Category Archives: Charleston is world’s top spot

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

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under 2016 in Charleston, Antebellum Charleston, breaking routine, camellias, Charleston Arts and Antiques Forum, Charleston is world's top spot, Charleston Wine and Food Festival, Charleston, S.C., Downton Abbey, entertaining, for foodies, Francis Marion, Gardening, Greek Revival, January in Charleston, Manners in Charleston, persimmons--puddings and sorbet, private lunch and group meeting conference room, Restaurants, shopping basket, South Carolina Wildlife Exibition, South Eastern Wildlife Exhibition (SEWE), Suzanne Pollack and Lee Manigault, The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits., the Swamp Fox, Valentines Day

Sherman’s March to the Sea 150 Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our 1773 tea party was before Boston’s!

1 Comment

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

Living in the Present without Desecrating the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Comments

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

Beware! You Gotta Serve Somebody

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Comment

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

Come Quick! Spring is Bursting out all Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Comment

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