Sometimes the most interesting things in life start with one small pause…a quick observation. I will always thank SCE&G for bringing traffic to a complete standstill last week while they were trimming trees on Highway 17-S. Main Street.
If not for my car being completely immobile, I never would have have had time to roll down my windows and leisurely look around at the morning shadows falling across the highway from the overhanging tree branches.
…And I certainly wouldn’t have had time to suddenly notice a beautiful gate, which I had never seen before, with a house set back in the distance…and even take a picture! Little did I know that I was staring at some fascinating local history… just itching to tell its story! Life doesn’t get better than this…for a retired history teacher!
Through these beautiful gates lies the history of an amazing home….from its original construction in the 1830’s and 40’s (being named for its first owner/builder John Duke…the Duke House) to the Halcyon Inn during the Golden Inn period of Summerville history. The Golden Age of the Inns started in the 1890’s and began dying out after WWII when motels began springing up to accommodate more motorists traveling the new “super” highways.
Let’s start our story with the Halcyon Inn. First of all the term “Halcyon” doesn’t exactly just roll off the tongue without a second’s hesitation. One must remember his/her freshman Greek mythology course in college (or even perhaps in high school) to get to the root of this word. It is pronounced HAL-see-un. It denotes a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
The phrase “halcyon days” owes its origin to a beautiful Greek myth about the goddess Halcyon and her mortal lover, King Ceyx. (Their love story is complicated to say the least…so if you have time to look it up…you will attest to that assertion.)
According to the legend, for two weeks every January, Aeolus, father of Halcyon, calms the winds and waves so that his daughter Halcyon, the goddess disguised in the form of a kingfisher bird, can safely make her nest on the beach and lay her eggs. Hence, the term “halcyon days” has come to signify a period of great peace and calm.
Since these weeks of peaceful, calm weather appear around the winter solstice…even into February…the Halcyon Inn once attracted northern residents/tourists, tired of winter weather, to come south for repose and tranquility…and stay at the inn named for peace and prosperity.
In 1909 an old plat showed the Halcyon Inn had eight acres with a famous octagon-shaped gazebo, servant quarters, and other outside buildings that were later turned into guest cottages. It was quite a spread and was known for its outstanding cuisine…with the head of the kitchen staff having once run the Tea Room at the Middleton Place.
As the old inn died out in the 1950’s…it became a personal residence again for the Dion family and relatives of the family… including the Richardson family. (* I couldn’t get a time-line on all the Summerville families who have lived there in the past…if anyone knows of other families who once resided there…do let me know.)
I couldn’t help but wonder who might be living there at present…it is so beautiful when one drives by…I found myself yesterday pondering all the wonderful stories that surely have taken place in that lovely home over the many generations it has stood. The fence surrounding the home feels like a benevolent guardian to the privacy and safeguarding of its residents.
Then yesterday morning…I had a message from Lassie concerning the current residents and a whole new amazing story came to life. Lassie wrote:
“Becky, I think that gate is the Halcyon property. Last I heard Brett Gardner of Yankees fame lives there with his family in the off-season. Someone correct me if I am wrong.”
Wow! I immediately looked up Brett Gardner and was blown away by his biography on-line. What an amazing young man with enough perseverance to match all of us living in Summerville collectively, besides being an incredibly gifted professional baseball player! *And he is a “local” boy…having grown up and played ball in and around Holly Hill, South Carolina.
His father, Jerry Gardner, played in the minors for the Phillies. He owns a 2,600-acre farm in Holly Hill. Brett was raised there, in his childhood, on this family farm.
The article, I read, had this to say about him professionally…
Player Profile: Gardner is considered one of the fastest players in Major League Baseball. He is best known for stealing bases and being very disciplined at the plate. He makes contact with 93% of his swings, third best in the American League. In 2010, Gardner saw more pitches per at-bat than any other player in the American League.
*The article concluded by saying that Gardner lives in Summerville, South Carolina with his wife and two sons during the off-season.
So until tomorrow…Isn’t life astonishing when we take a moment to pause and look around us? Personally, I will never drive past these gates again without remembering some of the stories from my research and hoping/praying that the present-day family and whoever else in the future, resides there , will find the peace and tranquility associated with its name (Halcyon.)
I can only imagine, with the stress of playing a professional sport…that tranquility is what the Gardner family seeks upon their return each year in off-season.
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
*** A special thank you to two of my favorite Summerville Sleuths who helped me with the information I needed to be able to find and research this article. Honey Burrell and Lassie Murray! Good work ” Legally Pink” detectives…you deserve a promotion….how about ice cream the next time Honey, that you are in Summerville…the three amigos!