Category Archives: Lafayette in America

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

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

Spring in January and February in Charleston

January and February are the best kept secret in Charleston.  The camellias are in bloom, cultivated for the social season when Charlestonians and plantation owners were in town for the races.  Magnolia Plantation is not to be missed with their world renowned collection of camellias in bloom now, which peak in February.  Those who wait til spring miss our spring like winter, especially refreshing if you live in environs where you see nothing green all winter.  Bulbs are coming up.   We are to ourselves again after the many visitors of autumn and Christmas.  It is quiet.  We have time get to know you better.

It is also the season of Lowcountry oyster roasts.  My family and I went to the SAVE THE LIGHT oyster roast for the Morris Island Lighthouse last Sunday.  I stood at the same spot for HOURS eating steamed oysters.  People would go away from our table and come back hours later to say, “You still here?!”  If anyone wants to have an oyster roast, my husband roasts some up for 6 or more.  He is renowned for doing it the old Charleston way.  He builds a fire in our old brick outside chimney; he puts a metal slab over the fire and piles on the Lowcountry oysters, ” locals” we call them.  Essential then is the wet burlap sack to put over the oysters so that they steam, roast, and smoke.  Where does one get a burlap sack these days?  Only those who are committed to LOCAL oysters know that secret!

Thank you to all who made 2011 a great year.   A young couple loitered after my last tour of the old year, waiting till everyone else left after Tea.  The young man had a guilty look.  Finally he  outed with it.  It was not my money of which he wanted to rob me;  it was another English Plum Pudding,  for the road.  He explained, “I’ve never had anything like this before.”

I also served  Hoppin’ John with a refreshing twist:  Field Peas with chopped Roasted Beets,  Ginger,  Meyer Lemon, and dried cranberries, inspiration from The Taylor Brothers, for whose cooking demonstration I first made it.  I made it it New Year’s Day for our family gathered at Aunt Dee’s.   I am using my home grown Meyer Lemons before a freeze comes along.  I was not as wise last year.  I am making Meyer Lemon Sorbet, my favorite, and Meyer Lemon Curd with scones.  Yesterday I baked two persimmon pies, which filled the house with their wonderful aroma.  You have to wait til the persimmons look soggy or they will taste like chalk.  We have a tree in back.  We have something new for the eyes to see, persimmons and calamondin oranges in my camellia flower arrangements.  Winter joys of life in Charleston keep us in good spirits until the full bloom of magic culminates in spring.

I am still up to my eyeballs in Calamondin Marmalade.  I cannot work in the front garden without a passerby wanting to know what that tree is with tiny oranges.   I gave tiny jars for party favors at a fabulous  New Year’s Eve dinner party with our friends at Cathy and Harry Gregorie’s, owners of GDC.  I ran out this morning of the marmalade jars I took with me to a citrus lecture at the Garden Club of Charleston.  Don’t worry; I am making more.

We are now in the 151st year since the War Between the States began at Ft. Sumter, April 12, 1861, in Charleston, “That Hellhole of Secession.”  One of the houses we visit is my friend, Francess Palmer’s, on East Battery with a dead on view of Ft. Sumter, where was fired the shot that was heard around the world.  I never tire of the sunlight on the water, the ever changing views of white caps or lazy glassiness where dolphins are jumping  and white sails are gliding by.  To add more value in these times to the tour and to highlight the history as seen from the Battery, I am offering a full, hot Southern breakfast in my friend Francess Palmer’s home and  B&B.  It has been in her family for three generations. I first went there for her debutant party when we were 18.  The Big Band from her grandparents era played on the lawn under a full moon.  There as we gaze at the view of Ft. Sumter,  I  talk about the history of this War of Northern Aggression!  You come to understand why Southerns had the audacity to call it that.

Our own  house had been Francess Palmer’s uncle’s.  We have owned it for 14 years this winter, having bought it from the Edmonds, who lived in it for 30 years after the Palmers.  I cried when we moved in.   I did not want to give up my home I had bought before marriage on Legare Street, where my tours had ended with tea in the garden.   I said I was only moving here because I loved my husband.  Preston in my face said, “Mark my words.  You’re gonna love it!”  And HE WAS RIGHT!  Sunlight and moisture for a citrus grove and flower garden, a view of the water, open air circulation and good sea breezes, SPACE for family living and for entertaining you, my guests,  all contribute to my love for our home.  Though it is old enough to have problems, its assets outweigh the responsibilities…so far anyway.  Your one hundred dollars each goes to the preservation of this historic Charleston house, be it ever so humble.

I realize I am living the life of my gregarious father, Fred Wichmann.  He is the epitome of Charleston hospitality, inviting strangers in who he meets often through sailing or through real estate.   Despite all the “strangers” I have had in my house, when I put everything back in their proper place, they are all there.   No one has taken from me yet after six years of my private tours.  I use old things for my enjoyment and that of of my guests as they were used in 18th and 19th century Charleston.   Thank you for being the people to whom  this Holy City of Charleston was meant to be hospitable.  Lafayette was amazed at Charleston hospitality when he visited here in 1825, saying there were so few inns or hotels because Charlestonians were so hospitable, “they would take you into their homes be you prominent or indigent.”  Read the first translation ever published of “Lafayette in America, 1824-25”, until now hidden in the French language.

I meet some of America’s nicest people on my tour.  I don’t want to let them go.  And so, I invite them in!   I learn from them.  Jump in and tell me something if it is on your mind.  I learned from Johnny Kicklighter that a scene I show of an old print of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, was on a South Carolina dollar bill and a Confederate bill.  I did not know that connection.  It is a scene of him loving his enemy, doing good to those who mistreat you.  Marion is sharing with hated but lost Redcoat Tarleton hot sweet potatoes just pulled from the fire. That picture tells the story of the heart of Charleston hospitality.  This value is an aspect of Charleston that once understood completes the picture of who we are.  Until newcomers get this understanding that it is more blessed to give than  to receive, they are not going to be regarded as belonging.  We are not a gated community of arrogant rich people trying to keep everybody else out.  We are an open city with a heritage and culture that is still alive,  to be shared,  and which has defined us for centuries.  This sentiment I learned growing up in Charleston and from Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, poet, gardener,  and daughter of Charleston artist Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.  I am sharing my larkspur seedlings, which came from ones she shared with me decades ago.

I do my best in my humble efforts to give you that experience of Charleston that has persisted from generation to generation.  My tours are once a day at 9 a.m. with entrance into private homes and gardens. At the end of my tour I invite you in to my home.   After my last tour of the old year, a man moaned, “A hundred dollars!”  “Y-es”, I replied holding my breath.  “This tour is worth MUCH more than a hundred dollars a person! ” he exclaimed,  to my relief.  May God bless us, every one.–Laura Wichmann Hipp– Call 843-577-5896 for reservations.

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Filed under 1824-1825, artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Calamondin Marmalade, Charleston real estate, Christmas in Charleston, Conde Naste, Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, English steamed pudding in vintage molds, for foodies, Gardening, History, Hoppin John, January in Charleston, Lafayette in America, Meyer Lemons, More English Than the English, reservations, the Swamp Fox, War of Northern Aggression