Taft Tale

We typically pass by this 18th century row house on my walking tour of historic #Charleston, and I enjoy telling visitors the story about a former resident of the building, Helen Taft. She was wife of President William Howard Taft, and went by the nickname “Nellie”. The couple came to Charleston on several occasions in the early 1900’s, and became good friends with a number of local citizens. After her husband’s death in 1930, Nellie briefly lived in Charleston at this residence on Tradd Street. She and her husband had been know for lavish social events before and during the era of Prohibition, and taking a drink was very much in the Taft protocol regardless of the law of the land. The story related to me by an older man whose parents were part of the Taft inner circle here in Charleston was that when she had a dinner party during the Prohibition years, she would simply call down to the Charleston police headquarters and tell the sergeant how many cases of confiscated bootleg whiskey she needed and they would send police cars to the house with boxes full. Here’s to you, Nellie! <img.src=”Charleston Folklore” alt=”Mrs. Taft’s Tippling”

Heckled Hext

The Hext tenement on Tradd Street has one of the great ironic histories here in #Charleston. The 18th century two house that we often pass on the Charleston Footprints Walking Tour has been beautifully restored and its grounds exquisitely manicured, and passing crowds are very impressed and take pictures of the building out of the inherent attraction it seems to convey. What a startling contrast to passing crowds in 1765. That was the year the Stamp Act was passed by British Parliament placing a tax on anything made of paper in the American colonies. To each colony, the British sent boxes of stamps that would be affixed to taxed items, as well as assigning local tax collector to oversee the process. The collector in Charleston was George Saxby, and his residence was at the Hext tenement. And after a series of events that led to mass protest and calls for independence, a crowd of Charleston residents marched on Saxby’s house and ransacked the building looking for him and the stamps, neither of which were there. How ironic that a building so reviled then is considered to be so esteemed today. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Hext tenement and the Stamp Act”

Scintillating Symmetry

The gardens of historic #Charleston are blooming this time of year with the fabulous blooms of the Camellia Japonica, and each day on the Charleston Footprints Walking Tour, we pass by the natural beauty throughout this scenic city. This asian shrub was introduced to America by French botanist Andre Michaux here in Charleston in 1786, and has been a winter favorite ever since. What is striking about camellias blooms besides color is their noticeable symmetry in the growth of the petals. The exactness of the growing blooms in relation to each other has been described as part of the “golden ratio” so cherished by the ancient Greeks in their architecture, and so evident throughout nature. Look at sea shells, pine cones, flower petals and even hurricanes, and the spiral shape is in the same proportion in each succeeding layer from the inner core. This is replicated throughout Greek architecture with similar proportions in height, width, and details of buildings. The Greeks considered this the perfect ratio in the shape of any object, and that perfection recreates itself in Charleston every year.  <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”The Golden Ratio”