Miss Alicia Rhett’s Gift

Doing some research the other day, I came across a letter written by Charlestonian Alicia Rhett in 1943. For those who are not familiar with Miss Rhett, she played India Wilkes in “Gone With The Wind”, and was a world-class portrait artist here in Charleston for many years from her Tradd Street home. When the new Dock Street Theatre was being constructed in 1936 on Church Street in the old Planters Hotel building, Miss Rhett was very much involved in the decorations and planning. Her letter describes the varying details she added to the theatre, which was replicated to look like the 18th century Dock Street Theatre that had disappeared after the Revolution. Miss Rhett personally hung drapes in the upstairs boxes and added artistic details to the theatre lobby, as well as creating the distinctive seal of King James VI featured above the stage curtain. The symbolic “order of the garter” includes the unicorn of Scotland and the Lion of England, representing the union of those countries in 1707, and is embellished with French slogans “Dieu et mon Droit” and “Honi sont qui mal y pense”, meaning “God and my right” and “Foolish are those who think badly(of others)”. The notable symbol was first displayed in the Charleston area at the old Goose Creek church in the early 1700’s, and was chosen for the Dock Street Theatre replication project as part of a myriad of motifs throughout the theatre property that incorporate classic architectural themes from Charleston’s past.
By the way, Miss Rhett is still with us at age 98, now living in a nursing facility but, according to her nephew, still possessing the sharp mind that provided so many Charlestonians with lasting images of their families.

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