As spring approaches, we long to emerge
from our winter hibernation and get
outdoors, maybe to explore new places.
In this issue we offer some enticing
destinations, north and south.
During my college days at
USC, I experienced a brief taste of
Charleston when another graduate student and I spent an
afternoon doing research at the South Carolina Historical
Society. After marveling at the magnificent colonial
architecture from the car window, I longed to return.
In the mid-1980s, my husband and I went to Charleston
for a proper visit. We didn’t know it, but we arrived during
the annual Festival of Houses & Gardens. Even then, the
event was well into its fourth decade, and tickets for tours of
private homes had sold out. We settled for strolling along
the historic streets and visiting public house museums.
In this issue, we treat you to a glimpse of sites on the
73rd annual tours, which like fine wine only improve with
age. As Charleston celebrates the 350th anniversary of its
founding, this year’s festival activities focus more deeply
on the city’s earliest history. (If you go, sample a bowl of
okra and tomato soup—the precursor to the Lowcountry’s
famous gumbo. Robert Moss traces the dish’s roots
and evolution in this issue.)
We also visit Annapolis, founded in 1649. A seaport
that has served as Maryland’s seat of government since
1695, the city has long attracted travelers from around the
world. Considered a center of learning, sophistication, and
hospitality by early visitors, Annapolis boasts the nation’s
first theater and third oldest college—St. John’s, founded
in 1696 soon after Harvard and William and Mary. (The
Naval Academy opened about a century and a half later.)
Today the city’s stunning array of 18th-Century
architecture—the largest number of 1700s brick homes
in the country—as well as historic inns, museums, fine
dining (think fresh crab), and recreational waterways continue
to beckon visitors.
We also look north, as in the February issue, to the
commemoration of Plymouth Colony’s founding 400
years ago, to highlight an event not listed with those previously
described. In Small Things Remembered, opening
June 1 at the Alden House, displays artifacts that offer
clues about what life was like for the first colonists.
Alden House, built c. 1700 by descendants of Mayflower
passengers John and Priscilla Alden, stands close to the site
of the young couple’s first home in Duxbury, Massachusetts,
which was settled by Mayflower passengers. Artifacts from
the 1960 archaeological dig that uncovered the foundation
of John and Priscilla’s c. 1630 home guided potter Stephen
Earp and jeweler Jeffrey Jobe—who have appeared repeatedly
in our Directory of Traditional American Crafts—in
creating replicas of 17th-Century objects for the exhibition.
While in New England, you can also learn about the
importance of the stenciled and muraled walls painted
by itinerant artists in homes across the region in the 19th
Century. A century passed before historians and collectors
began to appreciate their significance as folk art, leaving
many decorated walls open to damage or destruction
caused by everything from structural alterations to simple
attempts at cleaning.
The Center for Painted Wall Preservation is hosting
a symposium in April to heighten awareness of the walls’
historical significance and develop standardized conservation
methods to preserve them for future generations. Its
members would be delighted to have you join their tour.