July is already well underway, but I’ve just returned from a long holiday away from Charleston history. Sometimes getting outside of one’s own surroundings really helps put things in a better perspective, to see the “bigger picture” of historical events and narratives. I always strive to present stories of local history in a broader, less “provincial” context, and traveling abroad certainly helps. In the spirit of better-late-than-never, therefore, here is a brief description of this month’s public offerings from the Charleston Time Machine:
The Forgotten Pleasure Gardens of Charleston
Charleston is renowned for its ornamental green spaces, both its historic public parks and the numerous private gardens tucked behind so many of the historic downtown homes. In the years before the advent of the city’s first public park in the 1830s, however, there was a third species of urban garden here: semi-private “pleasure gardens” that were open to select members of the public. Modeled on famous English examples like Vauxhall and Ranelagh, Charleston’s various pleasure gardens offered a bucolic escape for well-heeled urban dwellers who sought to promenade through sculpted arbors and shady boughs while sipping beverages and listening to music on a moonlit summer’s eve. At places like the Orange Garden and New Vauxhall, both on Broad Street, and Watson’s Garden and Tivoli Garden, both on Columbus Street, the ladies and gentlemen of the town strolled, danced, flirted, drank, and even purchased greenery for their own private gardens.
Modern development has overrun the sites of all of Charleston’s early pleasure gardens, but this important part of our horticultural history is not entirely forgotten. The legacy of these forgotten green spaces adds significant color and spice to the early history of Charleston’s urban culture, and I encourage everyone to learn more about them. Please join me for a new mid-summer program about “The Forgotten Pleasure Gardens of Charleston.”
- Wednesday, 20 July 2016 at 6 p.m., Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston SC 29401
Charleston’s Colonial Lake: A Brief History
Later in July I’ll reprise last month’s program on the history of Colonial Lake, that serene oasis on the west side of the Charleston peninsula. If you haven’t visited the lake since it’s grand re-opening in early June, I encourage you to stroll around the newly refurbished sidewalks and admire the much-improved sheet of water between Rutledge and Ashley Avenues. While there, you might be inspired to wonder how such a wonderful, open space came to be in an otherwise cramped and compact city. If such thoughts pique your curiosity, please join me for a colorful whirlwind history of Colonial Lake, three hundred years in the making!
- Thursday, 28 July 2016 at 6 p.m., Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston SC 29401
Questions? Drop me a line at butlern[at]ccpl.org or call 843–805–6968 for more information.