For our “Pecans roasting instead of chestnuts, eggnog spiked with bourbon, and choirs singing spirituals at Drayton Hall plantation…” Travel + Leisure Magazine named Charleston the #2 Best Place to Spend Christmas. The best hotel in Charleston for festive cheer? According to travel writer Shane Mitchell, that would be us!
She writes, “The 21-room Wentworth Mansion dresses in subdued Victorian finery for the holidays with magnolia wreaths, old-world Santas, and two grand Christmas trees in the foyer. Every room has its own fireplace. On your pillow at turndown: chocolate truffles.”
In light of our recent honor, we thought we’d share the story behind one of our most talked about holiday decorations: our magnolia wreaths.
If you’ve been to the Wentworth Mansion, you’ve “met” our beloved magnolia tree. This tall beauty shoots through the center of our lawn, providing a fragrant floral smell with white blossoms in the spring, much-needed shade in the summer, and a beautiful site for the winter: shiny green leaves with a deep brown underbelly. It’s hard to say when the tree is at its finest, but as the holidays approach, we always incorporate the tree into our festive Southern holiday décor.
Our 21-room luxury inn was constructed in 1886 as a home for the Rodgers family and their 13 children. Imagine the fun those kids had in their enormous home in anticipation of Christmas- trimming the tree, hanging stockings, singing carols… We carry on many of the Rodgers family traditions at the Mansion, taking no exception to holiday decorating.
Leading the way to our front door are glimmering white lights and pine swag, twisting through the home’s original wrought iron banisters. Inside the inn, two towering Christmas trees are impeccably decorated. Crisp cream poinsettias are tucked into nearly every corner of the inn’s common spaces. Hanging on our back door, just below our Tiffany stained glass windows are those popular wreaths of magnolia leaves. Pine trees are hard to come by in coastal cities like Charleston, so we take the notion of “traditional” Christmas wreaths and turn it on its head. Charlestonians instead create something very special out of something very plentiful: wreaths of magnolia leaves.
This year, our Innkeeper Noreen hand selected our wreath during her typical drive to work. She spotted the outdoor storefront of the father-daughter duo, Jerry and Terry Washington. The Mount Pleasant family sets up shop downtown, on one of the “Four Corners of the Law.” Their wares, displayed beautifully against the old post office on the corner of Broad and Meeting Street. The Christmas wreaths add an eye-catching pop of color against the Washington’s year-round crafts of sweetgrass baskets and roses.
Daughter Terry Washington greets her customers with a warm smile, mirroring the mild December days of which her holiday creations are for sale. She explained to me the wreath-making process from start to finish. Her father Jerry creates them, and she sells them. They’re a perfect team. The Washingtons’ wreaths are carefully made by hand, stitched together with natural lowcountry elements of Spanish moss and those deep green and rusty brown leaves. The wreath’s frame is made with twisted sticks and vines, bound in twine and wire. Terry made it all sound easy but I wouldn’t dare attempt myself. We’ll leave it to experts like the Washingtons who so perfectly create these charming wreaths, year after year.