Southern Comfort: Central Park Conservancy to Charleston

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Women's Committee group in front of the Corinthian columns modeled on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates at Carolyne Roehm's house.

Recently, several members of the Central Park Conservancy Women’s Committee Benefactor board and their spouses joined together for a trip to “the belle of the south,” Charleston, South Carolina.

Our previous group trip took us to Cartagena, Colombia, which was hard to beat! With so much to explore in Charleston, the CPC planned well ahead.

The common interest of the board was to view private homes and gardens of the south and experience high and low southern cooking. Tasting the history in an authentic flare was our goal — to keep our common sweetgrass basket full (the sweetgrass basket is the single artistic and functional item that defines Charleston).

To whet my appetite in advance of the trip, I read Charleston native Margaret Thornton’s “Charleston,” a stunning novel.

We were determined to look back on the past: horse and buggies, mint juleps, manners first, ties and teas, proud preservation; and above all, grace. And we all went home with great memories of the antebellum mansions that had been maintained and restored, the cobblestone streets, and the good times in this genteel, cultural hotbed. 100 years after the Civil War, Charleston has at least 100 pre-1776 buildings and 1,000 pre-1861 houses.

Now that’s a rich history!


Our large, luxury hotel, the Belmond Charleston Place, with classic lowcountry dishes.
Crab delight … mounds of it. Gastro magnet!
Michael Price’s shoes were made for walking, all over the jewel of the south.
Private tour of the late Dick Jenrette’s historical residence on the Battery..
His work on antebellum mansions.
A gracious sit down in the 19th century at the Roper House.
Multi-colored houses line our walking tour through Rainbow Row.
“Achtung Katze” — Beware of the Charleston cats! Some local resistance to the large cruise ship population.
City Hall, constructed in 1801 as a branch for the Bank of the United States on the site of the city beef market, which dated from1692.
Mother Earth, a City Hall art piece.
Jenna Segal, Sharon Teles, Maureen Mulheren, and Cathy Ingram toasting the start to the trip and enjoying the live entertainment.
Eleanora Kennedy hanging with the bartender.
Karen May, Jenny Price, and Suzie Aijala in the private Oyster Shed at Leon’s.
Women’s Committee group shucking oysters.
Drayton Hall, an 18th century preserved plantation.
Viewing the grounds of Drayton Hall.
Viewing the original components inside Drayton Hall.
Listening to the lecture on the historic double mantle inside Drayton Hall.
Alexia Leuschen and Eleanora Kennedy at Middleton Place, home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens.
Conservancy’s lowcountry lunch.
Jane Koryn and Arthur Middleton reliving the past.
A meet and greet with Middleton family member, Charlie Duell with Anne and Bill Harrison. Memrie Lewis enjoys cocktails at the historic home (built in 1849) of Marsee and Doug Lee.
Julia Merck Utsch and Anne Harrison in Julia’s beautiful and historic Legare Street home. Suzie and Ainar Aijala at the pre-dinner tour of Julia’s garden.
Gillian Steel, Memrie Lewis, and Patti Fast on the patio of the Utsch antebellum mansion.
Yesim Philip and Tracey Huff enjoy cocktails in the garden.
The incredible dinner hosted by Julia Merck Utsch, longtime Women’s Committee supporter.
Day 3 began at the Chisolm-Alston House (1836), home of Carolyne Roehm.
Gardens lush with local foliage.
Tracey Huff and Jackie Nolan enjoy historical photos in the kitchen of Carolyne Roehm’s house.
Laura Hall and Aliza Ameer relaxing in the garden.
A burst of red in a stately bedroom.
Garden tour of Elizabeth Bradham’s William Gibbes House.
Bill Ingram adding to the garden symmetry.
Elizabeth Garber Daniels and Gillian Steel in front of the William Gibbes House.
View through the archway of the rich history of Elizabeth Bradham’s gardens.
Margaret Thornton’s 3.5 storied historical Simmons-Edwards House (circa 1800). Built in the Federal Style, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996.
Dr. Annette Rickel among the roses in Margaret’s garden.
Side garden of Margaret’s Pineapple Gate House, designed to be viewed when family members and guests socialized on the second-story piazza.
A rare, historical rice bed, designed in 1750 to reflect the style and grace of the antebellum south.
Women’s Committee members gather with founder of IBU movement, Susan Hull Walker, for a pre-shopping boxed lunch on the roof deck.
Susan introduces the group to IBU, which means “a woman of respect” in Indonesian, who create garments and accessories from 35 countries, 101 different women’s artisan groups.
The Charleston Library Society, founded in 1748, is the oldest cultural institution in the south and the second oldest library in the United States.
Instruction on bookbinding by the two professionals who restore the rich collection of books and archival material.
Piazza at the Edmonston-Alston House. Of Charleston’s many fine house museums, only the Edmonston-Alston House (constructed in 1825 and enhanced in 1838) commands a magnificent view of the Charleston Harbor.
Ended the day at High Cotton with the drink of choice, the Southern Mule.
Day 4 started with Jenny Price at Price’s Alley.
View through the archway of the rich history of Elizabeth Bradham’s gardens.
The Nathaniel Russell House is home to a graceful, free-flying, three-story staircase which is an architectural marvel.
Outstanding craftsmanship in the entry window.
Gracious bygone days of after dinner, drawing room music.
Majestic live oak walk to Mulberry Plantation.
Mulberry Plantation, home of Women’s Committee Board Member, Gail Gilbert, is a historic plantation property in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina. This property was developed in 1714 by Thomas Broughton, who became the Royal governor of South Carolina, and is one of the oldest plantation homes in the United States.
A view of one of the many gardens on Mulberry Plantation’s property, which features a wide array of olive and palmetto trees, in addition to THE Mulberry Tree.

For more information on the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, including how to join as a Member, click here or call 212.310.6675.


Photographs by Eleanora Kennedy, Laura Hall, & Aliza Ameer

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