The Historic Charleston Foundation offers a tantalizing look at some of America's finest architecture, interiors and gardens with its 63rd annual FEstival of Houses and Gardens, from March 18 to April 17. This event is especially popular for the rare opportunity to tour Charleston's historic private homes, and the festival will feature dozens of locations in a variety of historic neighborhoods. Exquisite details in woodwork, iron, plaster, brick, and wall coverings dating from the 18th and 19 th centuries will offer fabulous backdrops to mansions brimming with crystal chandeliers, 12-foot ceilings, marble mantels, cypress paneling, and parquet floors. One of the most interesting ingterior styles is the "side-hall" house popular among wealthy Charlestonians in the 1840's and 50's, featuring massive arched doorways between ballrooms that can be opened to make the entire floor en suite.
The formal gardens have long been a major attraction for visitors to Charleston, and with the guidance of foundation docents, people can learn about the varieties of blooming species and their origins. People may be surprised to find out, for example, that our famed camellias, azaleas, and even our Confederate Jasmine come from Asia. Expert gardeners came to Charleston from England and France during the city's historic heyday to plan formal gardens for the enjoyment of downtown residents, and that enjoyment is available for the price of a tour ticket today.