You are invited to experience Old Charleston as an invited guest.

Tour Private Gardens in historic Charleston

1. 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 and June McKnight are your knowledgeable and charming guides. Natives who love and know well their city, Laura and June take visitors to their friends’ private homes and gardens, in fact cater each tour to the special interests of their visitors. This is the ultimate insider experience and a rare chance for a visitor to see the “real Charleston.” Both ladies are Licensed City Guides of Charleston who have taken the written and oral exam.

Call Laura for reservations at 843-708-2228 for reservations.

Your hostess serves tea following lunch

Tours are weekdays at 9:30 AM.  The private tour is in and out of a car that seats four guests, or a van that seats six, and goes into  the gardens of private homes of friends and relatives of Laura and June.

This tour for small groups is for the discriminating visitor, who wants to be off the beaten track. This tour can cater to those who love to walk,  or to those whose walking or energy is limited and would prefer more time in the van.

One of the gardens is a formal boxwood and rose garden with a dovecote that overlooks the glistening waters of the recent  multi-million dollar restoration of Colonial Lake. We also peak into the garden and piazza of Dubose Heyward, who lived in this classic Charleston Single House as a boy and grew up to write the novel, Porgy.  Dubose Heyward and George Gershwin collaborated to compose Porgy and Bess, the first American opera, set in Charleston.

You will see Laura’s front flower garden and “citrus grove,” and back garden’s fruiting trees and raised vegetable beds, from which her family and friends enjoy her homemade Calamondin Marmalade. The Silver Tea Service is used at the end as we enjoy conversation after our morning tour.

Call Laura at 843-708-2228 for reservations.


Charleston: Gershwin, 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 home.

-The Washington Post


Filed under 2016 in Charleston, Charleston Tea, Dubose Heyward's home, new tour, Porgy and Bess, Uncategorized

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy

It’s a greener Charleston this summer with just enough rainfall to keep the Crepe Myrtles’ colors vibrant, the grass green, and the birds singing and nesting. The Peninsula of Charleston is a bird sanctuary. One of the private formal gardens we go into overlooking Colonial Lake has birds swinging back and forth from bird feeders across the boxwood and rose maze, like an idyllic scene out of Snow White. Last week a fat baby bluejay on my back garden steps trying its wings let me pet its head! I told it to be kind to the red breasted House Finches.

I have in bloom down my bluestone walkway to the front door happy faced zinnias, pure white Obediant plant, Crocosmia, and to the butterflies delight and mine, Milkweed with its tall golden yellow blossoms. For years I had no interest in a plant called a weed, that is until I SAW IT! Seeing is believing. Milkweed is THE ONLY HOST PLANT FOR MONARCH BUTTERFLIES. You want the solid yellowy gold; the two toned one is more common in Central America and is said to confuse the monarchs to think that they are in the tropics, delaying their flight in the fall.

I also have the sweetest mint I have ever smelled, obtained decades ago, from the garden of a home for homeless mothers, daughters, and widows on Broad St. That mint doesn’t exist there now, but has been thriving in my walkway. I have been making the most addictive Mint Iced Cream. I use local egg yolks and local milk with the cream risen to the top from Lowcountry Creamery.

My waterside hanging basket on the front porch surprised me with a cucumber plant I had forgotten about, perchance planted from seed. It has produced crunchy cucumbers, one at a time, so fun to watch swell. They are great as cucumber tea sandwiches.

The latest threat to the integrity of the heart of the “Old and Historic District” is the proposed condominium project on Cumberland St in line with St Philips steeple. St Philips is the mother church of all churches South of Virginia. It is the iconic image in all pictures of Charleston. It was the first landmark I went to look for after Hurricane Hugo Sept 21, 1989, to ensure it was still standing, our beacon of Hope A guide to sailors for generations, including my father and brother, entering the Charleston harbor from the ocean, St. Philips is known as the Lighthouse Church.

We understand that there is a real estate boom; everywhere, Americans are wanting to invest in a hard, cold asset. I have noticed that in times of uncertainty, there have been real estate booms in Charleston. In the preRevolutionary years. many houses were built in the cluster years of growing tension with Great Britain. The same thing happened in the Antebellum years with the growing tensions leading to The War Between the States. People asked in the 18th century, what if this Continental currency becomes worthless? What if Great Britain wins if conflict breaks out? We had better invest in a hard, cold asset. Real estate was the wisest investment, despite Sherman’s burnings and our city fires. Same with the 19th century growing tension between the North and the South. The safest way to preserve the value of their money was to invest it in building a house. The Culture of Charleston’s architectural beauty in detailed carvings, plaster work, and ironwork was represented as well as the monetary value.

Black and metal and glass are the nondescript features of our age that are in the Cumberland Street condominium design that has been given preliminary approval by the Board of Architectural Review. Sleepy, stifling, summertime when the Livin’ is easy, typically August, is historically when architectural exceptions slip in unaware. St Philips never was notified; it was only in the newspaper after preliminary approval, with no public hearing notice before nor one to come. St. Philips, a National Landmark, the elephant in the room, was not even mentioned at the BAR meeting.

Board of Architectural Review, 75 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29401, is where you can send a letter. People who carry Charleston in their hearts MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Pilgrimages here enrich the soul for people weary of the syncopated unrest of a crazy world. The streets of Charleston with views from all around of St Philips tall steeple, have something to give those who walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer, for those who come here in a receptive mood. We formed the first Preservation Society in the country in 1920, resplendent with individuals who saved historic Charleston. Though Charleston led the way with America’s first historic district set apart from incompatible development in a zoning ordinance in 1931, it is always a fight, especially in AUGUST when it’s Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy.

Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Azaleas and Camellias are Calling in Bright Array

The Charleston Tea Party Private Tour is responding to the call from the bright array of azaleas and camellia to, “Come and see!” Carolina Gray Brick with green mold appliqued by time provide the alluring historic backdrop for the spring gems to stun and refresh the eyes and spirit. After temperatures in the upper 70’s, there is now the chill in the air keeping the spring flowers fresh until you can get here. “Don’t Delay!” the flowers are saying to all contemplating a visit.

The gate was ajar to one of the gardens we visited today with a young family who just moved to Charleston from Maryland. It looked like a storybook invitation to a secret garden with the pink Formosa azaleas and jewel toned camellias in bloom seen from the walkway as we approached this house behind a house.

“If you are weary of the syncopated rhythm of a crazy world, come here and set your feet to a saner tempo. ‘What will we gain by that’, you may ask? ‘All we would 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 some to give those who walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer.”

Founding member of the Preservation Society of Charleston, the first of any city in the country, founded in 1920, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner used her art to convey her ideas of preservation, drawing the eye to the architectural lines and shadows of our historic houses, but also to the way of life with the street venders and Flower Ladies. Her book Mellowed by Time still speaks of Charleston today as does her mention of the outside “crazy world”. Here is the “saner tempo” and sense of order and balance that soothe our troubled souls. Taking time for absorbing beauty while reflecting on our history, without beating it and expelling it, make us wiser, with more depth to our wellspring of refreshment; consequently, we have more to give to those we love and give ourselves a more meaningful life, better equipped to face the “syncopated rhythm of a crazy world.” Laura

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St Valentine’s Flowers Abound in February Charleston Gardens

Camellias are the gem colored thrill of winter in Charleston. Charleston gardens were designed to peak in February with camellias because of Race Week in February, the highlight of the social season. Washington Race Course was dedicated 1791, the same time that George Washington visited here. Camellias abound in Hampton Park, the garden within the enclosed circle of the Race Course. Nearby is Race Street, where horses practice raced, as they also did on Line St, so called because it goes in a straight line.

I can remember as a child my English mother, who gave me elocution lessons, correcting my Gullah influenced pronunciation of “Line”, saying it’s not “Lawin”. I am reverting to the Old Charlestonese these days without her influence.

Camellias in Hot Water put outside in the cold sets them, making their blooms last longer than a day in an arrangement. I learned this tip from Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, (Betty Hamilton), poet, and daughter of Charleston artist Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, born 1883. Her mother the artist was a member of the Garden Club of Charleston, a [powerful group of ladies.

I make arrangements in green absorbent oasis in hot water. You cannot let the blossoms touch the hot water. My friend, Pam Shelbourne, makes her arrangements from her massive camellia garden in Summerville, SC on a platter. It stays low as a center piece so as not to block anyone’s view of each other at dinner. The key is to write a note and place it where you want the flowers to go so that you Do Not Forget to get the arrangement from outside setting in the cold before your guests arrive, as I did last week! My friend, Elizabeth Gay, had brought me camellias from her garden pictured here, but I forgot to get them from setting outside until these two friends, Jolene Park living here from Colorado, and Elizabeth Gay, were the only ones left from our Revelation Tea Party!

Do not miss leaving your cold, bleak midwinter behind to come to see the gems of Old Charleston gardens. I’ve seen the first Lady Banks Rose buds in bloom, and the Carolina Jasmine is blooming down my walled driveway like never before. The Peninsula of Historic Charleston is blessed as a temperate garden haven and bird sanctuary with the warm Gulf Stream waters coming into our harbor along the Ashley River and the Cooper River, which for us, along with Jerusalem, is the Holy City, the center of the universe!

Call Laura 843-708-2228

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Spring 2018 Roars in Like a Royal Lion

While the Northeast is battling fallen trees and pounding wind and rain, Charleston is astir with the sights and scents of Spring.  Escape! Do whatever you can! Come quick!  Bright yellow bursts of Lady Banks Rose, Carolina Jasmine, and points of snapdragons are in my garden along with the smiling faces dancing in the wind of the pansies, poppies, and  johnny jump ups that bounced back from the rare winter ice and snow along with mounds of cilantro and lettuces for salads. It seems our wintry blast has given us the beginnings of a spectacular spring that is satisfying the color deprived eyes to behold.

Did my citrus survive? All my friends want to know who depend on gifts of my homemade calamondin marmalade.  While I lost a satsuma orange tree in the back garden that had produced the most prolific crop of its life, my two calamondin orange trees are showing green stems and the first hint of leaves to come.  The grapefruit tree is in a new coat of tender green leaves, which is a surprise because grapefruit are the least cold tolerant.  That is why I planted it closest to the house. Last night I saw what took my breath away in the back garden.  I actually thought  someone had put little wispy white lights on my persimmon tree on every to-the-sky reaching branch. It was the clusters of new leaves catching the full moon light, a magical moment from the Light of Heaven. When you come on my tour, ask me to show you these behind the scenes treasures of mine.

Another treasure recently acquired is an American mahogany secretary-desk-linen press.  While it doesn’t produce fruit, it does fit into my tour and has the added bonus of hiding my daily used books and linens.  It is the kind with thirteen panes of glass on each of the two doors.  Thomas Chippendale designed such secretary desks, which then were made by cabinet makers on both sides of the Atlantic.  While Chippendale did not have our Thirteen Colonies in mind, the design in time came to be associated with celebrating America’s Thirteen Colonies, Great Britain’s most valuable possessions, when the sun never set on the British Empire, and then our Liberty.  I had gone to one of my favorite antique shops to buy a wedding present, having felt compelled to go at that moment, though out of my way. I found the silver wine coaster wedding present and was reading the write up on the secretary desk, not really considering buying it, when I heard a voice behind me saying, “You know, you really should buy that piece.”  “Who is this brazen salesman?” I thought as I whisked around.  It was Jeff Miller, our minister at St. Philips, the Billy Graham of Charleston!  How much more clear a direction can you get than that?  Come and see! It is a practical, utilitarian piece made back when furniture was also a work of art.

Charleston was a haven for such creativity of skilled craftsmen: cabinet makers, silversmiths, iron workers, all vying with each other as to who could come up with the most pleasing design.  The subtle inlay and crotchet mahogany  and valanced pigeon holes show the skill of an artist who loved his work.  I think it must have been the desk of the lady of the house with it having slides on the bottom half for linens.

What tidbit of history thrills me most to have recently learned?   I have been quoting our state motto for years without knowing how it came to be ours.  Dum spiro spero.  While I breath, I hope. There is a narrowing ring within the ring of Charlestonians with whom I enjoy talking history who are the keepers of The Knowledge.  Vic Brandt, who came to my father’s 88th birthday dinner party and gave wonderful toasts, told me the origin of our State of South Carolina motto.  It was the motto of our namesake, King Charles I.  He wrote it all his life in the front page of his books along with his name.

If only while he breathed and hoped he had called British Parliament to meet, King Charles I may have managed to keep his head.  As it was, for this offense, Parliament, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, said, “Off with his head!” As King Charles I was bound as a common criminal and led to the gallows, he objected to this undignified treatment.  His chaplain said, “Do you not see that this is the last likeness to our Lord and Savior Jesus, who like you was treated as a common criminal?”  With that word, Charles I went quietly to his death.

Our guys, who were given Carolina,  the eight lords proprietors, were on his side.  These eight lords risked their own lives and properties to REESTABLISH the monarchy after it had been abolished in a very memorable way.  Cromwell had the head of King Charles I stuck on one of the spokes of the Houses of Parliament.  When Oliver Cromwell died of natural causes and his son Richard Cromwell proved ineffectual, these eight lords got together to reestablish the monarchy, searching high and low for the king’s son, Charles 11, who had been chased like a fox by the hounds all over Great Britain by the Puritans. He had found refuge in France where he was raised like a member of the court of France and as a Catholic, the only option, when France was burning French Huguenots at the stake. To be king of England, Charles II had to give up Catholicism and become Anglican, which became The Church of England.  In appreciation, Charles II gave these eight lords this land from where I write, called Carolina, which was North and South Carolina, Georgia, and large parts of Florida. By the way, Charles II also stuck Cromwell’s head on the spokes of the Houses of Parliament with the difference being Cromwell had been dead for quite some time.

Thus began the reign of the Merry Monarch during whose reign we were established. This period in England is known as The Restoration Period, when England was restored to herself.  The history of Great Britain is that of being a monarchy. Artwork and literature and theater life came out of the Restoration Period.  Ask to see our Hogarth etching original from the copper plate.  I gave it to our daughter, Olivia, for her 21st birthday because she had studied the Restoration Period that  summer at Oxford University.  As theaters reopened in London that had been closed during the Puritan era, we here in Charles Town built the first theater in America, the Dock Street Theater, then “little more than a barn at the corner of Church and the Streete which leadeth to the Docks.”  Adam style woodwork from the Thomas Radcliffe House was recycled into its drawing rooms in the 1930s making it a more elegant drawing card for theater life today. Search out what is playing for your visit and order tickets now, especially if coming later during the Spoleto Festival in late May and early June.

June and I do the tours as you call for reservations on weekdays only as we take you to private houses and gardens of hospitable friends who love us.  We are blessed to share the blessings with those of you who appreciate the sacrificial spirit of hospitality still alive in America. We look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you for reading.  It is a fascinating history we have here.  I can’t wait to show you what I am writing about.  Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-708-2228

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Filed under 13, Antiques Shop Til We Drop Tour, Calamondin Marmalade, Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Charleston in spring, Charleston Wine and Food Festival, Easter in Charleston, Festival of Houses, for foodies, Founding Fathers, Gardening, Uncategorized

Birlants Antiques Store: Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future Merge Walking past Birlants on King Street, I caught a familiar glimpse of my friend from our youth, Andy Slotan, and his father. At first I thought I was seeing Andy and a ghost of Christmas past, because most people his father’s era are not around or are not going to work. His father has worked there his whole married life as it was his wife’s family’s, the Birlants. He turned 90 November 8, 2017. Unlike other shops on King, this one still has the old world charm of the days when you felt you were stepping back in time. It is not all new walls and ceilings with the accompanying new smell. It has character, the patina of age, and a father and son nostalgically and reverently keeping the family business going with joy and good cheer and the best from imported from England. Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel by America at the end of the year of our Lord 2017 became the topic. A lady named Caroline Newman on my tour recently dreamed the name Benjamin Netanyahu spelled out several times, the last time in blue. She and I saw this as God’s own prayer request that she received, for what reason we knew not. But we prayed and told others to pray far and wide. Now that the recognition by America of Jerusalem as the capital has made news, we can see that God knew what was coming before we did. We are to pray this Christmas season for the peace of Jerusalem, for the safety and wisdom of her prime minister, and of all her people, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Why did it happen in 2017 before the New Year that America finally recognized the capital of Israel? I believe it is because this year is the 100 year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration when a letter from Lord Balfour sent to Lord Rothchild in 1917 said, “His Majesty’s government views with favour the formation of a Jewish homeland in the territory of Palestine.” This was the first time in world history that a government had ever issued any such declaration in support of the Jewish people. The Balfour Declaration and this outcome of WWI gave Zionism a tremendous leap forward, opening the door for many Jews to make Aliah. 2017 and 1917 are in alignment.”If Jesus was a Jew, does that mean God His Father is Jewish if He is the Son of God?” Mr. Slotan asked. “I’ve wondered about this question all my life.”I answered this Jewish man, “God chose to reveal Himself to one group of people first that they might be a Light to Lighten the Gentiles.” Andy said,”To show them the way to the Father.” “What IS the way?” Mr. Slotan, 90 years old honestly and earnestly asked. What could I answer but what Jesus said? “In the Christian faith, we believe what Jesus said, ‘I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.’ We have all done things we feel shame to remember. We have had the punishment transferred from us to Jesus, the spotless Lamb that was slain for the sins of The Whole Wide World for all time past, present, and future. Mr. Slotan said,”He was crucified.” “Yes. The most ignominious death you could endure, yet without sin. Jesus stands at the gate looks in each one’s heart and sees it all laid bare and says, I have covered this one in my blood that has washed him clean. Though his sins were as scarlet, I make them white as snow.” Mr. Slotan could not help but smile in boyish relief at this Good News. “You may not want the label of being a Christian because you are Jewish and are loyal to all your people are and have endured. People are more than a label. Man looks on the outside of a person, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I gently touched the wool of his sweater over his heart as if I could see his hidden, secret faith. It was as if Jesus was touching him, not me, seeing inside, warming his heart to Him. “The Yom Kippur service I went so surprised me because they say so many times the Messiah’s name shall be Jeshua, son of David, Hebrew for Jesus. I think their own liturgy points to Jesus so that the Jews cannot help but have an inkling of an idea of His being the Messiah.” The glow of love and good cheer made us glad to know each other, glad to be alive this Christmas when we were the last ones in the store. The smiles were sincere. The questions were honest. Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for Benjamin Netanyahu, and for Mr. Slotan. “O come, O come Emanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee O Israel.”

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Celebrate LIBERTY! Dance The Charleston!

Charlestonians imprisoned by the British July 4, 1780, danced!  They were held at Haddrell’s Point, across the Cooper River. Charleston had been bombarded relentlessly by the British until she fell that same year.  She would be occupied by the British for two and a half years. Charlestonians always stressed that extra half, for to them the British occupation was going on into a third year; it was a battle for hope.

When Charleston fell to the British, they wisely got the British to agree to certain unalienable rights of the colonists that were the rights of all British subjects. For British subjects we still were, though we had declared Independence four years earlier.  These rights had been eroding as Great Britain tried to take advantage of the wealth accumulating of their richest possessions in the British Empire, America.

“No taxation without representation” was not merely the American response to the British levying taxes; it was an unalienable right of all British subjects throughout Great Britain. These rights were listed going back to The Year of our Lord 1215, as granted in the Magna Carta, sealed by bad King John.  He was so bad, they forced his hand as his nobles showed up in force with knights in armor at Runnymede.  The Magna Carta is the key to the greatness of English speaking people around the world, where the sun never set on the British Empire.  An outgrowth of their Judaeo-Christian nation, Great Britain was the first country to recognize certain unalienable rights given by our Creator that are evident in all creation.  These rights were ingrained in British subjects throughout the Empire going back to 1215!

July 4, 1780, Charlestonians rallied round the prisoners of war to cheer and to bless those imprisoned souls.  It was not just the families of the prisoners who visited but a full representative of Charlestonians, “the officers and Lowcountry elite on parole under the terms of the capitulation of Charleston.”

Dancing and celebration have followed solemn prayer of thanksgiving throughout our history on July 4, and this day 1780, their first Independence Day under British control, was to carry on the same new tradition.  They had live music, for there was no other kind. Charlestonians had long enjoyed the finest musicians hired to play for them going back to the first musical society in America, formed here in Charleston and still alive, the St. Cecilia Society.  They also had, believe it or not, fire works, which they called illuminations.   What is even more surprising is that they had “the firing of pistols into the air, and dancing with women for two to three hours in one of the rooms in the barracks.”

General William Moultrie was not least among them.  He who had led the Battle of Ft. Sullivan on Sullivan’s Island June 28, 1776, where he had had the fort built out of palmetto palm tree logs, danced and joined in the celebration.  Naturally, the British responded to the noisy revelry of celebrating our Independence while under their control as prisoners.  General William Moultrie defended the prisoners, saying, “their activities represented a typical Southern celebration that was by no means inconsistent with our paroles.”

Slaves throughout the Lowcountry also celebrated this day with dancing and feasting as it was a holiday for all from the typical day’s work.  No one could out dance the African American community or play music as they did.

Dancing the Charleston in the 1920s was actually the white imitation of what the black street musicians were doing.  Jenkins Orphanage Band paraded through the streets of Charleston on July 4 and any other day of celebration or otherwise.  One or two among them “street danced”, which Charleston ladies are photographed as imitating.  The band traveled to England to raise money for the orphanage.  The fame spread far and wide as they, “The Charleston” were called upon to “Give us The Charleston”.

The world is dancing to The Charleston still today as Charleston’s reputation grows as the world’s most polite and livable city.  So “if you are weary of the syncopated unrest of a crazy world, come here and set your feet to a saner tempo.  ‘What will we gain by that’, you may ask.  ‘All we’d accomplish would be to get out of step with 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 offer those that walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer.”  So wrote Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, Charleston artist of the late 19th and 20th century in her book, Mellowed By Time.

Whatever your prison is, break out and dance, whether it is in the kitchen, at your desk, changing diapers, or battling cancer.  As Preston Hipp said, “Make a resolution to dance as much as you can!”  If you can put a shoe string budget together or a fortune, the streets of Charleston are free for the walking and the beaches are free for the dip in the sea. Come to get refreshed, even if it is hot and humid.  It is good for the skin pores and good for the soul.

Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-708-2228

With thanks to The South Carolina Historical Magazine July 2015 article by Richard H. Tomczak.

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Garden Club of Charleston Spring House and Garden Tour

April 7th and 8th, 2017 is a two day offering that is a rare opportunity to tour this many private homes and gardens.  Each house will have fresh flowers arranged by members of the Garden Club of Charleston.  You buy a ticket for each day.  There will be different houses on each day. Garden Club members will be the docents.  You go at your own pace and in your own preferred order from house to house.

Through the end of February, I as a member am able to buy tickets for less than the general public.  I am willing to make these tickets available to you at this reduced price of $75 for two instead of 50 each.

June and I would like to take you on our tour the day or two before to give you the personalized experience and understanding of Historic Charleston.  For those who go on a tour with us, we will accompany you complimentary if you wish on the House and Garden Tour as a small group to give extra commentary along the way. This offer is the first time the Garden Club has allowed us to pass this member discount on to you.

Please text or call Laura at 843-708-2228

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Dine Like a Charlestonian

Frequently I am asked, “Where is your favorite restaurant?” With so many nationally renowned ones, new ones, and ones that have stood the test of time, it is hard to narrow it down.  But when it comes down to it, I have to admit my favorite place to dine is in my friends’ homes and my own.


The art of entertaining is the art of hospitality.  And you do not have to be accomplished to entertain. You just have to care more about your friends than your fear of failure.  Pull out all the stops, not to impress but to delight and for breaking routine.  Your guests will feel they are worth the trouble when you pull out the family heirloom china, crystal, and silver. It is the culture of dining with friends and family around the table, where conversation and breaking bread together are passed on to us in Charleston, that is worth perpetuating.

Why have nice things if you are not going to use them?  Charlestonians have continued through the generations to dine with beauty: home made food served on china platters, covered silver vegetable dishes, with white linens and fresh flowers gracing the table as enjoyed in Downton Abbey. As implied by the circle motif of the Guilloche Pattern in the woodwork of the Antebellum home of the doctor who delivered me, “May the circle be unbroken.”  From generation to generation, the heritage, faith, and culture are passed on.  “The chain is only as strong as… the weakest link.” Who is going to pass on the beauty and culture of Western Civilization in daily life? If not us in Charleston then who? If not now in Charleston than when?  If not here in Charleston than where?  Charlestonians and the Chinese have a few things in common: we both eat rice, drink tea, and worship our ancestors! (Old Charlestonian saying from my parents era.)

Spring flowers from our gardens to grace our tables. Luminescent orbs like Chinese lanterns were my persimmons hanging in my downtown back garden from my  persimmon tree, from which I made persimmon sorbet and pudding. I am picking kale, and lettuce leaves for salads from a raised bed.  After spreading a year’s worth of compost: vegetable, egg shell, coffee and tea scraps, the contents of my warm compost bin, onto the raised beds, I scattered the fuzzy flowering lettuce seeds I saved from last years’ lettuces that bolted. In November and all through the winter til spring I have had a carpet of lettuce, much more than from seed packets or nursery bought plants. The shopping basket becomes the garden basket as I get closer to the earth, like Francis Marian, the Swamp Fox.

We see the portrait of Francis Marion’s aid-de-camp, ancestor of owner, dramatized as Luke in the historic novel, Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow. The owner’s grandfather was Lucas Simons, descendant of Keating Simons in the portrait.”That Old Swamp Fox” is what the British called Francis Marion. The ancestral portraits in this private home are worthy of art museums.  Mrs. Porter, mother of The Reverend Anthony Toomer Porter, who started Porter Military Academy, which today is Porter Gaud School, is by Samual F. B. Morse.  Toomer Porter gathered together as much of “the seed corn” as he could, as encouraged by Mrs. Jefferson Davis, so as not to lose a generation.  The chain is only as strong as the weakest link, as emphasized in the Guilloche pattern in the woodwork.  The tensions were building in the Antebellum Period where they felt the importance of passing on the culture, the history, the heritage, and the faith to the next generation even as they felt they were entering the unknown at the end of an era.  C’est la meme chose maintenant.

843-708-2228. Laura Wichmann Hipp






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Do You Hear What I Hear? With a Voice as Big as the Sea, Christmas in Charleston 2015

I met delightful people from England on the tour today.  We had Christmas Pudding with tea, the steamed plum puddings in vintage molds from the world of Charles Dickens. We compared receipts.  They boil theirs for hours.  I just walked home with my husband from two Christmas parties, with the temperature in the upper 60’s tonight, in the 70’s during the day this week.  There is a magic in Christmas in Charleston walking South of Broad at night that is a hush and a wonder, with the clear Christmas lights matching the twinkle of the stars in the dark night above.  All is calm; all is bright, with Christmas wreaths and garlands of cedar and pine with red bows on our piazzas and doorways. We have a fruit board above our door, a tradition of the family we bought our house from almost 18 years ago. It is a gift from Ruth Edmunds every year.  Camellias are coming into bloom, and calamondin oranges and persimmons are turning ripe orange.  My neighbor has a “popcorn berry” wreath from the Chinese Tallow tree that is a work of art by the Gullah culture selling at the Four Corners of Law at Broad and Meeting.  All is well.  All seems right with the world; for in our dark streets shineth The Everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Him tonight.

John the Baptist as the prophet Isaiah foretold it, was a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Have you noticed that people everywhere will talk about traffic and road work like the weather in their surroundings?  John the Baptist, though in the wilderness, observed what his culture saw happening in the background surrounding their daily lives. The enemy was encroaching. They were making inroads to their world of the Holy Land. The Romans were doing the unthinkable; they were building a high stone road in the desert to get this Holy Land territory they had conquered and were incorporating into the Roman Empire.  Their stone roads of many layers were built to last.  With the money we spend on roads, maybe we should consider the once a millennium building of roads by the Romans.

Just as John the Baptist saw the Romans were building high stone ways  in the desert to connect the Roman Empire, John the Baptist was hearing what God was saying to them on the reverse side.  God was saying, “I want to come to you, suddenly and speedily.  Get prepared!  Make straight in the dry, neglected, barren, desert wastelands of your life a new road, a highway for our God.”

Have you noticed the world is getting surprised by alarming ”suddenlies”? The terrorist attacks come on us suddenly, like September 11, like the mass shootings in Charleston’s Emmanuel Church on Calhoun Street, like the Paris and San Bernardino shootings. That Voice as Big as the Sea is saying to all flesh, to those with ears to hear, that we need to be prepared for the Lord Jesus’s Second Advent. His first Advent was sudden.  “And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, Glory to God.  And Peace on earth and Good Will be unto all men.”  He says His Second  coming will be suddenly, like a thief in the night, and who may abide the day of His coming?  Those who hear the Voice as Big as the Sea, go out into the still of the night and listen to the Still, small Voice.  He is saying the echoing words louder than ever, Prepare ye the way of the Lord’s return.  Make straight pathways in your brain, and in your habits to be prepared to receive Him when He comes again. To as many as receive the Messiah, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. Every generation must be expectant and pass on the preparedness to the next, for as I show on my tour with the Guilloche pattern in interior woodwork, the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

Do you hear what I hear?  Leave me a comment or call for a tour reservation. Tours are at 9 am with breakfast, ending with tea at lunch time.

Merry Christmas!

Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-708-2228

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Filed under Calamondin Marmalade, camellias, Christmas in Charleston, English steamed pudding in vintage molds, More English Than the English, persimmons--puddings and sorbet, The Holiday Season

The Acorn Motif, and other American Symbols of Thankfulness and Hospitality

Another year older, another year deeper in debt, in debt to my mother and father, Marianne and Fred Wichmann for my life; to The One who gave me breath and an added year to my purpose here on earth; to The One  who teaches me to “so number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom”.

I am blessed with the exclusive privilege of taking my tours into the home of the doctor who delivered me over a half century ago.  It is an Antebellum home in the Greek Revival style. There, in the Antebellum arch over wide pocket doors, is carved the Acorn Motif, under which you can imagine ladies in hoop skirts in the 1850’s-60’s. This house was the home of a signer of the Ordinance of Secession, Wm. Pinckney Schingler. Miraculously his two houses in Charleston survived both the War Between the States and the Great Conflagration of 1861 that went right through this block.

Why the Acorn?  This year my eye focused on this motif being repeated all around Charleston.  Most noticeably it is in the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 East Battery, where I got my training from my college days and after graduation where I was the second in charge of this museum house open to the public. Into focus came a 19th century photograph of High Battery that is blown up at my husband’s Yacht Club that I have seen repeatedly.  This time I noticed in the photo that the posts of the Battery Wall had Acorn Finials. My friend through a series of miracles bought a house on lower King a few doors down from my mother’s.  There on her first morning I found that her brick columns are ornamented with the SAME Acorns I had seen in the 19th century Battery Wall photo, acorns that no longer exist atop the posts of the Battery wall. Why is this exciting to me? Because of the symbolism.  Our Founding Fathers were wanting to carry on a message encrypted if you will in the everyday world around them SO THAT WE WOULD REMEMBER.

What was the symbolism?

I tell you on location as we stand under the arch where the Acorn wood carvings are.  I don’t want to spoil it for you by telling you now, though it is tempting.  The sublime simplicity is a story worth telling and worth hearing with the history that puts it in context.  It takes the whole tour to “get it”.  This unveiling of symbolism with quotes from primary sources is why I was an English major and history minor. I quote the literary people and Founding Fathers and patriarchs who were more eloquent than I, whose words are worth repeating in the power and beauty of the spoken word  as we gaze at the magnificent architecture of a bygone era.

The number THIRTEEN is an American symbol as well as the Acorn.  There is nothing unlucky for us in this number for of course we were founded as Thirteen Colonies.  The Founding Fathers were very tuned in to the number thirteen.  It contained the key to America’s success, to how we could be united across a continent, bigger than powerful countries of Europe put together.  Where did the key lie in the number thirteen?  “Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels yet have not love, I am a noisy gong and clanging cymbal.” I Corinthians chapter 13. The number Thirteen is repeated on our one dollar bill in Thirteen stars and more.  Look with a magnifying glass.  Where do we see this number Thirteen in Charleston?  One of the most popular pieces of furniture that all my relatives have in their Charleston houses is the secretary desk with two glass doors.  Each door is a Chippendale design with Thirteen panes. It is for a moment in the recent film, War Room. Though designed by Thomas Chippendale in England, it became a popular adopted American favorite and symbol.

George Washington warned in his Farewell Address of what Revelation chapter 13 warns of as well, another Thirteen, of which more Biblically literate past generations would have been familiar. “It is the nature of government to expand.  It must be kept under many checks and balances.” Revelation 13 warns of the day when government has grown so large that the earth has a One World Government, in order to have, as our present president says, “a level playing field.”

Because my eyes and ears are trained to look for symbolism as an English major and daughter of an English major and as one who was trained by an excellent Bible teacher from 9th grade on, I see and hear symbolism everywhere for myself, like an epiphany. Symbolism is in dreams and on the news. It is very simple once you see it. Why did the terrorists attack in Paris happen last Friday? It was chosen to be date to remember but also to point as a warning to America.  It happened on November 13.  The Thirteen points to America, which started with 13 colonies.  How did they choose the particular band concert?  They liked the name. Eagle and Death were in it.  America is the Eagle.  Our enemies want death to America and to our Judaeo-Christian Civilization.  They want us in retreat, the Lion, Great Britain, with the Great Eagle, plucked feather by feather, until naked and ineffectual, as the prophet Daniel foresaw in his visions where KINGDOMS RISE AND FALL.

Why the airplane bomb in the soda can?  What did the soda can say?  Shweppes? Gold?  Pineapple? Our enemies want to “sweep” their enemies out of their way, to make the value of our economy or “gold” drop, and they want our Judaeo-Christian open-door hospitality to blow up in our faces, represented by the pineapple, the symbol of hospitality.  Hospitality IS our gold, our way of life, our identity. If we stop being hospitable to strangers, we will lose the magic that makes this country great.  Our enemies can take away everything, our comfort and ease, our heat and air by the grid, but they can never take our free will.  We have the power to choose our own Attitude toward them and to strangers.  Never underestimate the Power of Free Will.

My mother was naturally shy and in the bombings of WWll did not do any entertaining growing up. Doing the tours and bringing them to her garden for tea was a big step of hospitality for her.  I inherited a plaque from her which says,

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2.

There is a remnant in every tribe, every tongue, and every nation that has ears to hear and eyes to see.  WE have the Good News they need.  These troubled times call for being “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” “The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.”

Why else might the word pineapple  have been the choice of the can pictured by those who claimed to have been responsible for the Russian bound plane? I wonder if it was meant to bring a shudder to one particular person.  Where do pineapples grow? Where is our president from?  Where did World War II start for America? We must humble ourselves and ask protection for all leaders in authority as well as those brave enough to run for the presidential office. Let us not deceive ourselves. These acts of terrorism are the implements of war and world domination through intimidation. “Are we disposed to be of the number of those who have eyes but see not, and having ears hear not the things that so nearly concern our temporal salvation?  Let us know the whole truth,”said  Patrick Henry.

Our 17 year old dreamed the night before the thirteenth that evil was after her in the form of a robot.  It was a long nightmare saved by the ending where she was cornered with no escape.  She and I in the dream started singing Amazing Grace.  Soon the whole world was singing with us and the evil was rendered null and void. These are not the things I say on the tour, but “the times, they are a changin.” Writing gives me more space to share thoughts. We all want some answers and direction. “The lamp of experience must guide our feet. We judge the future by the past,” said Patrick Henry. Thomas Jefferson bought a copy of the Koran to understand the Muslim religion and laws to see why Barbary Coast pirates targeted us. The second half of their holy book reveals their orders, to kill the infidels, the Christians and Jews, wherever you find them. We study history and art and literature to understand our present state; otherwise, “The people perish for lack of knowledge.”

For small tours of 2-4 people call June at 843-577-5896.  For small groups of 5 or more call me, Laura, at 843-708-2228.  We are excited about the history and the choice properties we are privileged to share because the Spirit of Hospitality is still alive in The Holy City of Charleston. We remember who we are, from generation to generation. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  May the circle be unbroken, I show you in the Guilloche pattern of architecture.    Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Filed under 13, Acorn motif, Antebellum Charleston, breaking routine, Eagle, entertaining, Founding Fathers, Greek Revival, King St., Manners in Charleston, Mother-Daughter Tour, museum houses before or after private tour, pineapple, Shemitah