Category Archives: historic churches of Charleston

Response to Dylan Roof

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 Lafayette ending his letter with a description of 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.”

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 martyrs 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 spread abroad in our hearts that makes us one with each other and, we hope, with you the visitor.

 

 

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

Charleston Under Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Wichmann Hipp  843-577-5896

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

Beware! You Gotta Serve Somebody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Food, Locally Sourced, on the Wild Side!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come Quick! Spring is Bursting out all Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charleston is Still the Holy City: We Saved Another Church!

On this dark night, there is a light shining  making the hearts of many who look to us in Charleston glad.  The first Greek Revival church in Charleston has been saved from being sold and made into a house and income producing (church) offices, shops  and apartments.  The young and vibrant congregation of Redeemer Presbyterian Church closed today at the last minute on St. Andrews Lutheran Church on lower Wentworth St between Meeting and East Bay.   It was bought from the 16 remaining of the old congregation who had joined another church and want to build a new church away from the historic city.

Many thanks to the people on my tour, especially the 50th birthday friends of Lisa from  Tallahassee, Florida, the first who gave to keep this church a church.  Thank you to others on my tour who wrote checks to Redeemer Church instead of to me.  The congregation is of students at the College of Charleston, medical students, young people and young married couples who have committed to paying the loan of 1.6 million dollars!  That is a big commitment;  that’s what you call a leap of faith!  It’s enough to make anybody want to help.  This is the congregation that will see Charleston and America into the future.  They support with groceries Lowcountry Crisis Ministries; they go and play with the kids of homeless shelter.  They have Cru, young people who walk on the beach to interact with those needing spiritual guidance, the modern takeoff of Campus Crusade for Christ.  They are dynamic movers and shakers, as the church should be, with reports of those reached being given on Sundays.  They also sing beautifully with all those young pure voices.  Craig Bailey is the upbeat, optimistic minister who is so comfortable being completely himself,  trusting in the hilarious favor of the Giver of all good things.  No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly!

If Charleston cannot keep our churches holy, then there is no hope for anywhere else.  The world looks to us to get it right.  We are the City on a hill whose light cannot be hid.  The impossible has happened.  Cheers to all who made the sacrifices and commitments to make this purchase possible.  Now that the property is Redeemer’s, the sky’s the limit on all the ideas they will have time and place to explore.  While this is not my church, I do visit and encourage you to do the same .  The light is shining more brightly this All Hallows Eve in Charleston, pushing back the darkness.  Let me know if you are interested in seeing this church on my tour and I will make a detour as I occasionally do.  It has some of the most beautiful stained glass in the city.  Mayor Riley, who has been mayor of Charleston for 40 years,  as a boy sat under the stained glass window of an angel with arms crossed with his grandmother growing up.  He too has been supportive in wanting to see this church preserved as a functioning church.   Each person makes a difference.

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Filed under breaking routine, Charleston real estate, heart tug, historic churches of Charleston