brooklynnavyydI grew up in my beloved  borough of Brooklyn. It was just over the bridge to the city where I visited museums,  art galleries, shopped Bloomies, boutiques and did design school.  Don’t ask–I practically lived in the city. After today’s lecture at the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, CT, I learned about a whole new Brooklyn and New York that I never knew. Historian Justin Ferate talked about hidden houses, insider’s clubs, offbeat treasures, secret gardens, and things like the monument dedicated to the our soldiers that died in the revolutionary war.

Monument 2

Monument was designed by architect Stanford White

The Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in Fort Greene Park, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is a memorial to the more than 11,500 American prisoners of war who died in captivity aboard sixteen British prison ships during the American Revolutionary War. The remains of a small fraction of those who died on the ships are interred in a crypt beneath its base. The ships included the HMS Jersey, the Scorpion, the Hope, the Falmouth, the Stromboli, Hunter, and others.

The column carries this inscription: “1776 THE PRISON SHIP MARTYRS MONUMENT 1908″. The grand staircase of 100 80-feet-wide granite steps rises in three stages. At the foot of the staircase, the entrance to the vault was covered by a slab of brown sandstone, now in storage, that bears the names of the 1808 monument committee and builders and this inscription: Their remains were first gathered and interred in 1808. In 1867 landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, designers of Central Park and Prospect Park, were engaged to prepare a new design for Washington Park as well as a new crypt for the remains of the prison ship martyrs. In 1873, after urban growth hemmed in that site near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the remains were moved and re-interred in a crypt beneath a small monument. Funds were raised for a larger monument, which was designed by noted architect Stanford White. Constructed of granite, its single Doric column 149 feet (45 m) in height sits over the crypt at the top of a 100-foot (30 m)-wide 33 step staircase. At the top of the column is an eight-ton bronze brazier, a funeral urn, by sculptor Adolf Weinman. President-elect William Howard Taft delivered the principal address when the monument was dedicated in 1908.

Plaque at the bottom of the monument

Plaque at the bottom of the monument

A plaque was added in 1960 located across from the front label on the monument. The plaque reads:

In memory of the 11,500 patriotic American sailors and soldiers who endured untold suffering and died on the prison British ships anchored in Wallabout Bay during the Revolutionary War 1776- 1782. Their remains lie buried in the crypt at the base of this monument which was dedicated on November 14, 1908. This plaque was afforded by The Society of Old Brooklynites on June 1, 1960. Farelly Crane M.D. President.

18th century ships

18th century ships

During the Revolutionary War, the British maintained a series of prison ships in the New York Harbor and jails on the shore for captured prisoners of war. Due to brutal conditions, more Americans died in British jails and prison ships in New York Harbor than in all the battles of the American Revolutionary War.

The British quickly disposed of the bodies of the dead from the jails and ships by quick interment or throwing the bodies overboard. Following the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, the remains of those who died on the 16 prison ships were neglected, left to lie along the Brooklyn shore on Wallabout Bay, a rural area little visited by New Yorkers. On January 21, 1877, the New York Times reported that the dead came from all parts of the nation and “every state of the Union was represented among them.”

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Justin speak, run and sign up. He is a font of information presented with great spirit. All spoken off the cuff, no notes in his hands, only a powerful power point presentation with beautiful images.

What secret places do you know?


Urban historian and renowned travel guide Justin Ferate will present "Nooks and Crannies of New York City," including this Stanford White-designed mansion on Park Avenue, on Wednesday, July 16, at a lecture-lunch at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk. Photo: Contributed Photo

Hampden Robb Mansion by Architect Stanford White, 1891, in Murray Hill, Manhattan.

Here’s a lecture you might want to hear. Especially if you love historic explorations. New York city is filled with historic wonder. Urban historian Justin Ferate — described by The New York Times as the “revered city Tour Guide among Tour Guides” — will give an “insider’s virtual tour” of the “Nooks and Crannies of New York City.”

On Wednesday, July 16, Ferate will present a lecture at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum. The event will include lunch and a tour of the first floor at the National Historic Landmark. Reservations will be accepted through Friday, July 11.

NYC clock tower“Ferate will take attendees on a virtual tour through some of New York City’s rich, secretive landmarks, many unknown to even the most diehard New Yorkers. He will reveal fascinating, yet lesser-known points of interests in one of the most iconic cities in the world, including some of New York’s more offbeat treasures, secret gardens, hidden houses and covert byways,” according to the museum.

Ferate is director of Tours of the City, a specialty company that has created educational tours of New York, focusing on the architectural, social, ethnic, literary and cultural histories of the city for more than 30 years.

Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, 295 West Ave., Norwalk. Wednesday, July 16, 11 a.m. $30, includes a great lunch and first-floor mansion tour that will dazzle you. 203-838-9799, ext. 4 or email: info@lockwoodmathewsmansion.com.


200px-Kangaroo_Bicycle_RevPenny-farthing, high wheel, high wheeler, and ordinary, are all terms used to describe a type of bicycle with a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel that was popular after the boneshaker, until the development of the safety bicycle, in the 1880s. They were the first machines to be called ‘bicycles’. highwheel13v

Although they are now most commonly known as “penny-farthings”, this term was probably not used until they were nearly outdated; the first recorded print reference is 1891 in Bicycling News. It comes from the British penny and farthing coins, one much larger than the other, so that the side view resembles a penny leading a farthing. For most of their reign, they were simply known as “bicycles”. In the late 1890s, the retronym “ordinary” began to be used, to distinguish them from the emerging safety bicycles, and this term or Hi-wheel (and variants) is preferred by many modern enthusiasts.

P1100509Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut had their ice cream social on Sunday, June 22, 2014. Reminiscent of the days long, long ago, so many women were dressed in their Victorian day dresses, men in top hats, and James and his penny-Farthing.

James on his own Penny-farthing

James on his own Penny-farthing

What a strange name for this mode of transportation from the late 19th century. Although the trend was short-lived, the penny-farthing became a symbol of the late Victorian era. I asked James to demonstrate the penny-farthing for me. He had to run next to it in order to get on. Then he mounted it while running, drove around, came back and dismounted, sliding off over the small wheel. Strange, but it didn’t seem too difficult, as long as you don’t ask me to do it. He told me he rides every weekend, and that he belongs to an antique bicycle club called the “Wheelmen.” components of a penny-farthing

In 1888, when John Dunlop re-invented the pneumatic tire for his son’s tricycle, the high wheel was made obsolete. The comfortable ride once found only on tall wheels could now be enjoyed on smaller chain-driven bicycles. By 1893, high-wheelers were no longer being produced. Use lingered into the 1920s in track cycling until racing safety bicycles were perfected. Today, enthusiasts ride restored penny-farthings, and a few manufacturers build new ones.

Have you ever tried to ride a penny-farthing?



0513 0583 0585 0587 0588 0604 0607 0617 0620 0626 0645 0646 0649 0767  In early 1850 a young Frenchman named Morris Greenberg and his family set sail for California to make their fortune in the gold rush. Suffering a shipwreck in the Straits of Magellan, he didn’t arrive in San Francisco until late 1851. By that time the gold rush was pretty much played out but San Francisco was becoming established as a major port city.

There wasn’t any fortune in gold waiting for young Greenberg, but the new city had a need for brass ship fittings for its burgeoning maritime industry. Having been a foundry apprentice in France, Greenberg founded the Eagle Brass Works and started a bustling enterprise serving the shipping industry.

After San Francisco’s 6th great fire in 1851, the city set about creating a reliable municipal water system. Greenberg was contracted to provide cast materials for the water works. By the 1860s Greenberg was the major provider of cast iron and brass water system components. Greenberg now operated a major foundry which incorporated and was named M. Greenberg’s Sons, Inc. in honor of his sons who were now helping run the family’s business.

San Francisco’s original fire hydrants were based on an eastern dry barrel design and cast by the Hinckley Iron Works in San Francisco. While the Hinckley design was traditional, it was not very efficient. The flood valve was slow to open and the hydrants had somewhat limited flows. Greenberg, his imagination not being polluted by traditional convention, reasoned that a 6″ pipe with one or more valves above the surface would be much more efficient for locations where freezing was not an issue. He built the first wet barrel hydrant which drew wide acceptance and was dubbed the “California hydrant.” When San Francisco rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake and fire, every hydrant on the municipal water system was a Greenberg “California hydrant” with double 3″ outlets.

Greenberg went on to produce more types of fire hydrants than any other manufacturer, producing over a dozen distinctive models with as many as four variations within each model. One of the goals of this collection was to collect and restore a representative example of each of Greenberg’s designs in tribute to the young shipwrecked Frenchman that forever changed the Pacific coast fire service.

The 21st century is seeing forever changes as I write this blog.

Growing up in Brooklyn, some hydrants looked liked this. Some were fat and black. Now the hydrants are being prepped and resemble strange sculptures in color. Unlike in-your-face architecture, even though fire hydrants are below eye level, do you see them as public art?


barnburning44805_fullThe screams were heard above the tall trees in spite of the pounding sounds of horses hooves in the dense forest. A sudden flapping of a flock’s wings could be heard above, but not seen through the thick billowing smoke. The brigade was one line of townspeople, some filling the pails with water from the brook, others flinging the water on the barn. The bucket was passed from one stationary person to the next. It was futile, the barn burned to the ground with the animals still inside. No one was prepared for the devastation. No one knew then about the fire brigades that would be coming in the future. No one knew about fire trucks or fire hydrants.

The first hydrants were used for public water supply from the earliest municipal water systems. They resembled faucets and were at best suited for the bucket brigade method of firefighting. Prior to municipal water systems, there were other means to provide water in the event of a fire.

Iron cauldren

Iron cauldron.

Photo ©2001 Wan-i Yang

In the beginning, the original “hydrant” may have been something like this iron cauldron from China.

Firefighting cauldrons were placed in strategic locations in ancient China and kept filled with water — at the ready — in the event of a fire.

In colonial America cisterns were used to store water for early fire fighting purposes, and these continued to be used even after the introduction of the hydrant in many cities. As late as 1861, Louisville, Kentucky employed 124 cisterns but no fire hydrants. Cisterns are still used today for firefighting.

Fire cisterns are underground tanks or structures that hold water to be pumped for firefighting use. Here, a huge earthquake resistive fire cistern is being constructed in metro Tokyo as part of a larger plan of fire fighting readiness in this seismically active metropolitan region.

Photo ©2001 Tokyo Fire Department

Around 1801, the first post or pillar type hydrant was a combo hose/faucet outlet with the valve in the top. This early form of the fire hydrant was essentially a metal pipe enclosed in a wooden case. There was a valve at the bottom, with an outlet on the side, near the top. Typically, the wooden case was filled with sawdust or manure as insulation to prevent freezing in the winter, but this didn’t work very well. There was a variation on the drain invented later that allowed the water to run out of the rise after each use, in an attempt to prevent freezing. The basic idea is still used today in cold climates.

In 1802, the first order for cast iron hydrants was placed with cannon maker Foxall & Richards. In 1803, Frederick Graff Sr. introduced an improved version of the fire hydrant with the valve in the lower portion. These were inserted into wooden mains with a tapering joint. In 1811, Philadelphia claimed to have 230 wooden hydrant pumps and 185 cast iron fire hydrants.

In this close-up cropped from a copy of an N. Currier lithograph of 1854 is depicted an early cast iron “flip lid” hydrant at a fire scene in New York City; the operating nut, or in some cases, a wheel, resided under an iron lid atop the hydrant body. This was a carry-over from the wooden cased hydrants which also had lids. Flip lid hydrants were a short lived predecessor of the modern dry barrel hydrant which has it’s operating nut exposed.

N. Currier lithograph 1854

N. Currier lithograph 1854


What is notable about this painting is that it is one of the earliest color images of a fire hydrant, and depicts not the expected “fire hydrant red”, but a silver or grey body color.

Early type hydrants were encased in wood

Early type hydrants were encased in wood

This early example of the dry barrel type hydrant was made by the Union Hydraulic Works in Philadelphia, ca. 1850 (c) 2001 Ethan Kennedy

This early example of the dry barrel type hydrant was made by the Union Hydraulic Works in Philadelphia, ca. 1850 (c) 2001 Ethan Kennedy



Fire Hydrants were usually painted red at first. Here in the USA I have seen some fire hydrants that have been painted by artists. Some are just colors recognizable by the fire brigade, some are sleek shiny chrome like this one that I found in front of the Norwalk, Connecticut Public Library.

In the hot summers, do you remember running into the spewing water from the hydrant? Who turned it on?

Look for the hydrant collection next week.images-4 images-1


Protea cynaroides tropical flower of South Africa

Protea cynaroides tropical flower of South Africa that Charl pointed out to me and is the “Flower of South Africa”

I have a most unusual editor. Charlotte Firbank-King is not only a great editor, but she is also an author and does whatever else an editor does, balancing clients well (I know, I am one of them), but she is a brilliant, I mean mega brilliant, amazing, well-known, South African artist.

Charl, as she is called, has taught me about South Africa, and continues to intrigue me with bits and pieces of her land and its people, where fossils are found from millions of years ago. She has been asked to create a painting for a national show to promote Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape. I can’t wait to see what she will  paint. One of her works that she directed me to on her website, and to use, is called The Ethnic Map of Southern Africa. Her painting is meticulous and depicts the ethnic people and their villages as they are traditionally.

Ethnic Map painting by CF King.

Ethnic Mapping painting by CF King.

The map covers South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and the southern region of Mozambique. The original people of these areas are represented in their traditional dress, there are 121 human figures–each one is three+ inches (8cm) high in the original painting. The artist also included the flora and fauna relevant to each area and historical shipwrecks and buildings. The map is surrounded by a border drawing from the designs and objects of the ethnic people. Some of the more intricate sections were painted using a magnifying glass. The original work was sold in 2000 and can now be seen in the museum on Southfork Ranch, Texas, USA. The print comes with an indication map, which names all the subjects and a booklet provides information on everything in the painting. In order to purchase, please contact the artist. The website is currently being updated, prices, shopping cart, etc, and is available only for viewing. To purchase, please refer to her website link below and go to contacts to communicate with Charl.

Khoisan-woman-with-baby-in-slingThe terminology—ethnic—refers to a social group of people who have various things in common, like culture, ancestry, history, religion, dressing, physical appearance, and of course, language. Which brings me to talk about a group of people that speak with a tongue click. When Charl mentioned these people to me recently, I remembered hearing them speak when I was at the Rift Valley in East Africa visiting missionaries. The Khoisan language has click consonants. The sound is quite musical and has a rhythm. If  you want to explore further, Google Khoisan language.



There’s a perception people generally have of the indigenous people of the world, seeing them as inferior with no knowledge of what is happening in the world. It seems there is some kind of seclusion as they are looked at as uncivilized. Today, South Africa is  a country of many cultures, languages and traditions. Yet, at one time, the country was populated only by the Khoisan. Please see and hear the Khoisan people In the video link below.

The Khoisan people were hunter gatherers, living in harmony with the ecosystems of the time, a magnanimous variety of plants, and teeming game provided them with everything they needed for a harmonious life. Today, the Khoisan are a small group of nomadic hunter gatherers who still strive to live in relative harmony with nature. san women

They live in small groups and settled in beehive huts made from available materials such as twigs, grasses or reeds until resources become scarce. The search for new resources will move the group to a new site.

Men are the hunters, using bows and poison tipped arrows,  and bring home game, while the women gather wild vegetables, fruits, berries and water, as well as the materials used to provide shelter. Men are highly respected for their hunting and tracking skills and their knowledge of the natural environment. Women are equally respected for their knowledge of edible plants and abilities to find water, and especially their ability to give birth and nurture their young. Khoisan tribes who have been studied by anthropologists, has shown that not only do they have a vast knowledge of the plant and animal life, but also a sound knowledge of women’s monthly cycles according to the moon, knowledge that pregnancy occurs through sexual intercourse and knowledge of the average length of a pregnancy.

Motherhood, in Khoisan culture Bushmen, brings status and social recognition to the woman after she has navigated the journey of pregnancy and birth. Unlike our attitude in the modern world where women are offered pain relief at the slightest twinge that labor may have begun, a young Khoisan woman is actively taught that she must face the pains of natural childbirth with courage and fearlessness. Most women will give birth alone in a squatting position, a short distance from their settlement. This is regarded as ideal, although mothers giving birth for the first time may have a helper at hand.

Khoisan huts

Khoisan huts

Bringing a child into the world is a gift to the tribe and a young mother is taught that how she feels and thinks during the pregnancy will affect the labor and birth of the new baby. Other members of the group will assist by helping to carry other children or food. A pregnant woman is expected to continue with her normal duties such as gathering food, cleaning, caring for other children and should not complain. This renders a woman fit and healthy during her pregnancy – there is no room for slothfulness or overeating in this society. A pregnant woman is rarely overweight and an unborn baby is likely to grow to be the right size for the mother to give birth. After the arrival of other African tribes, the Khoisans’ hunter gatherer way of life remained predominant west of the Fish River in South Africa and in deserts throughout their region, where the drier climate precluded the growth of crops suited for warmer and wetter climates. With the arrival of the Europeans, Mediterranean crops in the 17th century became more popular with African farmers and later white Boer farmers, to spread to the rest of the country and began replacing the Khoisan population.  During the colonial era, the Khoisan survived in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Today many of the Khoisan live in parts of the Kalahari Desert where they are better able to preserve much of their culture and lifestyle.

Khoisan family

Khoisan family

It is a sad part of South African history that these vibrant and culturally-rich tribes are now almost extinct, with Khoisan culture pushed to the periphery of society. But they have left an indelible mark on Southern African society.

The distinct clicks of their language, once found nowhere else in Africa, have been incorporated into Zulu and Xhosa speech. They have also contributed to the richness of Afrikaans and South African English with words such as ‘eina’ (ouch) and ‘aikhona’ (absolutely not). And place names like Karoo and Keiskamma.

Beyond the sphere of daily chores, Khoisan traditions include snuff and makaranga tobacco. This is a very strong tobacco that is mixed with wild honey and made into a paste before being allowed to dry. In Namaqualand, traditions include distinct dress and music adapted from their heritage and early Boer influences.

What do you think of their methods of childbirth? No one seems to need to lose weight, why is that?

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c246fZ-7z1w

Have you checked out Charl’s website? http://www.charlottefk.com


Daniel Libeskind Designs Milan Expo Pavilion for Chinese Developer Vanke

Daniel Libeskind Milan Expo Pavilion Vanke

New York-based architect Daniel Libeskind has proposed a twisted reptilian structure for the first ever expo pavilion for a stand-alone Chinese company.

Ancient Chinese teachings and Renaissance art are cited as some of the inspirations for the building, whose twisted shape is intended to create a “continuous flow” between inside and outside spaces. A staircase will also curve around the exterior, leading up to a rooftop terrace.

Responding to the Expo theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, New York exhibition designer Ralph Appelbaum and Chinese graphic designer Han Jiaying will work with Libeskind to create an interior described by Vanke as a “virtual forest”. This will feature 300 multimedia screens, offering a look at the role of the dinner table in Chinese communities.

Daniel Libeskind Milan Expo Pavilion Vanke

Designed for Vanke, China’s largest property developer, the Shitang pavilion is already under construction at the Milan Expo 2015 site, and was conceived by Daniel Libeskind as a sinuous volume with a scaly outer skin.

Daniel Libeskind Milan Expo Pavilion Vanke


Daniel Libeskind Milan Expo Pavilion Vanke

“In keeping with the theme of Expo Milano, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, we proposed the concept ‘Shitang’ for the Vanke Pavilion,” said Vanke chairman Wang Shi.

“Shitang in Chinese means ‘table’. We thus want to express our idea of urbanisation and community through the experience of food. Indeed, food is one of the most effective ways to understand a culture: the ritual of eating and talking together is important in every community because by eating together it is possible to get to know each other better,” he said.

Daniel Libeskind Milan Expo Pavilion Vanke

Libeskind has previously said that he would not work in China on ethical grounds and urged architects to “think twice” about building in the country. Later that same year it was revealed by UK architecture newspaper BD that his practice was working on a 25,000-square-metre public building in Hong Kong.

“This is not a dogmatic idea for Daniel,” Nina Libeskind told BD in 2008. “Its a personal thing for him. We’ve seen what has happened in Tibet, but there is a rule of law in Hong Kong that Daniel is comfortable with.”

Daniel Libeskind Milan Expo Pavilion Vanke

I was thrilled to find this pavillion through architectural news on Twitter and written up in de zeen magazine. I went exploring. This edifice is a fascinating structure with its twists and turns and will be available for all to experience in 2015 in Milan. Plan to go now.

Should we all go together?


Local barn

Local red roof barn

Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, and then there’s Putney. You probably know what state these towns are in. The town we visited was Putney. Putney is anything but a sleepy town in Vermont. But, this town has no supermarket. I couldn’t believe it. What, where will we buy our food? How can I prepare our meals if there is no food, where’s the supermarket, or grocery store or something? No worries. Tucked away around a corner was their Co-op that calls itself a grocery store.

The popular Captain getting his garden ready to plant.

The popular Captain getting his garden ready to plant.

The Putney Co-op is a full service, community owned grocery store and deli. It’s been around for more than seventy years. You can buy all kinds of fresh food, grown locally, delicious baked good and hefty sandwiches. A little pricy, but everything is fresh. Then, of course, just in case you can’t get to the next town Brattleboro, with their supermarket, seven miles or so away, there are staples of all types. The General Store and Pharmacy has all kinds of necessaries and first aid items like peroxide and bandaids and tweezers to get out splinters. Here there’s a store called “Basketville,” and known, obviously, for it’s woven baskets. It also sells necessaries, and handmade rocking chairs. And candy. And rugs. And toothpaste. This is what the brochure says about Basketville. A landmark store . . . a browser’s paradise, vast and barnlike, full of handcrafted items for the home. You never know what you’ll find down the next aisle. Whatever you find, it’s probably a bargain. They pride themselves on outlet prices, workshop direct deals, and frequent specials. The international basket collection includes exotic new imports from Africa and Cambodia. The store is100% solar powered. We were amazed at the selections. Fun. The drugstore, within another store, the general store, and the co-op all think they are cafe’s. There are sit-down areas to eat, drink and socialize. It’s all very strange.

Local waterfall

Local waterfall

There’s even a waterfall in town. It’s mini, like everything else, but it is a waterfall. Makes noise like a waterfall, feels like a waterfall, smells like a waterfall. It’s even wonderful to stand nearby and feel the cool spray as it pours into the canal.


Private tennis court in the middle of nowhere. Sigh

Private tennis court in the middle of nowhere.

For those of you who know, tennis has been part of my life, and Tom’s. Upon exploration, we found a private tennis court. There is enough land to grow several tennis courts, but this one was right near that red roof barn in the first image above, in the middle of nowhere. No, we didn’t invite ourselves. Perhaps, if we had our tennis racquets . . .

This trip to Putney, Vermont, was for a painting workshop for me. Since flowers are not always my first choice to paint, I opted for this workshop because the emphasis was flowers. You can figure that one out, can’t you?

Putney barn studio

Putney barn studio


Gail’s Pansy set-up

So here’s the interior of the Putney barn studio and flowers to select for our set-ups .

You are probably wondering where we hunkered down at the end of each intense workshop day. Our accommodations were right below this studio.

It was a busy week. There were seven of us, and our workshop leader standing in the middle of the studio, Stephanie Birdsall, an amazing artist and instructor. Google her if you want to know more about her work. We loved our workshop, and found new friends.


Gail's oil painting

Gail’s Pansy oil painting 9×12 using set-up above







Putney barn exterior

Putney barn exterior

In this barn, we had a lovely apartment on the first level just under the studio. It’s the first set of lower windows, We had a bedroom, full bathroom, sitting room, and full kitchen. Brand, spanking new, we were the first guests. It was comfortable, clean, lovely, and had full views of the vast landscape.

Here’s more images. Wonderful, not so sleepy town, Putney, Vermont. Do you have a favorite town in Vermont? putney 1200vt photo P1100007 P1090980 P1090871 P1090952

















Gail’s Begonia set-up

Gail's unfinished Begonias

Gail’s in-process Begonias using set-up above


The street where slaves were bought and sold

The street where slaves were bought and sold

Crepe Myrtles, restaurants, at least two on each block, talented artists, galleries, historic buildings, also at least two on each block, cobblestones, and museums.

The Old Slave Mart Museum

The Old Slave Mart Museum

Charlestown has a fascinating history going back to 1630 after Charles II of England was restored to the English throne in 1660 following Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, he granted the chartered Province of Carolina to eight of his loyal friends. It took seven years before the group arranged for settlement expeditions. The community of Charles Towne was founded in 1670. Several shiploads of settlers from Bermuda settled the community on the banks of the Ashley River. Although they moved to a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, the early settlement was often subject to attack from sea and land, from Spain, France, pirates and raids by Native Americans, who violently resisted further expansion of the settlement.

The pink house

The pink house on the famous cobblestone street

At 17 Chalmers Street, this pink house is said to be the oldest standing tavern building in the South. Built within the walled city of Charles Towne in the mid 1690s by John Breton.

The first settlers were free people of color, who came from England and its Caribbean colony of Barbados and Atlantic colony of Bermuda. Other groups were attracted to Charles Towne, but because of the battles between English royalty and the Roman Catholic church, practicing Catholics could not settle in South Carolina until after the American Revolution. However, Jews were allowed and Sephardic Jews migrated to the city in such numbers that by the beginning of the 19th century, the city was home to the largest and wealthiest Jewish community in North American—a status it would hold until about 1830.

Africans were brought to Charles Towne on the Middle Passage, first as servants, then as slaves. The port of Charles Towne was the main dropping-off point for Africans captured and transported to the American English colonies for sale as slaves.

Famous horse and carriage tour

Famous horse and carriage tour

By the mid-18th century Charles Towne had become a bustling trade center, the hub of the Atlantic trade for the southern colonies. Charles Towne was also the wealthiest and largest city south of Philadelphia. By 1770, it was the fourth-largest port in the colonies, after Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, with a population of 11,000-slightly more than half of them slaves.

When the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 it revolutionized the production of this crop, and it quickly became South Carolina’s major export commodity. Cotton plantations relied heavily on slave labor, and slaves were also the primary labor force with in the city, working as domestics, artisans, market workers and laborers. After a revolt by Denmark Vesey, a free black in 1822, hysteria ensued amidst white Charlestonians and Carolinians who feared that the violent retribution of slaves against whites during the Haitian Revolution might be copied. Soon after, Vesey was hanged along with 34 other slaves. Later, the activities of free blacks and slaves were severely restricted.

Crepe Myrtle tree (smoothest trunk I ever did see) when it's warm it has gorgeous flowers

Crepe Myrtle tree (smoothest trunk I ever did see) when it’s warm it has gorgeous flowers

After the Civil war and the defeat of the Confederacy, Federal forces remained in Charleston during the city’s reconstruction. The war had shattered the prosperity of the city. Freed slaves were faced with poverty and discrimination. In 1865 The Avery Normal Institute was established by the American Missionary Association as a private school for Charleston’s African American population. There is the old slave museum on the very same block where slaves were bought and sold before the Civil War. The Old Slave Mart Museum, located at 6 Chalmers St., recounts the story of Charleston’s role in this inter-state slave trade by focusing on the history of this particular building and site and the slave sales that occurred here. We missed visiting the museum by fifteen minutes.

On August 31, 1886, Charleston was nearly destroyed by an earthquake. It was felt as far away as Boston, Chicago and Milwaukee, New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as Cuba and Bermuda. If you visit Charleston you can see the plaques used to shore up a building by inserting long rods from one end of the building to the other.

Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, in which we indulged in as frequently as possible, like the much awarded Slightly North of Broad (also called SNOB, for short).

Everyone visit Charleston even the Navy

Everyone visit Charleston even the Navy

And the music . . . we visited the circular church co-founded with Charles Towne around 1687 by the English Congregationalists, Scots Presbyterians, and French Huguenots of the original settlement. The music program was called “The Sound of Charleston and included gospel spirituals, Gershwin, jazz, and more.

historic house and the popular azaleas

historic house and the popular azaleas

Charleston has received a large number of accolades, including “America’s Most Friendly [City]” by Travel + Leisure in 2011 and in 2013 by Condé Nast Traveler,[7] and also “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.

Age old oak

Age old oak

The tree is often called the oldest living thing in the U.S. east of the Mississippi and is often cited to be over 1500 years old. While the first might be true for a single, not resprouting tree, the second is almost certain an exaggeration. Age estimations for this tree are not scientifically substantiated, but a comparison with live oak trees for which the growth rings were counted and a comparison with proven ages for deciduous oak trees in temporate climates (where trees grow slower) makes an age of less than 600 years more likely. The Angel Oak is standing 20 m (65 ft) tall, with a girth of about 7.7 m (28 ft) in diameter, and the crown covers an area of 1,580 m² (17,000 square feet). Its longest limb is 27 m (89 ft) in length. The tree and surrounding park have been owned by the city of Charleston since 1991.

The oak derives its name from the Angel estate, although local folklore told of stories of ghosts of former slaves would appear as angels around the tree[7].

Spanish moss, prevalent in the South from the high humidity

Spanish moss, prevalent in the South from the high humidity

With a haze of Spanish moss dripping from the oaks’ limbs, this garden has an extraordinary Southern feel.


A modern landmark

A modern landmark

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge across the Cooper River opened on July 16, 2005, and was the second longest cable-stayed bridge in the Americas at the time of its construction. The bridge links with downtown Charleston, and has eight lanes plus a 12-foot lane shared by pedestrians and bicycles. It replaced the Grace Memorial Bridge (built in 1929) and the Silas N. Pearlman Bridge (built in 1966). They were considered two of the more dangerous bridges in America and were demolished after the Ravenel Bridge opened.

Another visit is in order. In fact, we are planning a return in about a year.

Would you want to know more about this infamous Charleston? It’s a great place to spend a few days.


P1090517Alligators, about four feet long, Hmm, maybe six feet for this one, with heads at least a third of their bodies, hang out on the edge of the waterways. They lay on the grassy lagoons basking in the sunlight. Tom and I were strolling by, shocked to see alligators in this place that is supposed to be a hotel/Inn on the bluffs of the Ashley River in South Carolina. I began to walk closer to get a good picture, but I felt a hand on my arm pull me back. “You don’t want to get too close, do you?” asked my hubby Tom. But as I persevered, the alligator picked up his head, and I jumped back. But like lightening, it was gone as it dropped into the water. They didn’t seem as though they were interested in eating us, or anyone else for that matter. At least no one has gone missing . . . yet. P1090166

On the bluffs of the Ashley River, The Inn at Middleton Place, is nestled amongst old pines and centuries old oak trees, trees that are at least eight-hundred years old, with a girth of thirty-three feet, and steps away from the country’s oldest landscaped gardens. It was like being in summer camp, in the South, where alligators prevail. A camp like no other I remember. There are no paved roads or walkways. What appears to be a dense forest at the edge of the river, climbs up to level walkway, I guess that would be called the bluffs.

Middleton-Place-Hotel-Exterior-2-DEFThe organization of the architecture is most unusual in its boxy appearance created by the tall walls of windows, divided by bold, dark grids in each bank of buildings. The buildings appear to be tall boxes juxtaposed to each other. I think the idea was to create an environment of informal elegance.

In the interior, the floor to ceiling windows bring into every room views of the pastoral woodland setting sweeping views over the meandering Ashley River, where the rice plantation culture, not the cotton culture that prevailed in the South, flourished more than 200 years ago. P1090235

P1090545 P1090457 P1090435The stable yard is fascinating. It’s filled with ducks, white geese, peacocks, chickens, roosters, milking cows and horses of all sorts. And soaking in a water pond, two water buffalo, one white, one black, hang out. They follow you with their eyes as you walk by and appear very serious about soaking in the pond. If you happen to be around the stables when they feed the chickens, all the birds come running. It’s hilarious to watch the feathered fellows gather and squawk within their clans, and push their way in to get their share.


The inn is on the property of the Middleton family’s 18th century plantation and is about thirteen miles northwest of Charleston. It feels very secluded, but just outside the property is busy US 61 with  several condominium neighborhoods and the Magnolia Plantation just up the road. People from the wintery North are moving  to the sunny South to escape the harsh winters. Hmm, tempting.


Middleton Place was established in 1741.  Four generations of Middletons’ occupied the estate. Days after the fall of Charleston in 1865, the Main House and flanking buildings were ransacked and burned by a detachment of the 56th New York Regiment on February 22nd. The ground was strewn with books, paintings and other family treasures. William Middleton restored the South Flanker. What was left of the Main House and North Flanker toppled in the Earthquake of 1886.

middleton oak closeup with museumThe restored South Flanker survived and is a museum today. Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens visited by thousands.

According to the words of the ads, the inn offers guests a unique, hands on approach to experiencing the LowCountry of South Carolina. This secluded inn is the perfect place to reconnect with nature and history while being a short drive from the culture and beauty of historic Charleston. Ground tours include the Middleton Place Gardens, house Museum, and stable yards.

Rice Fields as they were in the 19th century

Rice Fields as they were in the 19th century

P1090251Within this luscious landscape, a five-star restaurant resides. We did indulge, why not? We were a captive audience, and who doesn’t enjoy good food? And drink of course. Plenty of wine choices and beverages of all kinds. Have you ever heard of a Bloody Mary and “sweep the kitchen”? It’s spiced tomato juice with veggies, and liquor of your choice or not.P1090232 P1090222 P1090733 P1090684 P1090172

Why not visit? Wouldn’t this place make a fascinating setting for your next book? Especially you history buffs?

Scroll down for a picture show.

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Can you see the alligator near the water?

Can you see the alligator near the water?P1090607