On Tour

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.

Jeanmarie Andrews

Executive Editor

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