Aiken, South Carolina
January 7-9, 2011
We drove the back roads to Aiken, but found very little along the way that tempted us to stop and explore. The poor rural landscapes and small town main streets with lots of vacant store fronts were uninspiring, if not downright depressing. After hours of somewhat dismal driving, Aiken spread before us as a welcome oasis.
The town's most unique feature is its parkways—streets built with very wide park-like medians running down their centers. Over 175 of Aiken's streets are parkways--totaling about fifteen miles. The entire town is an arboretum, and somewhere (we never found the spot) a map exists that you can use to locate all the different varieties of trees throughout town.
While I was attending my workshop, Dick took the once weekly two hour trolley tour around town, and discovered a lot of other unique and interesting things about Aiken.
Around the turn of the last century it was the winter playground of the wealthy horsey set. Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson were frequent visitors to Rye Patch, where their friends Edmund and Dorothy Rogers build an addition to their house and bricked up arches in their brick perimeter wall to assure the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's comfort and privacy.
The train almost always had an unscheduled stop here when Franklin Delano Roosevelt rode in his private car to his therapy sessions in
The Willcox also has hosted Astors, Vanderbilts, Mellons, Winston Churchill, and us. We enjoyed Sunday Brunch in the somewhat shabbily elegant dining room of the hotel (overlooking a leaf-strewn terrace with pots of dead plants beside the rail road tracks where we imagine
As does Aiken's appeal to elite equestrians. Home to the oldest Polo Club in the country, Aiken boasts over fifty polo fields in and around town. The two top-ranked polo players in the world live here.
Aiken's 2100 acre
We were enchanted by Aiken, but, frankly, with gray skies and temperatures in the high forties it was just too darn cold to be our winter playground. We'll be back in polo season.
As for the reason we were in Aiken in the first place, the workshop, Building a Vocal Community, was a tremendous exploration of music as metaphor, tracing African American history through rhythms, words and harmonies, while revealing higher meanings and the power of coalition as our eighty voices joined to build music together.