From Hillwood to the Hapsburg’s collection of castles and palaces, I do love historic homes.
Especially the Aiken-Rhett House, one of the best preserved of its kind in the nation. Aiken was a governor for South Carolina in the mid 1800s, in case you wondered. I visited on the one and only rainy day of the holiday, but trust me when I write that this home is impressive. (The family opted for Fort Sumter, which was a hit for them, as well.)
This should be the standard for touring old plantations and historic homes. With my ear piece I could wander at my own pace; wait for others to clear to take my snaps without disrupting the flow; and otherwise listen to the additional stories included on the audio.
Along the back of the house are remnants of the bells rung when a member of the family required something. Also in the back were the Enslaved Quarters, including a kitchen. The far back of the lot held the privies, rather contemporary for their time.
In the kitchen I tried my hand at grinding corn and failed spectacularly.
In the Laundry was a collection of buttons, which the Enslaved used to add personality to their otherwise simple clothing. A small marker of independence, I suppose.
Another reason I liked this house is because it is largely preserved in time rather than restored to its period in time.
A closer look reveals that the “marble” in the entry was actually wallpaper.
Though aged the rooms still felt quite glamorous to me.
Dining rooms are a particular favorite of mine.
Tony joined me for the two house tours. The Joseph Manigault House is a fine example of “Adam” style architecture (all of that explanation went swoosh over our heads) and it and the Heyward-Washington House were on a special ticket with the Charleston Museum*. Tony and I opted for this ticket; the “children” went off shopping or something. Now, I have a strong dislike for structured tours, not just because I like to tour at my own pace, but also because there is inevitably someone in the group who either 1) asks stupid questions; or 2) tries to show off with their “knowledge.” Often the overlap of these two groups is often strong, as was the case on these tours. At the Manigault house an Obnoxious Jerk asked (knowing full well the answer) about the paint colors. He even sought to correct the guide, who was incredible. She is pursuing a Master’s thesis on some decorative purpose of the period and has toured the Manigault’s private residence (the family still lives in Charleston) as part of her research. She really knew her stuff and made the tour delightful with insider stories and little anecdotes, and put Obnoxious Jerk politely in his place. Her tour contrasted sharply with the second one at the Heyward-Washington House.
Favorite features from the house, including the Center Hall, which could be open at both ends to help ameliorate the heat of those sweltering Lowcountry summer days. The bedroom cabinet is noteworthy because it is an original piece; and, is signed by the woodworker on one of the drawers. I was drawn to the tapestries on the servant bells, too.
The “Necessary” Chair. In her time Mrs. Manigault entertained in her bedroom, so it was most appropriate that a chair be available when necessary.
Elegant detailing on the custom bed.
An all-plaster medallion for the Center Hall chandelier. Outstanding craftsmanship.
And again, a close-up of the dining room.
In between the Manigault and Heyward house tours we soaked up the sun and more delicious Lowcountry cuisine at S.N.O.B., Slightly North on Bay, and relaxed with a bottle of a Kremstal Grüner Veltliner (the price of which made us simultaneously wince and wistfully recall our time in Vienna…) at an outdoor table. It is not often I notice salads, especially when they “come with” the entree, but this one I took notice of. Everything was in perfect proportion; each bite nicely balanced and dressed. The Gumbo? We’d like to think that passersby along the sidewalk staring at us were envious.
Who should appear for our tour at the Heyward-Washington House but Obnoxious Jerk. Sigh.
Great photo with the moving guys, no?
Our guide at the Heyward-Washington House recited from memory her talking points with little enthusiasm, stealing glances at her watch as if she was going off shift soon. Yet another reason to dislike mandatory tours. In between, the same jerk from the Manigault tour asked obnoxious questions, like, “I know this isn’t Gilbert Stuart’s painting (of Washington in the House), but is it true that Dolly Madison saved the real painting during the Revolutionary War?” I would like to think he felt my epic eye-rolling through the back of his head.
So, George Washington and his staff stayed here for a week or so, hence the name. Among the tchotchke in the house, ceramic statues of “George Washington” (Benjamin Franklin) sold as souvenirs around the time of his visit, as most common people had no idea what The Father of Our Country looked like.
Beautiful restored rooms; and oh yes, an even fancier Necessary Chair.
I was impressed with the Wine Cooler and the Cheese Roll. Naturally. In the background is the “Sugar Box,” which was kept under lock and key because sugar was an expensive commodity at the time. If only that were the case in America now.
The “Trunk on Trunk on Trunk” won approval from our group. No need to pack a suitcase! Simply have your servant detach the trunks and load them into your carriage. Genius.
Wrapping up the day we walked over to the The Old Slave Market Museum. Photography was not permitted, but you get the idea.
*The Charleston Museum. The museum was exceptionally well done. Well, almost exceptionally well done. The Low Country history galleries were quite informative, but the history more or less dropped off with the end of the Civil War, wherein we all found ourselves suddenly in the natural history section of the museum, staring at ancient rocks. From our time in Austria Tony and I would occasionally stumble across a history museum that “ended” with WWI, or skipped over the years 1937-1945, but we weren’t expecting that denial to play out in Charleston. Interesting.
From the Old Slave Market Museum we connected with the “children” back at the cottage. On this final night, with the dishwasher having gone Kaput the day before (the cottage owner was terribly gracious about the whole matter, thankfully) and with energies waning after one last beach-combing episode, a round of pizzas was the unanimous vote. And delicious they were. The delivery time was 90 minutes, on a weekday night in December; the take-away time, a mere 25. You might guess the option we chose. We were certainly enjoying Folly Beach, but no doubt we might hold a different opinion in high season. The pizzas (and perhaps a bottle of wine) enjoyed, it was time to pack for the drive back to Knoxville in the morning.