Footprints   | The Ponds Conservancy


Summerville Community Embraces Its History

by JG Walker

The Ponds Summerville SCThousands of years ago, in a region now known as The Lowcountry of South Carolina, Native Americans discovered a paradise. The abundant woodlands offered easy hunting, the sparkling ponds teemed with fish, and the moist, sandy soil was ideal for growing Indian corn and the vines of squash and beans that spiral up its stalks.

Europeans exploring the nearby coastline in the 1600s sheltered from the sea along the banks of a gently flowing river. Englishmen in 1670 established a settlement there, called Charles Towne for their monarch, on the river named for fellow nobleman Lord Ashley. A decade later, the town was moved downstream to a strategic peninsula, and the rest is Charleston history.

Other settlers went upstream to the Ashley River’s headwaters, a network of large freshwater pools amid vast wetlands dubbed the Great Cypress Swamp. In 1682, the Lord Proprietors—without consulting the longtime residents—granted to another royal friend the surrounding 2,000-acre tract already known by the name of “The Ponds.”

Red and white people initially lived there together, and a trading post was established, which was later fortified when cooling relations resulted in the Yamassee War of 1715. Then, the land was found to be perfect for rice cultivation, which was accomplished with the know-how of enslaved West Africans, whose forebears had farmed it for centuries at home. When Eliza Pinckney discovered how to profitably grow indigo in Lowcountry conditions, that valuable blue-dye-producing plant was added to the agricultural mix, along with other imports like sweet potatoes and cotton.

For most of the 1800s, the Schulz family tilled the soil and raised livestock, building themselves a new two-story central home around 1850. After a generation of ownership by the Lotz family, James Simmons acquired title to the land in 1911. Farming continued for a time, supplemented by timber harvesting and sand mining, plus hunting and fishing forays with neighbors in the countryside that everyone called “the Ponds.”

By the 21st century, however, booming Charleston was expanding its urban reach with new bedroom communities in nearby Summerville. For some historic properties, the tide was overwhelming, but the Simmons family chose their buyer wisely: all 2,000 acres were purchased in 2005 by Greenwood Development Corporation, a South Carolina builder of golf resorts and residential communities. To their credit, the company decided to set aside more than half of its acquisition as a permanent nature preserve to plan for homes and amenities on land previously farmed and timbered and to respect the site’s heritage with a long-familiar name for the new community: The Ponds.

Footprints The Ponds

Greenwood then donated an entranceway parcel for a county fire/EMS/sheriff’s department substation and another for a new Summerville YMCA, along with substantial start-up funding. The company also retained Brockington and Associates, an Atlanta-based cultural resources consulting firm with Charleston-area offices, to intensively survey the property.

“With the wetlands already protected,” says Brockington historian Charlie Philips, “our primary work at The Ponds has been to ensure compliance with historic preservation regulations. We’ve identified 10 Native American sites there and recovered numerous artifacts from that time, and the Colonial and antebellum eras as well. Remnants of the old rice fields have been preserved, too.

“The most significant surviving structure was the house originally built by the Schulz family in the 1850s,” Philips says. “It had fallen into substantial disrepair—it had last been used as a hunting lodge—so Greenwood spent about $1 million to make it their new community center, moving it to a better location with a new foundation, rehabbing the bricks and boards, and even retaining the original rope-pulley windows. It’s called ‘adaptive reuse,’ and they did a great job.”

Formally known as the Schulz-Lotz Farmhouse, The Ponds’ residents today enjoy The Farmhouse as their hub of social activity, with spacious meeting rooms, homeowners association, offices, and museum-style displays about the property’s history that include artifacts recovered on-site. In 2008, The Ponds Conservancy was established as a non-profit organization, not only to maintain The Farmhouse and the 1,000+ acres of nature preserve, but also to build community spirit within The Ponds and in the Summerville area by sponsoring educational-enrichment and outreach programs.

McLendon Hills Banner

Therese Munroe was among the development’s first employees and is now a resident herself. “The Ponds Conservancy was modeled on a similar Greenwood program for The Reserve at Lake Keowee,” she says. “We have over 20 miles of community walking trails with paths in the preserve where people can enjoy a genuinely natural experience every day. We also have many songbirds, turkeys, storks, herons, deer, and other wildlife on the property—including even three bald eagle nests. And, with the waterways throughout and over 30 species of fish in Schultz Lake [largest of the original ponds], kayaking and fishing are among our most popular resident activities.”

National developer Kolter Homes bought The Ponds in 2013 to add the active-adult Cresswind Charleston community to the site, but any apprehension about changes by the new owner was quickly dispelled. “The Kolter folks really liked what we had done with the Conservancy and even wanted to expand its mission,” says Munroe, now Executive Assistant to Project Director Jeff Vandewiel. “One early test was an area designated for new homes that turned out to be a significant archeological site. So, Kolter changed their plans to protect the site, and now it’s a neighborhood park.”

Such good work did not go unnoticed by The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, which honored The Ponds Conservancy with its prestigious 2015 Stewardship Award for the restoration of The Farmhouse and preservation of the surrounding grounds. Equally important are the organization’s educational programs that include monthly lectures by historians from Brockington and local museums, as well as Schulz, Lotz, and Simmons family members who still live in the region. The Conservancy also hosts guided nature walks through the wildlife refuge and former rice fields, music concerts and movie nights at the outdoor amphitheater, arts-and-crafts workshops and fairs, and annual charity fundraisers like a 5K race and a Miracle League BBQ competition, plus youth events like a fishing rodeo and a triathlon co-sponsored with the YMCA. All of the activities are designed to include Ponds and Cresswind residents, as well as other neighbors from the greater Summerville area.

“The Ponds Conservancy is an outstanding showcase for what can be done,” says Philips, “when you combine good development strategy, historic preservation, environmental conservation, and community involvement.”

“It all just makes you proud to live here,” Munroe concludes.

At least three bald eagle families seem to think so, too.


Finding Happiness in Retirement

Editors Note Summer 2019

by Kelly Godbey

I remind myself every day just how wonderful and valuable life is. Consistently, I tell people, “Life is good, even when it isn’t.” For me, 2019 has been full of challenges, but I still find joy and happiness in my favorite things, like spending time with family and friends and vacationing to exciting places, or by helping others. I love going to the beach, breathing in the salt air, and watching the sunrise or sunset while hearing the continual roll of waves.

What is the key to happiness? Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, said in a 2015 Ted Talk, “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.” Over 27 million people have watched this Ted Talk for keys to happiness. For almost 80 years (the longest running study on happiness), Harvard studied 724 men throughout their lives to determine what made them happy and healthy. They chose the men from two groups, all roughly the same ages; one group was comprised of Harvard sophomores, and the other group came from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston. They found that some of the poorest men were among the happiest, and some of the more wealthy were not. While I do find this study to be fundamentally flawed due to lack of women (wives were added in the last decade), I do agree with the conclusion that good relationships keep us happier.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the happiness factor has been declining. The 2019 World Happiness Report shows the United States is now the 19th happiest country in the world, down from 12th happiest is 2015 based on GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support, freedom to make choices, generosity of people around you, and perceived corruption levels. The U.S. life expectancy has also declined for three straight years. The top five happiest countries in the world are 1) Finland, 2) Denmark, 3) Norway, 4) Iceland, and 5) the Netherlands. We are often encouraged to “lean in,” work more, and be more productive; however, the people who fare the best actually “lean in” to relationships as good relationships keep us happier and physically healthier. 

It’s never too late to start. My advice to live a healthier, happier life in retirement is to remove the conflict from your life. Remove yourself from the traffic, congestion, and long hours commuting; your new life awaits in one of Ideal-LIVING’s 2019 Best of the Best Planned Communities. Each year, we choose planned developments that create an environment to live your ideal life through rich social interactions and healthy lifestyles. Remove yourself from high tax areas, and find your ideal destination in tax-friendly states that also have great weather. We want to help you to spread joy and happiness in the world by finding that new lifestyle that allows you to explore new adventures and make new, lasting relationships.

State of the State – Colorado

State of the State – Colorado

Crystal mill near Marble Colorado

“The Centennial State” joined the Union during the nation’s 100th-anniversary year of 1876.

According to a 2014 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Coloradans have a life expectancy of 80.2 years, the longest of any state.

The Coors Brewing Company operates the world’s largest single-site brewery in Golden, Colorado.

North America’s tallest sand dune rises more than 700 feet above the valley floor in the Great Sand Dunes National Monument near Alamosa.

Colorado has no inheritance or estate taxes.

The federal government owns nearly 25 million acres in Colorado, about 37% of the entire state, including the U.S. Air Force Academy and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), as well as four National Parks, 11 National Forests, and 42 National Wilderness Areas.


The town of Deer Trail hosted the world’s first rodeo on July 4, 1869.


Well-known Colorado natives include actors Tim Allen, Lon Cheney, and Douglas Fairbanks; astronauts Scott Carpenter and Jack Swigert; Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser; boxer Jack Dempsey; MLB pitchers Goose Gossage and Roy Halladay; writer Ken Kesey; Supreme Court justices Byron White and Neal Gorsuch; and South Park creator Trey Parker.


Gold & Ghost Towns

The discovery of gold outside of Colorado Springs in 1859 set off the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. The world’s largest silver nugget weighing 1,840 pounds was unearthed near Aspen in 1894. Today, the state has more than 640 ghost towns.


Colorado’s average elevation of 6,800 feet above sea level is the highest of any state and contains 75% of the land area of the U.S. with an altitude of over 10,000 feet.

Graystone Realty at Fox Acres Country Club

Graystone Realty at Fox Acres Country Club

Just an hour away from Fort Collins, enjoy all the breathtaking amenities Colorado has to offer. Enjoy this beautiful resort mountain community. Read More...

Glacier Club | Colorado Gated Communities

Glacier Club | Colorado Gated Communities

Glacier Club is a very special place. Situated in the majestic San Juan Mountains just outside the historic and colorful town of Durango, CO, your private golf community is a home away from home... Read More...

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On the Move   | Viridian

On the Move   | Viridian

On the Move – In Your Element at Viridian, TX

by Kim Henry

Elements at Viridian

Approaching retirement often means a move is on the horizon. Many want to be closer to the grandkids, enjoy easy access to a range of amenities, or soak up year-round sunshine. For Melton and Linda Graham, it was a desire to downsize from their lifelong family home that prompted them to start the search for a new location. Luckily for them, they didn’t have to look for very long before they found their ideal spot.

Viridian, close to Arlington, TX, had everything they were looking for and even a few things they didn’t know they wanted! “I wasn’t completely sure about going to live in a 55+ community,” explains Linda, “but the minute I went to Viridian, I thought to myself, ‘this is going to be perfect.’”

The master-planned community is in the process of completing its new 141-acre 55+ development, Elements. With the stunning natural beauty of the Viridian community as its backdrop, Elements offers a variety of homes designed by some of the areas finest builders, David Weekley Homes, Drees Custom Homes, and Lennar Homes.

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Needing to downsize and find their forever home, the Grahams are now looking forward to the completion of their single level 2,500 square foot home. “It’s stylish and comfortable with a few age-in-place features to accommodate our time of life, such as wide doorways and extra spacious showers,” smiles Linda.

With a host of luxury amenities available, including a ‘pool that I don’t have to clean,’ Linda can’t wait to kick back and enjoy the good life without having to be responsible for endless repairs and maintenance. This ease and peace of mind create lots more time and energy for the Meltons to be able to visit nearby family, make the most of Viridian’s inspiring workshops, and relish the peaceful scenery.

Elements at Viridian

Elements at Viridian

This 141-acre neighborhood, conveniently located in the heart of the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex in Arlington, will feature beautiful courtyard and single-family homes in a variety of lot sizes, with homes designed by some of the finest builders in the DFW area: David Weekley Homes, Drees Custom Homes, and Lennar Homes. Read More...

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The Good Life: A Summer Party

The Good Life: A Summer Party

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Bites and spirits to charm your new community

By Fanny Slater

the good life suffer party

Photo of a multi-generation family having dinner outdoors in their back yard







Gone are the days of dropping off a casserole to get a good peek at your new neighbors. Nothing brings strangers together like a nosh sesh—and I’ve got plenty of culinary tricks up my sleeve to charm your surrounding community. If you’ve just landed in a fresh neighborhood, throwing a laidback shindig featuring funky cocktails and munchable goodies is your ticket to mingle-town. Thanks to the majority of these drinks and dishes involving make-ahead components, you’ll be able to chat and chomp instead of being bound to the kitchen.

If you’re planning on more of a sit-down gathering, I’d suggest offering one of the cocktails below when your guests arrive, pairing each course with wine, and throwing in an easy dessert. For a more casual crowd, I’d tack on a charcuterie board, keep the full boozy lineup, and skip the pasta so the spread is made for picking.

Let’s take a walk through the menu.

Kailua Coconut

coconut kaleNothing says summer lovin’ like a cocktail in a coconut. All recipes are tailed to about a dozen, but if your headcount happens to grow—feel free to skip the tropical vehicle and go for highball glasses instead. The St-Germain gives the exotic libation a bright, fragrant hint of elderflower.

Though brown coconuts, pictured here, are pretty—opt for young coconuts instead. They’re easier to open, boast more water than brown ones, and are a deeper vessel (more alcohol—yay!). If brown coconuts are all you can find, use high-quality canned or bottled coconut water to make up for the difference in liquid. Never broken into a young coconut before? Take the heel of a large knife and, carefully, strike down several times on the top—making a circle that cracks through the shell. Wedge your knife into one of the deep slices, twist the blade, and peel back your newly-made coconut lid. 

To keep the beach theme going strong, pair these with the poke below.

Makes 1 cocktail

1 fresh young coconut
Several fresh torn mint leaves, plus more whole leaves for garnish
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. St-Germain
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
Ice cubes
Lime slices and cocktail umbrellas for garnish

Cut an opening into the top of the young coconut (as described above) and reserve the coconut water—straining if necessary, to get out any solid bits. 

In a cocktail shaker, combine the torn mint leaves, coconut water (about 1/4 cup per cocktail), agave, gin, St-Germain, lime juice, and pineapple juice with a handful of ice. Cover and shake vigorously until chilled and lightly frothy. Add crushed ice to the inside of the empty coconut and strain the contents of the shaker over top. Garnish with lime slices, a generous sprig of mint, and cocktail umbrellas.

Dirty Chai White Russian

Dirty ChaiInstead of switching on the coffee when the yawn monster surfaces, try whipping up this spiked, homemade dirty chai (technically made “filthy” by the addition of booze). Brew the sweetened tea and toss together the spice mix the day before, so when it’s game time—all you’ve got to do is shake, froth, and garnish

Makes 1 cocktail

1 tablespoon Chai tea leaves (or 1 Chai tea bag)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces vodka
1 tablespoon Kahlua
1 shot espresso
2 tablespoons frothed milk or half-and-half
Cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, for garnish
Quick Chai Spice Mix (recipe follows)

In a small saucepot over medium-low heat, simmer the Chai tea leaves, honey, and vanilla
with 2 tablespoons water. Steep for 10-15 minutes and then strain the mixture through a
fine meshed sieve.

In a cocktail shaker, mix the Chai-spiced simple syrup, vodka, Kahula, and espresso with ice
and shake vigorously. Fill a glass with ice and strain in the cocktail. Top with the frothed
milk and garnish with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and Quick Chai Spice Mix.

Quick Chai Spice Mix

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar


Blood Orange Dragon Pearl Punch

Summer punchPunch is a party-thrower’s best friend. While rattling around a cocktail shaker is an excellent form of entertainment, a vat of alcohol and a ladle provides just as much pleasure to the partygoers (and gives the host a brea

Instead of just emptying rum into a deep bowl—here’s the secret for taking this concoction to the next level. When guests ask why your punch has such a punch—get ready for the conversation-starter-of-the-evening when you answer with the words: oleo-saccharum. A complicated name for a wildly simple concept—oleo-saccharum is nothing but a homemade sweetener made from citrus peels and sugar. As the two dry ingredients interact in a plastic bag, the sugar extracts the citrus skin’s essential oils. The result? A super concentrated citrus simple syrup (blood orange, in this case) with extraordinary depth of flavor. The jasmine tea (prepared in advance along with the syrup) adds floral notes to the fruity rum bomb.

Serves 10 – 12

Blood orange oleo-saccharum (citrus oil simple syrup—see below)
1/2-liter silver rum (about 2 cups)
1/2-liter dark rum (about 2 cups)
3 cups jasmine green tea, chilled
1 1/2 cups fresh blood orange juice (about 4 oranges)
1 cup fresh lime juice
Blood orange and lime wheels for garnish

Using a vegetable peeler or a pairing knife, peel the skin from two blood oranges (avoiding the white bitter pith as much as possible). Place the peels in a large plastic bag with about 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Rub it together with your hands so that the peels are coasted in sugar, and then allow this to sit for several hours. Add warm water to the bag until the sugar begins to dissolve. Snip a hole in the corner of the bag and strain the syrup into a bowl. Keep some of the peels for garnish.

In a large punchbowl, mix together a few tablespoons of the oleo-saccharum with both rums, jasmine tea, blood orange juice, and lime juice. Taste for sweetness, and add additional oleo-saccharum if necessary. Chill before serving, and then add the blood orange and lime slices. To serve, pour over ice-filled glasses—garnishing with the citrus wheels and peels.

Ahi Poke Lettuce Wraps with Peanut-Ginger Sauce

Ahi Poke Bowl

As I mentioned earlier, skip the tuna casserole. 

Instead, platter up these ahi poke wraps for an interactive Hawaii-ish small plate that your new friends will be raving about for weeks. The marinated tuna—laced with salty soy, nutty sesame oil, and garlicky spring onions—gets loaded into tender lettuce cups and topped with fresh herbs and a zig-zag of creamy coconut-peanut sauce. Though ahi can be pricey, the cucumbers and avocadoes bulk up the poke, so you’re not buying entrée-size portions. For an additional zip, quick-pickle some julienned veggies like carrots and daikon radishes



Serves 10-12 as an appetizer

1 1/2 pounds sushi-grade ahi or yellowfin tuna, diced into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons Sriracha (or chili paste)
Juice of 2 limes (plus lime wedges for serving)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 avocados, diced
1 seedless cucumber, diced
Small bunch scallions or spring onions, light and green parts only finely sliced
2 – 3 heads butter or Bibb lettuce, rinsed and leaves separated
Small bunch fresh mint leaves, gently torn (for garnish)
Sesame seeds (for garnish)
Pickled Veggies (optional garnish)
Peanut-Ginger Sauce (recipe follows)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha, lime juice, and brown sugar. Add the tuna to the marinade along with the cucumber, avocado and scallions and gently toss. Allow mixture to marinate for 15 minutes.

Fill each lettuce cup with a small mound of the tuna mixture, and then garnish with the mint leaves and sesame seeds. Serve with the peanut-ginger sauce and pickled veggies.

Coconut Peanut-Ginger Sauce 

Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, thinned with a few tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey 
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger 
1 medium clove garlic, grated
Kosher salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut milk, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic until smooth and season to taste with salt. 

Lemony Roasted Garlic Kale Caesar with Sesame Croutons

Kale Caesar

Bright acidic lemon, mellow roasted garlic, and tangy Worcestershire fuse to create a dressing that your guests will want to eat with a spoon. Countering the cocktails with a bowl of greens is always a good idea, and kale’s sturdy texture is fantastic for sopping up every last drop. The unexpected crunch of homemade sesame croutons adds some substance to this salad

Serves 10-12 as a side

4 cups torn crusty Italian bread (crouton size)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
12 cups thinly sliced lacinato kale leaves, ribs removed (about 2 bunches)
Lemony Roasted Garlic Dressing (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
Cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Spread the torn bread on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, melted butter, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper and pour over the bread, tossing with your hands to combine. Bake until the croutons are golden and toasted, 12 to 14 minutes. Reserve the sesame seeds remaining on the bottom of the baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix the kale and croutons with several tablespoons of the dressing at a time, tossing to combine, until the salad is coated to your liking. Garnish with the shaved parmesan, cracked black pepper, and reserved sesame seeds.

Lemony Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

1 head roasted garlic (see instructions below) 
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Juice of 2 lemons
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for the roasted garlic)
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

For the roasted garlic: 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Slice off the very top of the garlic head so that the cloves are exposed. Drizzle the cloves with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the entire head in foil and bake until golden and tender, 50 to 55 minutes. Allow the garlic head to cool and then pop out the cloves by gently squeezing them out of their shells.

Using the flat side of your knife, mash the roasted garlic until it becomes a paste.

In a deep bowl, combine the roasted garlic paste, mustard, Worcestershire, parmesan, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Slowly stream in the olive oil and, using a whisk or a blender, blend well until the dressing is emulsified and thick. Whisk in the yogurt and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Linguine with clam saucePasta is a no-brainer for a bigger group, and this summery linguine requires nothing more than a handful of fresh ingredients and a good ear for when the clams pop open.  With a savory broth of white wine, lemon juice, fresh clams, and garlic, this light, buttery dish will leave you with a round of applause—and everyone feeling like they just took a dip in the ocean. 

Serves 10 – 12 

2 pounds linguine 
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 pounds fresh clams (such as Manila or littleneck), scrubbed
1 cup dry white wine 
Juice of 4 lemons
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
12 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta according to package directions, and reserve about 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking water before you drain it. 

In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, add 6 tablespoons of the oil. Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until lightly golden, about 45 seconds. Add the clams, and stir until coated with the garlic oil, about 1 minute. Turn the heat to medium high, add the wine and lemon juice, and cover the pan. Simmer until the clams open, about 8-10 minutes, making sure to discard any that don’t open.

Remove the clams from the pan, and set them aside to cool slightly. Remove about 3/4 of the clams from their shells and set the meat aside. If your clams are big, rough chop the meat into smaller, bite-size pieces.

Reduce the cooking liquid by about half its volume, and then whisk in the butter. Add in the pasta, starchy cooking water, salt, pepper, shelled clams, parsley, and 8 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Toss to coat, and season to taste with additional salt if necessary. 

Divide the pasta, clams, and sauce among bowls and top with even amounts of the remaining clams in their shells, olive oil, and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Travel Destinations | Aiken

Travel Destinations | Aiken

Welcoming Boulevards Guide You Through This Charming Southern Belle

by Warren Grant

Travel Aiken 1933

South Boundary is also known as the “Avenue of Oaks” because of the beautiful live oaks that line the street making almost a canopy above the street.













In 1833, the longest railroad line in the entire world stretched 136 miles from Charleston, SC, northwest to the Savannah River, just across from Augusta. The town that sprung up two years later around the river terminus of the rail line was named Aiken after William Aiken, the president of the South Carolina Railroad Company that built the lin

The new town’s welcoming boulevards were laid out by engineers in a perfect grid pattern with the lanes of several streets divided by broad and inviting park-like medians. Within a few years, the fledgling town grew in both size and in reputation as a healing getaway for wealthy Charlestonians, who rode the train to Aiken seeking refuge from the Lowcountry’s sweltering summer heat and the threat of disease. Aiken was on the map!

If the railroad was the first milestone in Aiken’s vibrant past, the second occurred in 1870, just five years after the Civil War (throughout which the town remained relatively unscathed). That was the year that Thomas Hitchcock, Sr., a wealthy northern businessman and one of the leading polo players of the day, and financier William C. Whitney established the Aiken Winter Colony, owing mainly to Aiken’s pleasant climate and yielding sandy soil, perfect for training their stables of thoroughbred horses and polo ponies during the winter.

Word quickly spread about Aiken’s Winter Colony, attracting scores of families like the Astors and the Vanderbilts, who built winter mansions and brought golf, fashion, refinement, and hundreds more pedigreed horses, cementing the town’s reputation as one of the premier equestrian centers in the country.

Today, Aiken is a charming Southern Belle of a city—historically steeped and culturally enriched. Accordingly, Aiken was just last year awarded both the “Best Small Town of the South” and “Friendliest Town in the South” by Southern Living.

Visitors to Aiken can experience a glimpse of the Gilded Age with a stay at the Rose Hill Estate, built as a “Winter” home in 1898 and covering a full city block downtown. Six of the estate’s original buildings have been elegantly reimagined as B&B accommodations, a special event space, and an opulent dining room. The five-acre estate’s lush gardens are legendary and a must-tour.

Another expression of elegant Southern hospitality is The Willcox, the acknowledged front porch of Aiken and a remarkable hotel, restaurant, and spa. The Willcox was voted one of the best hotels in the world, “whose grand white-pillared glory is as lovely and genteel as a rose on a lapel,” by one description.

One needn’t love horses to love a visit to Aiken, but it doesn’t hurt, as equestrian pursuits utterly inform the elegant town. Aiken plays host to every national competitive equestrian activity (mostly in the spring and fall and all open to the public), including steeplechase racing, Sunday afternoon polo matches, thoroughbred racing, eventing, dressage, hunter-jumper events, and carriage races. Horses even have the right of way on city streets!

In Aiken, you can tour the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, or start your day very early with pancakes at the legendary Aiken Training Track. Have the Willcox pack you a picnic to take to the polo matches, or rent horses and take a trail ride in Hitchcock Woods, the largest urban forest in the United States at 2,100 acres. On Thanksgiving Day, there’s the annual Blessing of the Hounds followed by one of several fox hunts planned during the year.

The Aiken Trolley offers a fascinating two-hour tour of the town, but plan early as it runs just once a week on Saturday mornings. You’ll learn the rich history of Aiken, including such morsels as long-time part-time resident Fred Astaire lightly tap-dancing down the town’s post office stairs after retrieving his mail and the socialite who used to wear the Hope Diamond around town casually.

Logan Homes Banner 02

Part of the trolley tour travels down the stunning Avenue of Oaks on South Boundary Street. The oaks were planted through the 1880s, along with an additional 500 trees of varying species that today breathe life, beauty, and wildlife habitat into the broad, park-like medians foresightedly planned in 1835.

As evening approaches, duck down the street from The Willcox and discover The Alley. Once home to blacksmith shops and stables, The Alley boasts inviting watering holes like the Aiken Brewing Company and the Alley Downtown Taproom. The fare at the Whiskey Alley restaurant is unpretentious, yet sumptuous.

Regarded as a cultural hub in the Southeast, Aiken hosts a variety of arts events each year, most notably the weeklong Joye in Aiken Performing Arts Festival, a collaboration with the esteemed Juilliard School that brings in students, faculty, alumni, and other artists for performances and workshops, all open to the public. Plan for the 2020 event to be held next March

Aiken also has a thriving medical community through the Aiken Regional Medical Centers. And, the University of South Carolina-Aiken offers myriad continuing education programs fittingly, even some Equestrian Online Classes.

For a full list of amenities, festivals, and equestrian events go to




Located just minutes south of Aiken’s equestrian heart is Woodside, a private, 2,300-acre planned community affording graceful living, four golf courses—from Nicklaus to Fazio—bountiful amenities, and countless social groups and clubs to engage residents. Woodside is proudly one of only 12 Southern Living Inspired Communities in the Southeast. Plan a 3-day/2-night Discovery Package at Woodside.


Mount Vintage

Mount Vintage 1933

Mount Vintage is a 2,000-acre community located just north of Augusta and Aiken. The centerpiece of the community is a 27-hole golf club and its clubhouse, whose historic core is a restored plantation house, circa 1840. The Mount Vintage Town Center and Athletic Club offer tennis, fitness, swimming pool, community garden, activity rooms, plus a genteel spirit of social engagement. Visit Mount Vintage.



Woodside - South Carolina Gated Communities

Woodside - South Carolina Gated Communities

Carefully planned 2,800-acre gated community, recently named one of Money Magazine's "Top Ten Retirement Communities." Three private 18 hole championship golf courses, tennis pavillion, wooded walking trails and more. Top medical facilities, university town with a mecca of cultural events. Read More...

Mount Vintage

Mount Vintage

Mount Vintage is a well-established 2,000 acre private community conveniently located just a few miles from Augusta, GA and Aiken, SC. Carefully planned to enhance the natural beauty and tranquility of this is truly one of a kind. Read More...

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