Mansion Tour


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North America » United States » South Carolina » Charleston
November 26th 2019
Published: November 27th 2019
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Joseph Manigault HouseJoseph Manigault HouseJoseph Manigault House

Family Entrance
Morning came to early, and none of us, including the cat, wanted to get up, but we had a full day ahead so up and at’em. The bed while cozy, was too soft for my back, so morning stretching and a pain pill were in order. This getting older is for the birds. Even with a full day, we did not rush to get out the door. Tarragon, needed attention before his day of lounging on the king size bed, and breakfast was served until 10. So after, petting and feeding Tarragon, and our showers we went down to the complimentary breakfast. Pretty standard hotel breakfast. We were only expecting a continental breakfast but there were a couple of hot dishes as well, a vegetable frittata and breakfast potatoes with vegetables. Not great, but free and something to get us going.

Joseph Manigault House – Federal Style (1803)

After breakfast, we were off to 4 mansions. Two before lunch two after lunch. The first of the four houses was the Joseph Manigault House. The house was built in 1803 is an example of Federal architecture. It was original the home of a French Huguenot rice plantation owner. The slave quarters had been torn down as was the kitchen, when the slaves lived above. There were two entrances to the house one for the family and the other for guests to the home. Shared the same entry way, but the difference was the family side the molding was very simple while on the quest entrance side it was very ornate. There was of course an entirely different entrance for the slaves, which was on the side of the house that opened to the kitchen and slave quarters building.

The Manigault house had been restored to the time period of the initial owners. However, they also had spots on the walls in various rooms that showed the original wall color’s, which were under several layers of paint. There were three stories, but the third story was not available for tour as it only had one stairway in and out, and according the local law there must be two. The house was almost destroyed but saved by various wealth women throughout the years. At one time it was the USO and served as a barracks for over 125 men on the third floor. Perhaps, the most interesting feature in the house
Manigault HouseManigault HouseManigault House

Guest Entrance
was the floating spiral staircase. When originally built, it actually supported itself and was not attached to the walls. Today, it is attached for safety reasons.

Aiken-Rhett House – 1820

We are not really sure what style this was in, but it appeared to be a combination of Greek revival and Creole plantation. This house was fully intact, slave quarters and all. Unlike most historic house, the Aiken-Rhett house is not restored but rather is preserved. Which basically means it is kept in the condition it was found in and they try to maintain it as is. It is one of the few opportunities to see a house as it was, not restored to what they believe it to be. Yes, it also means that the paint and wall paper is pealing, fixtures may be broke and the weather has taken its toll, but it is still as it was back in the day. The house was originally owned by a governor of South Carolina and also plantation owner. Most of the plantations seemed to be rice plantations in this part of South Carolina. The most interesting and at the same time depressing feature was the outbuildings. The kitchen and laundry were in a detached building next to the house (law actually would not allow the kitchen to be part of the main house because of the fire danger). How the slaves cooked in that space I will never know, but they did. The sadder part was the condition they were forced to live in above the kitchen and laundry with no outside windows or much ventilation. The heat had to be unbearable. There were also slave quarters above the carriage house and stables, I am sure that smell was lovely.

The Manigault house was a guided tour, of which Jerry and I were the only participants. The Aiken-Rhett house was a self-guided audio tour, so you could go at your own piece and skip things you may not be interested in. With the live guided tour, you have the opportunity to ask questions and learn a bit more.

The next stop was to be lunch, but neither of us were hungry, so we decided to go to the local store Harris Teeter and buy some wine and water for the room. We then walked back via market street home of a 200-year-old city market, we did not do any shopping but will be visiting the market on another day. When we got back to the hotel, we were met by the hotel housekeeper, she was glad we had returned because she was afraid to clean our room without us present, because she was sure the cat would escape. Nothing could be further from the truth, as all he would do is run and hide under the bed until she was gone. In any evident we stayed while she cleaned. She was a very sweet woman and went out of our way to make sure we were satisfied with the room and that Tarragon was not upset.

The room clean and Tarragon settling down to another nap on the king-sized bed, we were off to find a snack. I had read about a place that was suppose to have the best biscuits in the city, unfortunately, he apparently was closed, at least at the location in the market. We then headed for the Dixie Supply Bakery & Café, where we were originally scheduled to have lunch, but alas, it was also out of business. We still were not overly hungry so we just decided to head to the next house and if we happened along something to eat along the way, all the better. We did not.

Heyward-Washington House – Georgian Style (1740ish)

This was the oldest house on the tour today. It was the home of Thomas Heyward (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) and President Washington rented the house for a week in 1791 when he was touring the southern states. This was a guided tour by a wonderful older woman (ok I did comment that she was likely as old as the house) but she knew her history. The tour’s were every 30 minutes and began on the hour and half hour, we were 15 minutes early so we were free to wonder in the gardens and tour the out buildings, kitchen, laundry and necessary room (yes bathroom and it is necessary) The kitchen building was older than the house as the original house, which was occupied by a Milner family, was torn down to build the current home, but the outbuilding, including the slave quarters were kept. The kitchen building dates back to 1740 and is the only one of its kind open to the public in Charleston. The slave quarters were again above the kitchen and laundry, but were not open to tour.

The tour of the house itself was quite interesting and while the furniture may not have been original to the house, it was of the period. Most of the furniture was Charleston-made. On book case called the Holmes Bookcase is considered to be the best example of American colonial furniture. The guide explained that the Antiques Road Show once featured it on one of the shows, and said that the piece was priceless.

Nathaniel Russel House – neoclassical (1808)

This house had a large garden area. We were unable to see the kitchen/slave quarter building as it was currently being restored. However, unlike all of the other kitchens, this one had been attached to the main home during one of the early additions to the home. This house was built by a wealthy merchant, who made most of his money as a slave trader. Had I known that before going in, I may not have gone in. The fact that slavery even existed is an embarrassment to this country, so to actually visit a house built by someone who not only owned slaves, but made his money by selling them, well that is a bit too much. If you can put that fact behind you, the house is very grand. It also has an unattached spiral staircase, but this one goes to all three floors.

This was also an audio guided tour and one of the most crowed of the four we visited today. This was also a restored not preserved house. Only the Aitken-Rhett house was preserved rather than restored.

Reflections

All this visiting grand homes, that were built on the backs of slaves and maintained by slaves, really got me to thinking about the history of this country and how much of it is not a pretty picture. I am going to refrain from going on one of my rants, here, but let’s say, today has been very sobering. Every place referred to the slaves as being enslaved instead of calling them slaves, I don’t know if that is to supposed to be a more palatable way of dealing with the subject, but it is still white people owing black people no matter how you phrase it. Nathaniel Russel even referred to them as servants, instead of slaves, I guess that let him sleep at night. The most interesting part of this was just how many of the former slaves actually returned to the very people that owned them, to work for them after the civil war.

That ended the sightseeing portion of the day. We headed back to the hotel and the hosted wine hour. Along the way, we were approached by one of the men working in the various places that sold tours, etc. He was not pushy, but certainly wanted to sell us something. To bad for him, we plan out trips ahead of time and typically booked all of our sightseeing a head of time and made most if not all of our dinner reservations. He was offering a gift certificate for money off dinner, at one of the places we are actually going to, but there was a hitch, had to show up to a presentation. Sounded like a timeshare trap to me. We gracefully said no thank you and walked on.

Jerry needed a snack, so we stopped at a place called Maui’s Tacos. Yes, they had lots of fish tacos and pineapple-based salsa, but we
just ordered a Taco al Pastor (3) and split them. Just hit the spot after our 4 mansions, and 6 miles of walking. (my new iPhone came with an app that counts her steps, distance and flights of stairs you do in a day).

We ended at the wine hour, had a bit of wine and cheese, Jerry struck up a conversation about the hotel renovations (another entry) with the hotel manager, I had a brief conversation with some Brits over from London (they brought there dog, who had to fly cargo, unlike Tarragon who at least got economy plus).

Now back in the room, dinner for Tarragon and some much-needed attention. Relaxing as I write this entry and drinking a bit for wine before we leave for dinner. Tonight, is at Magnolia’s, but more on that after dinner, hoping pictures work out tonight.

Dinner at Magnolia’s

Just back from dinner, walk needed to be longer to work it off, as we are now both close to food comas. The restaurant was about 7 blocks from the hotel, didn’t seem so far going there, but walking back seemed like miles. It was a slow walk back,
Fried Green TomatosFried Green TomatosFried Green Tomatos

Dish of the Day
after 6 miles on our feet during the day, the aches and pains were creeping in. It is a very nice evening, gentle breeze, stars in the sky, all made for a nice walk back to the hotel. We save a small bit of the pan seared scallop for Tarragon, but it seems he does not like restaurant cooking, just my home cooking. Things he would normally eat up in seconds, he barely sniffs.

We had a very nice waiter named James, who recently adopted to kittens, so the fact we were taking some goodies home for Tarragon did not seem strange to him. The menu was very southern, with a bit of updating. The sing says Uptown Down South. It was a bit warm inside but the atmosphere was pleasant. It took us about 20 minutes to decide what we wanted. All of the appetizers looked very good and I had a bit of a problem deciding between the catch of the day which was a flounder incrusted in parmesan or the seared pork loin. Jerry was torn between the seafood shrimp and grits and the braised short rib. What finally made up our mine was the wine selection, they prices were much more approachable than Halls Chophouse and they had at least 5 of our favorite wines, one in particular from Spain, which we ultimately choose because we simply cannot find it in NYC. The rest of the meal, at least the entrees revolved around the wine. What was that wine, Tinto Pesquera 2014. A crianza, but it was still very good. Now, most of you may not know this wine, but it’s a very good Spanish wine, that was a favorite of one of our dearest friends, Maria Joy. In fact, we felt it was a sign that it was on the menu, since this is a place that Jerry and Maria ate lunch at over 23 years ago.

The meal started with our traditional champagne, this time a Brut Rose from France. Jerry’s pick. It went very well with our appetizers. The wine made the entrées jump off the page. We split three appetizers:


• Fried Green Tomatoes, perfectly fried green tomatoes, excellent batter and tomatoes firm but yet tender. They were served over white cheddar and caramelized onion grits, with Tasso ham in between each tomato. This was all topped with a sweet onion chutney. This is definitely a contender for best fired green tomatoes. Our only criticism was that the dish was just room temperature.
• Pan Seared Scallops, again perfectly cooked scallops nicely browned on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside. This was served over a sweet corn hoe cake. A hoe cake is a cornmeal pancake cooked on a hoe (well not now, but back in the days of slavery). And if that wasn’t enough it was covered in a brandy bacon cream sauce. Can we say heart attack?Spicy Mustard Deviled eggs, totally disappointing, it was a basic deviled egg, barely think there was French’s mustard in it let alone spicy mustard. It wasn’t throw it out the window bad, it was just average.


We had a second glass of the Brut Rose Champagne as we let our wine open some more and to go with the appetizers and the next course. We seem to be on a Caesar Salad role, this time a Southern Caesar, what made it southern was of course the cornbread croutons. The salad was pretty good, but the dressing was creamy not a traditional Caesar dressing, still it was a good salad.

I almost forgot the addicting warm sourdough bread served with cream cheese butter. Yes, I said cream chees butter. Bonus points for warm bread and soft butter. It was great to soak up the tomato butter that was under the fried green tomatoes.

On to the entrées. Jerry had the Braised short ribs, with parmesan risotto and root vegetables. The risotto was ok, not made to order, clearly been sitting in a pot waiting to be plated. The short ribs however, were excellent, fall off the bone, melt in your mouth, yet with a crispy crust.

I had the seared pork loin, medium cook. It actually melted in my mouth and was juicy and tender, just slightly pink. This was served with a cauliflower mac and cheese, not sure why they called it mac and cheese, since there was no mac, but it tasted like mac and cheese just with nicely roasted cauliflower, I guess it was a bit healthier. There were also some garlic green beans and a bit of applesauce on the top. The green beans were squeaky, which I really don’t like, but the pork made up for any short comings of the dish.

We passed on dessert, didn’t even let them tempt us. One more bite and we both would have burst. The dish of the day was a close call between the scallops and the fried green tomatoes, but at the end of the day, the fried green tomatoes ended up on top. That is two days in a row for the fried green tomatoes.

Back in the room, Jerry enjoying a class of Sterling Merlot on the balcony and I finishing this post, hoping I figure out the picture download this time. I mention the Sterling Merlot, only because I was introduced to this wine by a former boss a long time ago, it has always been one of my favorite Merlots since then, and $10 is a steal for this wine.

Tomorrow is a lighter day, a bit less walking and not as many sights, in fact only one thing we will actually be going into.

That is it for today.

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27th November 2019

All the food sounds so delicious!

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