Historic Savannah

Four hours and twelve minutes from Fayetteville is the historic city of Savannah. Founded February 12, 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, who designed the now famous ward system of streets and parks, the city was originally created as a buffer colony to protect South Carolina from Spanish occupied Florida. During the American Revolution the city was occupied by the British until the Americans won the war, and Eli Whitney…famous for inventing the cotton gin, lived and worked in Savannah as a tutor on the Mulberry Grove Plantation. In January of 1861, after 13 of the Southern colonies rejected ties to the Union over State’s rights and the issue of slavery, Georgia became the fifth state to secede from the Union.

Today downtown Savannah is a thriving marketplace rich in history and culture.  The River Walk is part is the jewel of their historic district. Many of the buildings date back as far as 1817 when Savannah was the leading Atlantic cotton seaport. The Cotton Exchange, built in 1887, and the row of red brick buildings soon became known as “Factor’s Row’ or ‘Factor’s walk’ after the cotton factors (brokers) who traded cotton along the river banks.

Today the entire district is thriving with hotels, restaurants and retail shops for the history enthusiast. While the cotton ships are long gone, the river bank is now a docking station for colorful paddle boats and historic sail boats. Just south of the River Walk are 22 of the original 24 squares designed by Oglethorpe…9 of these squares are fabulous parks with amazing statues and their own historical points…like the park bench Forrest Gump sat on to tell his amazing story. At the corners of Abercorn Street and Oglethorpe Street is the Colonial Park Cemetery or ‘The Old Cemetery’.

Established in 1750, it’s been estimated more than 9000 people are buried here, including many of the 700 people who died in the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1829. During the Civil War Union soldiers stabled their horses in the cemetery and desiccated many of the graves…looting them for valuables and altering dates and names. Most of those grave markers are now attached to the eastern wall.

Five miles south of the River Walk is the Bonaventure Cemetery made famous in John Berendt’s best-selling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The Bird Girl, statue made famous by the book cover, was sculpted by Sylvia Shaw Judson in 1936.  A family in Savannah purchased on of the four bronze castings, named it ‘Little Wendy’ and placed it in their family plot in Bonaventure.  Now it’s on loan to the Telfair Museum and can be seen at the Jepson Center for the Arts.

French for ‘good fortune’ Bonaventure was established as a formal cemetery in 1847 by Peter Wiltberger and is the final resting place for some of Savannah’s most notable figures:  Conrad Aiken – poet and 1929 Pulitzer Prize winner, Johnny Mercer – a singer and songwriter who penned hits like ‘Jeepers Creepers’ and ‘Hooray for Hollywood’, many of Savannah’s founding members, and veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.  The grounds are breathtaking and the grave markers are some of the most interesting and often reflect the life’s work of the deceased.  Noted artist John Waltz sculpted dozens of statutes used throughout the cemetery and the grounds are sprinkled with a liberal dose of live-oaks and Spanish moss.

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Granny and Her Chickens

Granny had a chick coop.  Behind the weathered door and rusty hinges were the greatest wonders and eight-year-old could ever behold.  Inside, the air hung heavy with two mingling scents, the acrid ammonia of chicken poop and sweet musky corn feed.  The feed was dried corn kernels chopped into tiny slivers.  I was weirdly obsessed and ran my fingers through it as we marched from the barn to the coop each morning.  Years earlier momma’s first cousin twice removed, Marvin, fell into a rock grinder while he was working in the coal mines.  I knew the rock grinder and the corn grinder were wildly different, but every time I looked at the neatly shredded corn…I thought of Cousin Marvin.

Granny’s chicken coop

Inside, the coop walls were lined with rows of matching boxes for the hens to lay in.  The patinaed wood was a silky-smooth grey outside, and a chaotic poof of straw inside.  The hens…were the bane of my existence.  The eggs beckoned to me and I watched Granny slide her hand under each feathered bottom and scoop up a perfect brown egg.  But as I approached the nesting boxes the hens…leaned.  They watched me with a practiced side-eye as they leaned slightly away from me, as if to say ‘we don’t trust you’.  My little eight-year-old psyche was fragile enough, now a flock of unruly hens were implying that I was somehow sketchy.  I wasn’t the one sporting a sharp beak with which I could peck…say a small girl…to death!

Granny and mom sitting on the front porch (c.1975)

More often than not, I left the coop with a bruised ego…and eggless.  But feeding the chickens was really my forte anyway.  Chicken feed went into anything Granny had laying around…and nothing ever went into the trash.  Empty coffee cans, old sauce pans, well-made pie tins all got a second life as a chicken feed scoop or holder.  So early mornings usually found me carrying a pan full of chicken feed trying not to trip over rocks before I’d spread feed around for the hens.

Officially, there was no ‘right way’ of feeding the chickens.  If the feed was anywhere they could get to it, and they went everywhere, they were happy.  But I had a carefully developed system based on days of careful observation.  The chickens walked bent with their heads to the ground constantly searching for anything edible.  When they found something, or thought they found something, their pace doubled which alerted the other chickens who all came running.  So instead of haphazardly tossing feed about, I laid it in a large spaced “X” pattern.

In my mind this gave an advantage to the smaller or dumber chickens who weren’t as fast or as good at finding lunch.  If a chicken sped up and started to eat and other chickens saw this and flocked (pun intended) to her, they too could graze at carefully spaced intervals…each one sufficiently far enough from the first so as to avoid irritating anyone but still close enough that as they were run off from the initial feeding spot there was no chance they wouldn’t stumble onto a spot of their own.

Darwin may have coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ as part of some trumped up evolutionary theory, but I like to think I invented the first special ed. program for chickens and invented the concept of accommodations.

 

Atalaya Castle

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if you stick around long enough you’ll notice a theme to our adventures….they almost always involve the residence of some rich person who died mid-century.  We don’t plan this.  We don’t literally scour the internet for abandoned/neglected homes of the rich and famously dead.  It just kind of works out that way.  My mom actually suggested we visit Atalaya when we told her we were going to Myrtle Beach for the weekend.  She and my dad lived in MB when they were first married…and I was born there!

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To be fair…while Atalaya was built and owned by the very wealthy Archer Huntington…it’s not opulent in any way.  In 1927 Anna Huntington, his wife and a famous sculptor, contracted tuberculosis and Arthur purchased four adjacent rice plantations near Myrtle Beach to build a winter home for her.  Arthur was a brilliant industrialists by day and a scholar of Spanish culture by night.  Atalaya (AH-tuh-lie-yuh) means “watchtower” in Arabic, and is designed to resemble  the real Atalaya Castle in Spain.

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“The house is dominated by a square tower, which housed a 3,000 gallon water tank.  Rising nearly 40 feet  from a covered walkway, it bisects Atalaya’s inner court…..The living quarters consist of 30 rooms around three sides of the perimeter, while the studio, with its 25-foot  skylight, opens onto a small, enclosed courtyard where Anna Hyatt Huntington worked on her sculptures. Pens for animal models, including horses, dogs and bears, are situated adjacent to the open studio. The building also features hand-wrought iron grills designed by Mrs. Huntington, which cover the exteriors of windows. These and shutters were installed for protection against hurricane winds”

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The entire structure is made of stone and there’s a fireplace in nearly every room because the house was situated just a hundred feet or so from the water’s edge.  Winter winds whipping inland from the Atlantic had to be unbearably cold.  It was relatively warm when we were there and I still couldn’t help but think how cold the house felt.  Imagine stepping onto the icy stone floors in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom!!!

 

 

 

 

The New Duchess of Devonshire

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This is the Duchess of Devonshire.  The Honourable Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford was born on 31 March 1920, the sixth daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdale.  She died September 24, 2014.

Read more about her here…

My old lady goal…is pretty much to rock everything like she did.  Every chore…even feeding chickens..is more glamorous with a ball gown and tiara.

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Which brings me to my point…I’m addicted to dishes.  I’m the Frank Navasky of the porcelain world.  I love our house…it’s not a centuries old castle in the heart of England…but you can’t win them all.  And even though we’ve been in the house 6 years I’m still slowly buying things and decorating.    I finished an upstairs bathroom in June and now I’m focusing on the kitchen…and I’m trying to channel my inner Duchess as I decorate it…

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I’ve been collecting dishes for years….I started buying them at thrift stores and yard sales, TJ Maxx and department stores.  I have full sets of some and no more than 1-2 pieces of others.  But I love them all…and I really love to mis-match them!

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Source:

The bottom piece is a charger from Michael’s.  I painted them blue

The square plates are from TJ Maxx last week

The scalloped baby blue saucers are from a charity shop in Oklahoma

The gingham, both polka dot dishes and the whales are from the Christmas Tree Shop

and the Transfer ware is from a local thrift shop

I’m slowly working on new colors for the different holidays.  It’s a process

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