In Charleston, S.C., a city named after a British king, history seeps out of the bricks. Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began; 300-year-old plantations; the section of Church Street that inspired Catfish Row in Porgy and Bess; the Old Slave Mart; the dungeon where American patriots were imprisoned during the Revolutionary War; the port that three centuries ago was blockaded by pirates commanded by Blackbeard.
When my friend Susan invited four friends to Charleston to celebrate her 50th birthday, the highlight of the weekend was the Historic Charleston Foundation's home and garden tour. Each night about 10 houses were open to visitors -- mostly two- and three-story townhouses that dated to the 18th or 19th century, most still occupied.
For me, a gardener frustrated by the struggle to grow cooler-climate flowers in sub-tropical Miami, the pleasure was in the narrow gardens and courtyards. I drank in the snapdragons, sweet William, plumbago, lilies, foxglove, fountains, statuary, and an elaborate chandelier lit with tiny votives hanging from a backyard tree.
Inside the homes, we admired gilded wood chandeliers, crown moulding, wainscoting, marble mantels and a hundred other historic details. 'When I do this, I say `What ideas can I take and do in my own home?' '' a guide in one of the houses told us. She pointed to heavy tassels tied to the backs of dining-room chairs. ``Look at those tassels. I can do that.''
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I looked at Susan, a natural-born decorator with an eye for the unusual but elegant detail, and saw that she too had found inspiration in this city of history.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.