Preservation as Inspiration
In March of 2019, The Urban Electric Co. welcomed a small group of friends to Charleston for a series of intimate events including a show-stopping dinner at the Aiken-Rhett House, a panel discussion highlighting preservation as inspiration and a visit to the 19th annual Charleston Antiques Show. All in honor of our guest,
The Right Honorable Nicholas E.A. Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury.
Built in 1820, the Aiken-Rhett House is a nationally significant property and one of the best-preserved townhouse complexes in the nation. The house, and its surviving furnishings, offer a compelling portrait of urban life in antebellum Charleston. When the Historic Charleston Foundation assumed ownership in 1995, they adopted a preserved-as-found approach, meaning that the structure and its contents are maintained in an "as-found" state—from the architecture to the furniture and finishings, nothing has been altered since the mid-19th century. For the first time, the Foundation opened the estate's iconic double parlor for our private dinner party in celebration of our guest of honor, The Right Honourable Nicholas E. A. Ashley-Cooper, 12th Earl of Shaftesbury.
Nicholas Edmund Anthony Ashley-Cooper, also known as Nick Ashley-Cooper, is the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury. A passionate preservationist, he stewarded the restoration and renovation of his family's centuries-old estate, St. Giles House, through tireless research, resourceful collaboration with craftsmen, restoration artists, and historians, and meticulous attention to detail—and created a thoroughly modern place for his own young family to live and grow in the process. But though his feet are planted in the English lands of Dorset, his roots run nearly as deep in Charleston, where his ancestor, the first Earl of Shaftesbury, served as one of the first Lords Proprietors of the province of Carolina in the 1600s. Nick's return to Charleston to attend the Charleston Antiques Show, during which he shared his thoughts on preservation with us, marked another chapter in his personal living history.
the Double Parlor Dinner
The week culminated in a once-in-a-lifetime long-table dinner in the iconic double parlor of the Aiken-Rhett House. For the first time, the Historic Charleston Foundation opened up the 1820's era home for a seven-course, seated dinner for 40, bringing the house back to life and celebrating its rich legacy of entertaining and revelry. The evening was lavish, magical and unforgettable.
In the design world, there has been a fundamental and nearly universal shift toward an appreciation of history and a sense of place. Whether it's through a book, a photograph, a resurrected paint pigment, or the practical need to restore an ancestral estate, preservation has become more than just a process; it's also one of the most integral and exciting sources of inspiration for designers and design lovers alike. To honor that theme, we hosted a panel discussion at our own historic building with some of our favorite experts in the field; Steven Gambrel, Eve Ashcraft, Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury and Winslow Hastie, the President of the Historic Charleston Foundation for a lively conversation tracing preservation's path from design process to design inspiration, plus an exploration of what it means to live with history.
Every Spring, the Historic Charleston Foundation hosts the Charleston Antiques Show, a four-day event showcasing 17th to mid-century modern English, European, and American period furnishings, decorative arts & fine art, architectural elements, garden furniture, vintage jewelry, silver and more. The show is a premier destination for collectors and enthusiasts who enjoy seeing and learning about incorporating antiques into modern-day decor. As the event's presenting sponsor, we invited The Right Honourable Nicholas E.A. Ashley-Cooper, The Earl of Shaftesbury, to join us in Charleston as the 2019 Honorary Show Chair.