Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Dream That Is Summerville Will Endure The Ages

Unlike "New Summerville," which was laid out by the Railroad like a checkerboard with straight, broad thoroughfares, "Old Summerville" was characterized by winding streets. When it came to laying out the roads, it's apparent the old town planners did not incorporate the idea "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line." For that matter, as to what a straight line meant, they had no clue. Summerville history implies the early road architects were of the four-legged variety, bovine to be more exact.

The Ashley River planters who came to the sandy hilltop in the pines to escape the oppressive heat and voracious mosquitoes of their lowland rice fields brought their livestock with them. On arrival, the beasts were turned loose to wander in and around the tall pines and old oaks. Overtime, these creatures of habit carved out the thoroughfares that became the first named streets of the newly founded summer village.

Beginning with Captain James Stewart, 14 families eventually marooned themselves every summer for nearly five months in structures scattered around the main cattle path called the Great Thoroughfare--W. Carolina Avenue today. Called "mosquito houses," these structures were built eight feet off the ground on stilts to protect against insects and to catch breezes. A wide center hall ran the full length with two rooms on each side for cross ventilation. Each room had a fireplace. If there was a second floor, it was identical to the first. The stables and carriage house were located away from the main home for obvious reasons--besides trampling out the roads, the livestock produced an odorous by-product unlike the pleasant pine scent.

Other notable cow paths of original Summerville connected to the Great Thoroughfare was Railroad Street; now Sumter Avenue, Pine Street; now Charleston Street, Centre Street; now Linwood Lane, Morgan Street; now Clifton Street, Gadsden Street, and the present Cuthbert Lane once referred to simply as "Street." A plat formed in 1831 showed the layout of the early streets and homes.

There were 15 homes in "Old Summerville" in 1831 when "New Summerville" was established by the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. Seven years later in 1838, there were 29. The two Summervilles became an official town in 1847. Connected by the railroad to Charleston and points west, wealthy Charlestonians came to town and built homes to escape the yellow fever epidemics. At the end of the 19th century, it was declared one of the two best places in the world for the treatment and recovery of lung disorders launching the dawning of "The Golden Age of the Inns".

Despite a longtime commitment to preserve and protect its sacred pine trees, the city planners of Summerville deemed it necessary to sacrifice some of them to embrace its burgeoning fame as a health spot to the world and the illustrious Pine Forest Inn was built. While the visitors flowed into town, other inns were established. As a now famous story relates, one such individual, who came to town to avail upon the purported healing aspects of the pine tree's turpentine scent on the advice of his physician, was found sitting on the porch swing of a W Richardson Street residence by its matriarch and became the first guest to stay at the newly established White Gables Inn. Other notable names included Carolina Inn, Halcyon Inn, Wisteria Inn, Holly Inn, The Postern, Squirrel Inn and Pine View Inn. Summerville flourished into the 1900's, but in time, it would lose its magical charm. Its icons one by one mercilessly succumbed to the wrecking ball and the tantalizing scent of its biggest asset faded into the changed landscape.

Then, in 2010, Summerville experienced a new renaissance of growth when it branded itself the "Birthplace of Sweet Tea." The "Sweet Tea Festival" was inaugurated and the Summerville Trolley Tours were established--benefiting local businesses and captivating residents and visitors alike. Nexton exploded unto the scene and Summerville's first craft brewery on November 26th broke ground in the remaining space of the Coastal Coffee Roasters building with the laying of its cement floor.

With a name inspired by the old plantations on Ashley River Road, Oak Road Brewery will make 108 E 3rd North Street the complete, all-day entertainment package--top notch, freshly roasted, organic coffee, a variety of treats and culinary delights, live music weekly and a line of creative craft beers brewed on sight, all of which will be paired with a heavy dose of Summerville hospitality and community. "Oak Road Brewery will be an integral part to the growth of Summerville's culture with a focus on working with local small businesses to enhance the quality of life for its citizens and tourists alike," said Ben Bankey, owner and partner with Brad Mallett.

The cows no longer wander around the tall pines, the "mosquito houses" have disappeared into the shadows of the old trees, the trains of the old railroad no longer stop, and the great inns have gone quietly into the night, but their treasured history perpetually blossoms year after year like the town's famous azaleas and refreshed with the lifting of every flavorful glass of sweet tea. Since 1847, Summerville has reinvented itself time after time, but always respectful of its past, grafting its roots into every change. The dream that is Summerville will endure the ages.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Climbing Halfway To The Stars On A Cable Car--San Francisco Will Take You To Greater Heights

Charleston and San Francisco are very similar and at the same time mountains different. Over the years and miles apart, the two cities have competed for the top spot as "the number one destination" with the readers of Conde Nast Traveler. This year San Francisco was named 11th.

Don't call it "Frisco", sophisticated locals prefer you call it "The City." For more than a century, it was the only city in the western United States. During those years, it was an island of urban entertainment and culture, rivaling big cities like Chicago and New Orleans. Today, it is the second most-densely populated major city in the United states.

If you are planning a visit to "Twitter Town" for the first time, finding your way around can be daunting. If you do not have a smart phone with a GPS, I conclusively suggest you bring a GPS or as in my case, have a helpful son giving you the needed directions.

San Francisco drivers are merciless towards newcomers attempting to navigate the network of steep hills, lane changes and numerous exits. A long time resident and Lyft driver called it a city with no left turns. After leaving the airport, I found it to be a city of wrong turns. You will need to cross that bridge when you get there and San Francisco has two of them, The Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge.

Coit Tower
Once you get to where you want to go, San Francisco is both fascinating and intriguing at every turn of the corner. Wonders like Outer Sunset's expansive surfing beaches, Vista Point's panoramic mountain view like no other, the awesome Golden Gate Bridge walk, and the ageless and majestic Muir Woods will fascinate you. Attractions like the spooky audio tour of Alcatraz, the movie rich Sentinel Building, the city's world renowned cable car system, and the 210 foot Coit Tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood will intrigue you.

Sentinel Building
To sum it all up, San Francisco's stunning landscape and diverse cityscape will take you to greater heights, literally. And once you get there, you be "above the blue and windy sea" where "little cable cars climb halfway to the stars!" Hope you enjoy the images as much as I did seeing them.

Outer Sunset's beaches

Vista Point's breathtaking views

Views around the Golden Gate Bridge


Muir Woods

A final note of interest. The redwood's of Muir Woods hold the secrets for a long life: 1) Family; the children all grow near the parent tree, 2) Community; each family reaches out to neighboring families, 3) Stand tall; the redwood's grow straight and are the tallest trees in the world, and 4) Thick skin; the redwood's thick bark protects it from insects, disease and fire.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Three Charleston Restaurants For Breakfast--From The Simple To The Sublime

At the furthest point on the Lower Peninsula, White Point Garden is an ideal place to catch the sweeping brush strokes of the sun's first rays of the morning as they artfully spill over the tall, rooftop silhouettes of Sullivan's Island unto the watery canvas of Charleston Harbor and ascend the railed walls of East Battery Street painting its waterfront homes with a soft, amber hue. With nothing more than the warmth and peacefulness of the moment to contemplate, it is a spiritually uplifting way to nourish your soul and kick-start a new day. Before long, the silent streets will be awakened by the flood of sight-seeing visitors and the clip-clop of horse's hooves pulling carriages loaded with tourists seeking to soak up the charm and history Charleston is renowned for. A suitable time to pocket your ponderings and depart the park to physically nourish your soul at one of the many unique restaurants and cafes located throughout the Historic Downtown District, from the simple to the sublime.

A short walk from the Battery on picturesque Broad Street is a street-side French cafe called Gaulart and Maliclet--also known by locals as Fast and French. Established by artists Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet 25 years ago, the restaurant's vision is summarized by their proclamation, "Where there is art, there is community--Where there is community, there is art." Their mission is to provide fresh, affordable, healthy, global cuisine with a French flair in a social environment. The seating in the cafe comes with close quarters. Great for friends who are interested in coming together to catch up on what's been happening around town and personally. Breakfast is served all day beginning at 8am. At Fast and French, emphasis is on simple but results are elegant. French press coffee made to order accompanies all breakfast specials. A variety of filled croissants, baked baguettes, fruit salad and yogurts are all fresh and reasonably priced. Open everyday except Sunday.
98 Broad Street, Charleston, SC

Turning left off of Broad Street and traveling up East Bay Street just beyond the busy Old Market, the Saffron Cafe and Bakery has been serving Charleston locals since 1986. In a recent remodel, the cafe added an outdoor patio, a game court and a wood-burning oven. It produces freshly baked goods which are delivered daily to hotels, restaurants and coffee shops throughout Charleston. For the exotic shoppers, International goods like pickles imported from Jerusalem, grape leaves from Lebanon, lamb from Australia, dates from California and the Middle East, and Harrisa sauce from Algeria to name a few can be bought here. It has been named the best place for Hummus, She-Crab Soup, and Red Velvet Cake. For your early morning forage, try the French Toast for $7.50--a thick-cut housemade brioche soaked in egg and cinnamon, grilled with cinnamon sugar or Shrimp and Grits for $8.50--shrimp sauteed in brown gravy, over grits with toast or biscuits. Open at 7am everyday.
333 East Bay Street, Charleston, SC

Back to the Old Market to Meeting Street brings your to the doors of Charleston Place and the main floor of the Belmond. Step through the doors of this sophisticated cafe and you will be greeted by an interior that screams prodigious. The Palmetto Cafe offers its early morning patrons an open, tranquil ambiance crowned by a high ceiling with expansive louvered windows, live green walls, and rich mahogany furniture all overlooking a lush courtyard complete with circular bronze fountain and impeccably kept gardens--perfect for enjoying Charleston's ideal morning weather. Recognized as the only 4 diamond breakfast and lunch restaurant in the city, its menu screams incredible, merging the very best of American Lowcountry cuisine with the freshest ingredients. Breakfast creations include a Peaches and Cream French Toast combining cream cheese stuffed raisin bread with a Georgia peach compote for $18 or a Palmetto Omelet with fresh lump crabmeat, lobster knuckles, mozzarella cheese, and spring onions for $19. The service is impeccably Southern fine. Open Monday to Friday 6:30am to 10:30am, Saturday and Sunday at 9am for Brunch.
205 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bram Stoker's "Dracula" Now Showing At The James F. Dean Theater In Summerville--Take A Bite Out Of Your Schedule

Outside the James F. Dean Theatre, the dark of the night had hours ago blanketed Hutchinson Square and Main Street. Most of the shops and stores locked down for the night. Across the street among the long shadows under the tall, moss covered oak trees, a cold rain coated the silent silhouettes of the numerous scarecrows and displays. It was the perfect setting for a Gothic horror story. Inside, a boisterous, near full house of blood-thirsty celebrants eagerly awaited 11:30 pm and the dimming of the lights--the final prompt Dark Star of the Night had arrived. It was opening night for "Dracula."

Jeff Messer and Andrew Gall's adaptation of Bram Stoker's masterful novel whisks you away on a geographical merry-go-round to Transylvania on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains to the shores of Victorian Whitby in England with stops in-between and back. It all translates into a set of constantly changing scenes throughout the play and a huge challenge for its director and company to improvise a seamless flow of events in a limited space. For JC Conway and Chris Skipper, the limited space was the stage of the James F. Dean Theatre.

I can convincingly state overall(despite some slower moving elements)the challenge was adequately executed on opening night with the assistance of stage manager, Nicole Wallace, and crew. The table that doubled for a ship's wheel and Dr. Seward's desk at the asylum and the five different entrance and exit points that gave Dracula mobility were a clever use of area and props, including the wooden crate center stage used for Dracula's coffin(a touch more detail in this prop would have elevated its realism).

The numerous rotating light cues will help you follow the scene changes as well as set the mood. The incorporation of the two cello players(Abby Maynard and Chris Anderson) located on each side of the stage added a sorrowful, soulful ambiance to the theaters atmosphere during transitions. The prerecorded dialogue was somewhat muffled at times, so you will need to pay attention more intently during those moments.

For a play of this nature to be successfully portrayed with a setting unfolding in the late 1800's and characters physically changing in appearance, realistic costumes and artful make-up are vital. Costume designer and whig maker, Diana Reeves and Mary Miller, did a superb job with the nearly 200 different pieces worn by the 25 cast members while Hana Ryll, Jean Gaston, and Eddie Hall provided the special effects make-up notably worn by Andrew Turnball as Renfield and Kate Berry, Megan Fife, and Michelle Smith as the seductive three brides of Dracula.

A well deserved applause goes out to the entire cast for making it all work with notable performances by Lindsey Marie as vivacious, young Lucy Westenra; Dracula's first love interest in England, Julie Hammond as the more reserved Mina Murray; engaged to Jonathan Harker and Dracula's second seduction, Zach Smith as the journal writing, often traumatized Jonathan Harker, Chris Miller as the eloquent and ambitious asylum administrator Dr. Seward, and Ian Bonner as the alluring, blood-thirsty and love-starved Dracula. Ion's standout moment was when he slowly rose from his lifeless slumber in the climactic encounter with Dr. Van Helsing(Fred Hutter) and company. Edwin Hall as Authur Holmwood owned the funniest moment with his improv during a costume mishap.

An outstanding performance was achieved by Andrew Turnbull, who was insanely masterful in his picture perfect portrayal of the carnivorous mad man, Renfield--by far the most complicated character in the play. An inmate at the lunatic asylum overseen by Dr. Seward and under the influence of Dracula, he spends his time consuming flies in the hope of obtaining their life-force for himself, which transitions into a scheme to feed the flies to spiders, to feed the spiders to birds, and finally feed the birds to a cat, which he was denied, so he consumed the birds himself. Andrew's body movements, facial expressions, make-up, and hair-do all blended nicely for a provocatively entertaining as well as psychotically whimsical depiction.

The Flowertown Players presentation of the iconic "Dracula" will keep your interest from the moment the lights darken to the encore. Congratulations to the cast and crew for another successful opening night. To purchase tickets for remaining performances running to November 9th, go to "Dracula" or call (843) 875-9251.