Monday, June 4, 2018

Southern Tea Time Getaway - Day 4

In June, 2013, my tea and blogging friend, Linda J. [Friendship Tea blog] wrote a post about their family vacation to Charleston that included a Charleston Tea Party Tour [no affiliation with the political group], conducted by Laura Wichmann Hipp.  She gave Laura's tour such a good review that when I began planning the itinerary for the Southern Belle Tea Tour last fall I contacted Laura to schedule a tour.  When hurricane Irma came along I had to cancel, but I told Laura if I rescheduled the trip I'd contact her.  She was one of the first contacts I made when the new May dates were determined. 

Laura lives near the Ashley River, and she sent me photos of her street when the Ashley overflowed its banks last fall as water pushed up from Florida during hurricane Irma.  Not good!

Laura is a licensed city guide and has been enlightening tourists about Charleston for more than three decades.  Born and raised in Charleston, she knows the city inside and out. Southern Living Magazine interviewed her and the video about her historic homes and gardens tours can be viewed here.

We met at her house at 9:15 a.m. [tours last approximately 3 1/2 hours].  Laura called me the night before to ask if it would be okay for a couple from Virginia to join our group.  They were in Charleston celebrating their wedding anniversary.  Of course it was okay.  We had a 15-passenger van, so the more the merrier!

~ Laura's House ~

~ Dennis and Lorena, the couple who joined us on the tour. ~

~ Laura Wichmann Hipp ~

The first home Laura took us to was on Battery Street, and it belonged to her niece.  I'm not sure when it was built.  It was either take pictures or take notes, and I opted to take pictures.

We posed for a picture on the front entrance stairway.  Notice the earthquake bolts [see arrow below] from Charleston's massive earthquake in 1886, which damaged 2,000 buildings. The bolted rods kept the houses intact.  They can be seen on all the old homes.  

In the north we put faux shutters on our homes for aesthetics, but in the south shutters are a functional necessity for storm protection.

The Wisteria on the wall surrounding the house was almost done blooming, but I did manage to get a photo of one blossom.

The interior of the home was beautiful.

The windows had figure 8 carvings around the interior [see arrow below and click on photo to enlarge] which formed a chain motif called the Guilloche pattern, symbolizing the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the importance of passing faith, history, culture, and values to the next generation.

There was a 13 paned Chinese Chippendale desk in the room [between the two windows in the above photo] which was associated with England's most valuable possession - their 13 colonies.  It was a popular design on both sides of the Atlantic.

Laura pointed out the Adam style mantle - an 18th century neoclassical style by two Scottish brothers.  The Adam style became the look in vogue in Charleston [as it was in England] and was said to have never gone out of fashion in Charleston, whereas the Victorian style never came into fashion with 'Old Charlestonians'.

Laura is a living history book, and made me realize my history was waaaay too rusty. If you're like I was, here's Charleston's history in a nutshell:  In 1670 a grant was established from England's King Charles II.  The original settlement was named Charles Town in honor of the King.  It became a magnet for world class architects and artisans.  

Finding itself facing growing English taxation and government control, South Carolina declared its independence in March 1776, and South Carolinians victoriously drove back an attempt by English warships in June 1776.  After the Revolution in 1783 the city was officially incorporated as Charleston.  Fort Sumter - in Charleston Harbor - was constructed in 1829 by Federal authorization as a defense for the city.

The 1828 Tariff of Abomination began the economic tension between the North and South, fueled by the moral cause of abolition.  South Carolina was the first state to secede on Dec. 20, 1860. Fort Sumter that had been built to protect Charleston, immediately became occupied by Union/Federal troops.  It was considered an act of aggression by the South, and the newly formed Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 which began the War Between the States [American Civil War].

The war years nearly ruined Charleston.  It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that new hope was rekindled to revitalize the old city.  The Preservation Society of Charleston was established in 1920 for the protection of historic properties and the city's first official historic district was created.

The architecture of downtown Charleston includes Georgian, Federal, Regency, Adamesque, Classic Revival, Romanesque, Italian Renaissance, Queen Anne, Victorian, and Art Deco.

Right after I took the above picture, Laura gracefully dropped to her knees as she quoted a passage from Mary Boykin Chesnut's diary [a Charleston resident who watched the opening shots of the Civil War from the rooftop of Mills House Hotel]. When she finished quoting, she just as easily rose to her feet again.  I was impressed with her agility.  I tried it when I got home and couldn't do either without holding onto a piece of furniture.  Oh the benefits of being in shape and younger!  ;-)

American history may have been rusty, but our group knew tea equipage when we saw it, and we spotted the tea chest on the mantle immediately!  Laura got it down to show us its two compartments.

The beautiful dining room.

Silver tea and coffee service on the sideboard.  

A beautiful Chinese lacquered tea chest.  Laura opened the doors so we could see the tea drawers.  Above it was a still life painting with a tea caddy.  

~ My girlfriend, Lori, and me ~

Herend teapot in a kitchen cabinet, and a kettle on the stove.  The residents of this house were tea drinkers with an appreciation for fine tea equipage.

Then it was back into the van headed for the next house.  Notice the narrow streets.

The second house held a lot of sentiment for Laura, because her husband spent many years in it during his youth.  It was the home of his best friend.  It's a single house with the gable-end facing the street.  Many of Charleston's single houses are multi-story construction, one room wide, that sit sideways to the street.  Along the face of the house [which isn't visible from the street] is a full-length porch or piazza, with a center door for entrance. 

~ Piazza ~

Of course I would take a photo of the silver tea and coffee service, and the beautiful tea set  in the china cabinet.

The beautiful kitchen obviously was not original to the house.  Those were the only two homes [besides Laura's] that we actually went inside.

Another house where the side faces the street, with a piazza. 

Many of the houses had kitchens separate from the main house for fire prevention.  Below  is a kitchen house.  Property owners also had carriage and tack houses [for storing horse shoes, saddles, and harnesses]. Most have been converted into guest houses or rental properties now.  We saw a fig tree in this garden.

The house below is owned by personal friends of Laura's.  It has undergone an extensive renovation, and they were having a barbecue for all the workers that afternoon.

The building behind the pond is a Dovecote or Pigeonaire - a building used for squab [baby pigeons] to provide meat for the table, and also for racing pigeons [the working man's hobby and way of betting].  It's currently used as an office.

Their garden looked like a good place for a group photo.

The house below had the largest and most ornate garden, and reminded me of gardens in England.  

~ Back of house. ~

From one end to the other.

A very fancy potting shed.

Laura took us by a couple of Charleston's historic churches, and we saw them again on our Carriage Tour, so I'll wait and show them in that post.  We were invited back to her house for a wonderful High Tea at the conclusion of the tour...  tomorrow's post.


  1. What a wonderful getaway, Phyllis. I need to review your previous days, and I look forward to the High Tea tomorrow.

  2. I visited Charleston a few years ago and loved it. I'd like to take this tea tour on a future visit. You may be able to find "This Old House" on your PBS station, they've been restoring two houses in Charleston and it has been interesting to learn about the architecture and history.

  3. Lovely ladies dressed beautifully.


Thank you for visiting my blog. If you would like to leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!