be the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, realizing the part we each play as only we can to keep America strong.  The preservation of the sacred fires of LIBERTY is the “Fire, fire burning bright” entrusted to us.

We were thirteen colonies that bound together.  1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter. Love will bind us together, from sea to shining sea, as hot coals touching each other  create a flame bigger than alone.

Come to Charleston to get refueled. “Walk on, walk on,  with Hope in your heart, and you never walk alone.  You never walk alone.”                                                                                                                                                                                  I sang these words at my own graduation and have had them in my mind and on my lips with my first born’s college graduation corresponding with my dear mother in hospital for a 16 hour throat cancer “flap” surgery May 8.  May 9th I flew out to attend Olivia’s  graduation from Rhodes College, torn between two loves and loyalties.  See Rhodes College

Leave a comment

Filed under Charleston is world's top spot, Charleston real estate, Founding Fathers, Francis Edmunds, heart tug, Historic Charleston Foundation, Mother-Daughter Tour, Preservation Society of Charleston, Rainbow Row, Susan Pringle Frost

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

2 Comments

Filed under Antiques Shop Til We Drop Tour, breaking routine, Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Charleston is world's top spot, Fesatival of Houses, Festival of Houses, for foodies, Francis Marion, Gardening, group meeting facilities, Gullah Culture, Historic Charleston Foundation, More English Than the English, museum houses before or after private tour, private lunch and group meeting conference room, the Swamp Fox