A Day at the Renaissance Festival

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My mister and I took a trip to the Carolina Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace in Huntersville, North Carolina this past weekend.  We had so much fun!  The theme of the weekend was time travel and the costumes were great!  There were rides, delicious food, shows, shops, and people dressed in amazing costume.

Ready for photo overload?  Here we go!
 

 






Blacksmith Demonstration.
 Falconry Demonstrations



DeLorean Time Machine Replica from Back to the Future.

We attend one of the jousting events:  A Tournament of Champions



Also, we toured the Museum of Torture.

 The Iron Boot.
 Hanging in Irons.

 The Head Crusher.
 The Brank.
Again, we had a great time.  This was the 25th year that the Carolina Renaissance Festival was held in Huntersville, NC.  The festival is held on weekends towards the end of September through mid-November.  Make this a must when looking for things to do next year, oh and don't forget to order pickle fries (so good!).

Happy Travels,
Amber

Kensington Mansion

Sunday, November 4, 2018

This past summer, I ventured to Eastover, South Carolina for a tour of Kensington Mansion.  Kensington Mansion has been closed to the public for a while but opened (to the public) for a one day only tour of the mansion (it is my understanding that another one day only tour was held in September as well).  The event was put on by International Paper (owner of the property) and Historic Columbia.  My mom was in town for the weekend so we decided to make it a Mother/Daughter Day which began with a 9:00 am tour of Kensington.  Have you every been to Eastover/Hopkins/Lower Richland?  Talk about an area jammed packed FULL of history.  This area is a gem!

We arrived a little early (what can I say I was excited) for the tour which met at Eastover Park and checked in. 

We then took our seats on the motor coach that would be taking us to Kensington (a hop, skip, and a jump to Kensington).  When we arrived at Kensington the drive way was interesting because it was circular instead of straight...I may be the only one that thought it was interesting but the 'norm' would be as you're driving (can we pretend its the 1800s and we're riding in a carriage, please?) up the drive way, once you clear the beautiful old oaks ta-da, there's the grand house and everyone gasped at the beauty (are you currently hearing the them music from Gone with the Wind?).  Well, like I said, this drive way is circular which meant once we cleared the trees we took a turn getting to not only see the beautiful house but also the landscape. 


We got off the bus right in front of the house (talk about curb side service) at which time we were ushered under a huge white tent for a quick 'how the tour goes' talk, bottled water, and Cromer's popcorn (have you had Cromer's popcorn, geez louise is that stuff addictive, I mean good...good addictive...anyway).  Our large group was separated into 3 groups and off we went for our tour.  The tour we were on started outside learning about the architecture of the mansion and the layout of the grounds (including outbuildings).


Our tour then made it's way inside to the first level of the house (think ground level basement).  The basement would have possibly housed a warming kitchen, dining area, and store rooms.
 45 feet cistern.  The cistern was used to collect/store rainwater.



The final piece of our tour took us up the sandstone steps (painted to look marble), through a huge mahogany front door into the grandness that is Kensington Mansion.






Kensington Mansion was built in 1854 by Matthew R. Singleton, the son of Col. Richard Singleton.  The property consisted of 6,600 acres and 465 slaves.  The mansion is 12,000 square feet and 29 rooms.  The Singleton family were very well known in the Columbia/Midlands area as they were one of the wealthiest families in the state.  At one time they owned an estimated 19 plantations (totaling around 30,000+ acres).  Matthew R. Singleton passed away in 1854 leaving his wife, Mattie, the sole heir to the his estate.  She was to hold on to Kensington, overseeing its daily operations, until 1887.  The house changed hands a few times over the years when in 1941 it was purchased by the US Government.  The house was basically abandoned for the next 40 years.  I can only imagine the damage that was done to the mansion out of sheer neglect for that period of time.  The home was then purchased by the Lanham family who due to the terrible condition that Kensington was in, decided not to live in the mansion.  At this time, the mansion became a type of warehouse/barn area as grain, farm equipment, and other farming items were stored in the mansion.  In 1971 the mansion was listed on the National Register for Historical Places and was then purchased by Union Camp Corporation (now International Paper Company) in 1981.  Union Camp restored the mansion to its originally state and opened it for public tours for the next 30+ years.  However, in 2014/2015 the mansion was closed due to repairs that needed to be completed.  The mansion was closed to the public and all of the furniture was removed from the house.  International Paper Company has had the needed repairs completed and we were all very grateful to be able to visit the mansion and see the beautiful work that had been done to restore this wonderful piece of history back to its originally 1854 grandeur.  Thank you to International Paper Company, Dixon Construction, Historic Columbia, and many others who helped in restoring this property.

Fun Fact:  Wade Hampton III honeymooned with his wife Mary Singleton McDuffie at Kensington Mansion.

Reading Recommendations: 
Kensington by David Gottfred
Sketches of Planters, Plantations, and Living Along the Grgeat Road Saint Mark's Parish 1700-2000 by Charles Broadwell
The Singleton Family of Sumter County by Charles Broadwell

Happy Travels,
Amber

The Mary Todd Lincoln House

Sunday, October 28, 2018

One of my Christmas presents last year was a biography on Mary Todd Lincoln.  I knew about Abraham Lincoln but my knowledge of Mary Todd was limited.  After reading the biography, I knew I wanted to visit a place where she had lived which is how we arrived at the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, KY.

The Mary Todd Lincoln House was built between 1803 and 1806.  Mary Todd (that's what I call her) born in 1818 was the daughter of Robert Smith Todd and Elizabeth (Eliza) Parker.  Her mother passed away died in 1825 after the birth of her 6th child.  Mr. Todd married Elizabeth (Betsy) Humphreys in 1826.  The Todd's moved to what is now known as the Mary Todd Lincoln House in 1832 and remained there until the mid 1840s when Robert Todd died of cholera (there was a cholera epidemic in July of 1849).
Front(ish) of the house.  (The house sits very close to a busy road so crossing the street wasn't a safe idea)
 Back of the house.
Ready for a house tour?!?!

 Family Parlor.  The table is original to the Todd family.

 Back Parlor.  Did I mention that Henry Clay ("the Great Compromiser") would have been a guest in this house.  Ever since I was a little girl I have always gotten the chills when I'm standing somewhere a historical figure has stood.

 Todd family chairs.
 Todd family members in their Confederate uniforms.



 The Dining Room.  The silver candelabras are original to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.  They used them during their time in the White House.  (I seriously got the chills when our tour guide told us about the candelabras...can you imagine all the people coming in and out of the White House that saw these candelabras...chills!)
 Mary Todd's China, including a piece from her White House China (the piece with the purple rim and eagle in the middle).
 A portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln (1864).  She loved to wear flowers in her hair which caused a lot of teasing (to put it lightly) from some of the Washington socialites (yep, I'm talking about you Kate Chase (to say that she and Mary Todd didn't get along is an understatement)).

 The Master Bedroom.

 My favorite piece of furniture in the entire house!
Mary Todd Lincoln's perfume bottles.  These bottles are so beautiful!
 The top shelf includes photos, Mary Todd's chocolate pot, and a mourning badge worn when Mary Todd passed away in 1882.  The bottom shelf is Mary Todd's mourning attire that she wore after the assassination of President Lincoln.
When Mary Todd married Abraham Lincoln, they visited this house and stayed for a couple of weeks (1847).  After the Todd's, the house became several different things from a boarding house to a brothel.  The brothel was run by Belle Brezing.  Belle Brezing was the 'lady' who inspired the character of Belle Watling in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind.  After the brothel, the house became a warehouse.  It fell into disrepair and the city wanted to demolish it.  However, Beula C. Nunn stepped in and was able to raise the funds to save the house and have it restored to it's early 1800s time period.  The house has been opened for tours since the late 1970s/early 1980s, and they do a beautiful job of telling the story of the family, house, and area.  The tour covered the main floor and the upstairs.  The gift shop (warming kitchen), which has your normal gift shop items like magnets, coffee mugs, books, and postcards also had the unusual items like an Abraham Lincoln beard and top hat, Abraham Lincoln socks, President and Mrs. Lincoln salt and pepper shakers (these went home with us), an even an Lincoln top hot espresso cup!  We exited the gift shop on the back porch area then took a stroll through the beautiful gardens.  If you find yourself in Lexington, your number 1 thing to do should be to visit the Mary Todd Lincoln House, you won't be disappointed!

After leaving the house, we went to Calvary Cemetery to visit Belle Brezing's grave.  I thought it was fitting seeing as we had just visited a place where she 'lived' and I love Gone with the Wind.

Reading recommendation:
Mary Todd Lincoln:  Mrs Lincoln: A Life by Catherine Clinton
Kate Chase Sprague:  American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprage--Civil War "Belle of the North" and Gilded Age by John Oller
Belle Brezing:  Madam Belle: Sex, Money, and Influence in a Southern Brothel

Happy Travels (& reading),
Amber