Tour Private Gardens in historic Charleston

Charleston Tea Party Private Tour

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

Your hostess serves tea following lunch

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

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

Charleston: Ghosts, Gullah and Tea

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

The Washington Post


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

Another year older, another year deeper in debt.  Yesterday was my birthday.  Another year deeper 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 my days that I may apply my heart to wisdom.”

“When I consider how my light is spent, ere all my days in this dark world and wide, and that one talent, which is death to hide, lodged within me useless, though my soul more bent to serve there with my Maker, lest he returning chide, Doth God exact day labor light denied?”John Milton. With my mother being from England and my father from Charleston, I am to all things England and Charleston born.

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 dressed 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 shutter to one particular person.  Where do pineapples grow? Where was our president from?  Where did World War II start for America? We must humble ourselves and pray 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.”  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 caught 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. They still destroyed it because it was, after all, a robot. These are not the things I say on the tour, but “the times, they are a changin.” 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 their Muslim religion and laws to see why Barbary Coast pirates hated 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 serve local food, locally sourced and home cooked at breakfast and our luncheon tea.  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. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  You can’t take that away from us.   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


Originally posted on Charleston Tea Party Private Tours:

On June 17, 2015,  an assault on the Holy City of Charleston took place in the heart of who we are.  In the sanctity of one of our most historic churches, sacrificially restored by the congregation and their pastor, The Reverend Pinckney, this assault took place. NINE members of the congregation including their minister, South Carolina State Senator Pinckney, lost their lives at the end of a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME.   A five year old boy, I hear, witnessed it but played dead. He and we all who hold Charleston dear to our hearts are scarred for life.

That this murderous rampage could happen here means the pure evil out there is creeping in and can happen anywhere.  This crime should not be named among us.  It is an assault to the identity internationally and at home of the Holy City  of Charleston; to the religious freedom of…

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On June 17, 2015,  an assault on the Holy City of Charleston took place in the heart of who we are.  In the sanctity of one of our most historic churches, sacrificially restored by the congregation and their pastor, The Reverend Pinckney, this assault took place. NINE members of the congregation including their minister, South Carolina State Senator Pinckney, lost their lives at the end of a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME.   A five year old boy, I hear, witnessed it but played dead. He and we all who hold Charleston dear to our hearts are scarred for life.

That this murderous rampage could happen here means the pure evil out there is creeping in and can happen anywhere.  This crime should not be named among us.  It is an assault to the identity internationally and at home of the Holy City  of Charleston; to the religious freedom of these Christians gathered last night, who died for their faith; to the plan for good and not for evil that this young man’s Creator had in mind in bringing him into this world; to the unalienable Rights of Man upon which our Founding Fathers established These United States of America; and more personally,  it is an assault to our beloved Mayor Joseph P. Riley, who has worked tirelessly for forty years to promote fairness and harmony in race relations as a top priority, always in the forefront of his mind.

“Two Roads From Which to Choose, the Road to Glory or the Fools Highway”, were the words of my Maranatha album of my 14th year that I happened to be listening to on my record player for the first time in decades these past two weeks.  My heart had been pleading for the lost as I sang along with these never forgotten, foundational words from my own youth. We must pray for the lost, such as this young man, and spread the Light and plead the protection over our land by the blood of  Christ and of these martyrs. “For only in Thee can we live in safety.”

It is now the 19 of June. I have had it on my mind that Lafayette was here and wrote of Charleston.  I researched it today and found that it was on this very day, June 19, 1777, that this 19 year old Frenchman wrote to his beloved wife of his first impressions of America. He came here to fight for our Liberty, because he believed that somewhere in the world man should be allowed to live without being under the thumb of tyrannical governments taxing them every which way, in the age when it was “the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Here is a passage from his second letter from South Carolina, where his ship first hit America, he having been entertained for two weeks at the rice plantation of the Huger family, and then in the City of Charleston at the Huger house from 1760 on lower Meeting Street.  His impressions of Charlestonians can be paralleled to Charlestonians still today.

“They are as agreeable as my enthusiasm had painted them.  Simplicity of manners, Kindness, Love of country, and Liberty, and a delightful Equality everywhere prevail. The wealthiest man and the poorest are on a level; and although there are some Large Fortunes, I challenge anyone to discover the slightest difference between the manners of these two classes respectively towards each other. I first saw the country life at the home of Major Huger.  I am now in the City where everything is very much after the English fashion, Except there is more simplicity, equality, cordiality, and courtesy here than in England.  The City of Charleston is one of the handsomest  and best built, and her inhabitants among the Most Agreeable that I have ever seen. But what charms me most is that all the citizens are brethren, (brothers and sisters in Christ).”

Lafayette had had a five hour dinner with General Wm. Moultrie and General Howe, trying as he said to speak a little English before writing to his wife at a late hour.

“Considering the pleasant life I lead in this country, my sympathy with the people makes me feel as much at ease in their society as if I had known them for twenty years, the similarity between their mode of thinking and my own, and my love of Liberty and of glory.

All this enthusiasm for Charleston and America despite ending with exactly how it has been this week, “The heat is dreadful. I am devoured by insects, so you see even the best of countries have their disadvantages.”

In my mind’s eye, I picture General Howe and General Wm. Moultrie as cordial and on the same level with all in society as the late Gedney Howe, Sr. whose bust is outside the new Charleston County Courthouse wing  with a description that is as if he were one of the citizens making the impressions on Lafayette in his day. It is a comfort to know that this quality of all of us being brothers and sisters in our shared faith and on the same level regardless of wealth or color can be traced throughout our history.  It remains our identity.

This troubled young man who committed this heinous crime, who dwelt on the negative in race relations, which warped his thinking, was not a resident of Charleston.  He came into town and chose this prominent church highly visible on Calhoun Street on the anniversary of the tragedy of nine firemen dying in the Sofa Super Store fire.  So much good was wiped out with the taking of nine good, civic minded, upstanding citizens, role models, who contributed so much to the good of our Charleston society.  Their place shall not be filled. Nine gaping holes in nine families.  Nine gaping holes in their church leadership.  Nine gaping holes in our community.  Nine tragic losses multiplied to all who knew them and to all across the world who hold the Holy City of Charleston dear to our hearts.  And yet, “We Shall Not Be Moved.””We shall overcome.”  “Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his fellow.” Those shot were laying down their lives for each other. Love will hold us together, from sea to shining sea. What charmed Lafayette most is still what is most charming in Charleston today: we are all brethren, on a level, regarding each other as equals.  That unity is the love of God in our hearts spread abroad that makes us one with each other and we hope with you the visitor.




Filed under 2015, historic churches of Charleston, Lafayette in America, Murder in Charleston, Press

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

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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

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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

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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!

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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