A few signs signal spring in Charleston: yellow pollen coating every surface, bikini-clad girls in Marion Square, and visitors taking over the streets. This past Easter weekend, we tried being a tourist in our own town. The Historic Charleston Foundation’s month-long 66th Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens was in its second week, and we thought it would be fun to explore the historic districts and learn more about our fair city.
We rose early on Saturday and headed to 108 Meeting Street for the Foundation’s Morning History Walk. With a turkey feather in her hat, our tour guide led us through some of the oldest parts of Charleston. We learned about single homes and why Water Street is aptly named. She responded to all our questions about DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy as well as to our queries about more recent history, like Hurricane Hugo. We wished we could have our guide with us on all our strolls downtown.
Famished after the two-hour walk, we were grateful to attend the Gospel Brunch hosted by the Foundation at Hall’s Chophouse. We were greeted with a mimosa and a basket of warm popovers. The soulful piano player lifted our spirits while we cooled our heels. The singing brought in onlookers from the street while other guests made requests. We were seated with a lovely couple in town visiting their son, and we shared some of the knowledge we gained that morning on our tour as we waited for our entrees. We could barely finish our chopped salad and steak, but knew we would need fuel for the next Festival walk.
Gardens, Galleries, and Gourmet was the next event on our list. We started our tour at the John Carroll Doyle Art Gallery and traveled on to the garden at Catfish Row. Festival volunteers were well-versed in the variety of plant life and offered tips for growing the greenery at home. Our favorite stop was the garden of the Clark residence. We were tickled we had access to the usually hidden paradise flush with daffodils and creeping fig. The last place on the map was the Dock Street Theatre for a reception featuring Matt and Ted Lee and Hamby Catering and Events. Patrons lined up to have their cookbooks signed by the Lee Brothers and to snap pictures with the genial authors. Waiters wove through the crowd with trays of crab cakes and miniature ham biscuits while guests sunned themselves in the courtyard with a glass of wine. After all the walking that day, it was nice to relax.
We had Easter off from the festivities, but on Monday we were invited to join the Eat and Run lecture series. The topic of the talk was “Fakes and Forgeries,” very apropos of April Fools’ Day. Noshing on a turkey sandwich, we heard tales of ruined Federal furniture and sneaky gold sales. After the last question, we were led around the area near the Historic Charleston Foundation building to the shops featuring some reproductions we could study.
The Festival of Houses and Gardens is a great way for tourists and locals to learn more about the Holy City. The events run until April 20, so we suggest booking your ticket today so you too can be a know-it-all about your neighborhood.