Charleston, We Miss You

We’re back in Baltimore, where spring is coming into full glory, but Charleston, we miss you.

We miss your cosmopolitan charm. We miss your commitment to architectural preservation and historic restoration, your strict guidelines for new construction. We envy the care you take not to clutter your beautiful city with signage, out-of-scale streetlights, and highway-like signs. Other cities, including ours, could learn something from you. We know from the National Trust for Historic Preservation that preservation translates into dollars. You are a case in point. Your tourism thrives, as does your overall economy. The price of your housing stock amazes.

Your gardens, public and private, do too. We were thrilled to visit Middleton Place, home to the first landscaped gardens in America. (1741!) We spent a day there, and could easily have spent two. The view of the Ashley River from the terrace steps is unforgettable, as are the banks of azaleas and allées of camellias. How lucky we were to find them blooming simultaneously.

We lucked out and were able to see some of your private gardens during the Historic Charleston Foundation Festival of Houses & Gardens. Unbelievably, the late Mrs. Whaley’s garden was open that day. We’d read about it almost 20 years ago, and there it was, as charming and intimate as described in the Algonquin book we treasure.

Your cuisine is diverse and exquisite, as your fully booked restaurants attest. We miss your triggerfish and trout, your savory benne biscuits and cheese wafers, your coconut cake and your rice prepared so many ways.

We miss your impeccable friendliness and helpfulness, the way you and your residents, old and new, extend yourself to others. We experienced it before we left Baltimore. For six weeks we worked with the owner of Fritz Porter, an alluring new design collective in The Cigar Factory, and with the amazing team at The Preservation Society of Charleston. We experienced it in each phone call to The Planters Inn and every day we stayed there. We experienced it with the pedicab drivers (who became our buddies), in restaurants, and on the street. Once a man heard us say we were lost and ran half a block to straighten us out. Let’s hope we’d do the same.

We’re dumbfounded that you championed our book, but, like you, Roger Foley’s photographs and Glenn Dellon’s design are beautiful, aren’t they? Thank you, Charleston.

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