A Peek inside the House and Garden Tours of Charleston
While in Charleston, SC recently, J and I were invited into the private homes of several residents. Well…. sort of. We purchased tickets to the Historic Charleston Foundation’s House and Garden Tour. Our tickets provided us entry into several homes where we were privileged to meet some of the owners. We were not permitted to take photos indoors, but we came home with lots of ideas and exterior shots to share with you.
These tours are a spring tradition in Charleston and we highly recommend you try to schedule one if you are in the area. There are different tours going on for about 4 weeks, so check with the foundation to see which one is available during your stay. The tour is very well organized and takes about 4 hours to complete. Most houses are within a few blocks of each other, so the tour can easily be done on foot. This is the last week for 2016, so if you are planning a trip, be sure to check it out early. Tickets tend to sell out quickly.
Charleston House and Garden Tours
The first house on our “Wentworth Street” Tour was 111 Rutledge Avenue. This was a cozy house with lots of antiques and great art. The owners had an incredible talent for finding great “souvenirs” during their travel. The back screened porch led out to a gorgeous saltwater pool.
We learned that there are no front yards in Charleston in order to keep property taxes lower. This is why you see such gorgeous courtyards. The portico of this house was a beautiful focal point.
Volunteers were stationed as tour guides throughout the neighborhood. Each of the men were wearing these hats and the houses were marked with white flags. The tour was well-organized and lots of fun.
Rumor has it that the next address we visited was where the character, Rhett Butler was born. The owner was a blockade runner like the fictional character (who was also from Charleston). The staircase in this house was almost as grand as the one in the movie. Merchant seaman who owned homes like this added a rope design around the windows. The bottom floor windows here still have the original architecture.
When we met the owner of the carriage house at the end of this lane, we learned that his wife had passed away a few years ago. I complimented him on how lovely his home was and he said, “This was my wife’s house, I just live here.” It was apparent that he had loved her very much. I imagine that adding “her” house to the tour was his way of honoring her memory. The home still had the original fireplace with antique cooking utensils. The breakfast table was from 1700 and the house was likely built circa 1802. The beautiful pine floors had been moved from upstairs to cover the dirt floor of the carriage house.
The current owner of 93 Rutledge Avenue is keeping the design true to the era with plaster walls and feather-light pocket doors. The original owner of this home is credited with bringing the symphony to Charleston. It was also at this house where we learned that porches are called “piazzas” in Charleston.
This lovely home had the original fireplace from 1800 and a garden out back to die for! I tried my best to take mental pictures so I could duplicate parts of it when I got home. The owner had red anemones planted in a bed right as you exited into the yard. They looked so much like poppies that I thought I was back in England for a few minutes.
A stone driveway, pergola-gated entrance, fern beds, and a lovely arbored swing in the back were just a few of the things I wanted to remember for my own backyard.
If I ever get to go back, I will plan my trip around the Historic Charleston House and Garden Tour. It was well worth the ticket price of $50 and is scheduled when the flowers are in bloom. It was gorgeous.