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Aiken South Carolina


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Center for Carolina Living White-pillared glory.
This old-fashioned Southern hotel in Aiken has been called “as lovely and
genteel as a rose on a lapel.” A retreat for those who value impeccable service
amidst elegant surroundings, The Willcox has welcomed its share of American
aristocrats, including FDR. Consider it for your next romantic getaway.

Courtesy of the The Willcox, member of the Southern Living Hotel Collection
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Aiken
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Center for Carolina Living Charmed, I’m sure. Aiken’s easy-going sophistication captivates. From its beginnings as a respite for the ill to its status as winter colony destination, this western South Carolina town exudes unexpected pleasure. Gourmet restaurants, exquisite gardens and world-class polo, too!

Polo Photo by Denise Jane, courtesy City of Aiken Parks, Recreation & Tourism • visit.aiken.net
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Pinehurst
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Center for Carolina Living A no-brainer. When Aiken aimed for a fund-raising "critter project," there was no question horses would be chosen. The town's spring Triple Crown draws hundreds for equine revelry, while award-winning stables provide serious winter training.
Photo by Barbara Gassman, courtesy City of Aiken Parks, Recreation & Tourism • visit.aiken.net
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Center for Carolina Living Aiken City Population: 29,250

Aiken County Population: 151,350

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Center for Carolina Living Aiken Chamber: 888.245.3672 /

City of Aiken Tourism: 803.642.7631 / http://visit.aiken.net
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Aiken, South Carolina

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
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aiken - road trip
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Woodside Plantation

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iken was born of a love affair. William Aiken, president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company and a leading cotton merchant in the early 1830s, had a railroad constructed from Hamburg to Charleston on the Savannah River as a way to intercept cotton at Hamburg and take it by rail to Charleston to be shipped out.
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Surveyor Alfred Dexter fell in love with Sarah Williams, the daughter of Captain William White Williams, who owned the plantation called “Chinaberry.”

Legend is that in order for them to marry, the train route had to be through his plantation, which surveyor Dexter and his fellow surveyor C. O. Pascalis were able to gain permission to do.

While driving under the canopy of live oaks along South Boundary Avenue, many a person has fallen in love with Aiken and decided then and there to call it home.

In the early 1870s, the town fathers lured wealthy Northerners to Aiken with opportunities for golf and equestrian sports, thus establishing the “Winter Colony” of rambling mansions called cottages and adjacent small bungalows used by domestic help.

To this day, the unique situation of modest bungalows next to huge mansions gives Aiken’s historical Winter Colony an ambiance like no other city.

Love at First Light
Like many people looking to move to the Carolinas, Steve and Marcia Pfeifer of Racine, Wisconsin, were looking for warm weather, golf and low taxes. What was it about Aiken that sold itself to them?

When we drove into Aiken the very first time we had to stop at the light at the corner of Richland and Laurens Street, the main intersection downtown. I just turned to Marcia after we sat at the traffic light for a few seconds and said, ‘You know what, I bet this is going to be it,’ remembers Mr. Pfeifer. ‘If you look, there is activity all around and you can’t see an open parking spot from where we are sitting right now. They’re doing something right in this city and we probably are going to find they are doing a lot of things right.’ That proved to be the case. There are restaurants, shops, museums, galleries; if you like antiques, there’s antiquing to do – just a wide variety of attractions.”

The Pfeifers bought their homesite at Cedar Creek, about seven miles from downtown, in the fall of 1998, planning on a five+ year transition period.

“We kept coming down here to visit our trees,” Mr. Pfeifer laughs, “and we’d come in and play a little golf and meet people and get acquainted. As time went on, people would start to say to us, ‘You’re not going to last,’ and they were right. We moved down in three and a half years. It’s so easy to meet people and make friends; everyone is so nice and down to earth and we feel comfortable here.”

Besides the wide range of new friends they’ve made in Aiken, the Pfeifers have found they enjoy learning about the equestrian world, something with which they had no contact in Wisconsin. Mrs. Pfeifer adds that the two of them have always loved gardening, and the landscaping of their Cedar Creek home shows that passion. “We always had homes with nice yards and we work pretty hard at that,” she explains. “And we can do it year `round here.”

Gone to the Dogs
It was the dog-friendly atmosphere of Aiken that convinced Dr. Maria Glinski and her husband Dave Eger to relocate there.

“I read about Hitchcock Woods and Aiken, ironically in the CarolinaLiving Guide, and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there can’t be a place like this in the country,’” Dr. Glinski explains. “I was sort of mid-career in my veterinary practice and I wanted to specialize only in dog rehabilitation. My husband and I had been thinking about relocating for a couple of years. We drove to Aiken, explored it, and fell in love with it.

“It had everything I was looking for,” she smiles. “It was dog and horse friendly; it had the woods, the weather and convenient access to clientele. We fell in love with the downtown which has a bit of a European influence.” Dr. Glinski enjoys sitting in the outside area of a couple of restaurants which allow patrons to bring their dogs with them. (There are strict regulations regarding this, including permission to have dogs in outdoor seating only if paper plates are used.)

Dr. Glinski sold her four-doctor veterinary practice in a Milwaukee suburb, deciding Aiken would be the perfect place between Milwaukee and Florida, where their parents are, and Virginia, where her sister lives.

“The biggest thing I wanted was a place where I could ride year `round and be involved in dog agility,” Dr. Glinski says. “When I was in Milwaukee, I did lots of teaching abroad to other vets and I couldn’t wait to go and when I came back I’d be planning my next trip. In coming to Aiken, I stepped down my teaching to twice a year because I can’t stand to leave the farm and the dogs I love so much. I don’t even want to travel. My only regret is we didn’t come sooner.”

The Best on the List
After 27 tries, Gail and Rick Doran finally got it right. They were visiting their son in Charleston and noticed that Number 27 on their list of potential retirement places was Aiken – just two hours away. They drove over to take a look.

“She fell in love with the place and I fell in love with the people, and that was that,” Mr. Doran grins. “I tore up the list and threw it away.”

When the couple’s agent was showing them around Aiken, she took them to Woodside Plantation’s Friday night Pub Club.

“We knew no one,” Mrs. Doran smiles, “but people would come up to us, introduce themselves and have a chat and then they’d bring someone else over and it was such a welcoming, warm environment. We thought, ‘This is it.’ Everyone was very down-to-earth, very friendly. It was just perfect. I can’t tell you where else in the country that would happen.”

“Certainly not in New York,” quips Mr. Doran.

The Dorans started looking for a retirement community six years ago. Mr. Doran knew he was going to retire from the New York City Fire Department in 2004 while Mrs. Doran will retire as a middle school teacher within the year. What led to the decision to move were the events that followed 9/11. Mr. Doran was one of the firefighters in the thick of the disaster and he was the first to hang the American flag out of what was left of the American Express building.

Another memorable part of his life was the opportunity to carry the Olympic torch, which grew out of the events of 9/11. He made sure he took 342 steps, one for each firefighter who died.

The Dorans listed the criteria they had to have for their ideal retirement location, and Aiken had them all.

“We like to play golf and be outside, and the weather here is certainly conducive to that,” Mr. Doran explains.

“Stony Brook, where we’re from, is a college town,” adds Mrs. Doran. “There’s the state university, a medical center, a nice old section of downtown which is small but quaint. When we came down here it was almost a parallel move. When I saw the downtown with the heads-in parking, the little shops that were similar to what we had in Stony Brook, those all made it more special.”

“I hate to use the word ‘cute,’ but it’s a cute little town,” Mr. Doran laughs. “It’s a nice town. It’s got everything we need here.”

Their Woodside Plantation homesite, overlooking the 16th green, a lake and the more distant trees, is marked out for the future home, just waiting for Mrs. Doran’s retirement and the sale of their New York house.

“It’s nice to own property and come down every once in a while in different seasons,” Mrs. Doran shares. “Our decision has not changed in the negative, it’s just gotten stronger in the positive aspect and reassures us we’ve made the best decision. That says a lot for the community. This is our dream house.”

 “I’m just happy we found Woodside Plantation. This community happens to fit us perfectly,” Mr. Doran concludes with a grin.
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What to do & What to see

The Aiken County Historical Museum
An extensive collection of county memorabilia is housed in what had been called Banksia, a 1930s Winter Colony mansion.
803.642.2015 · www.aikencountysc.gov/tourism/museum.htm

Aiken State Natural Area
Four spring-fed lakes and the Edisto River make the park a popular destination for kayakers, canoeists, bird-watchers and campers.
803.649.2857 · www.aikenstatenaturalarea.com

Hopelands Gardens
This 14-acre estate was bequeathed to the city and opened in 1969 as a public garden. Located within the Gardens is the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum and the Roland H. Windham Performing Arts Stage where free concerts are held on Monday evenings during the months of May – August.
803.642.7631 · http://visit.aiken.net
 

Food, Glorious Food

Casabella
Serves elegant Italian dishes in the many rooms and on the porch of what had been a lovely turn-of-the-century home.
803.641.3107

Davor’s Café
Offers an unusual selection of Asian European fusion dishes. You can order a small serving or full portions. Outdoor patio.
803.641.1909

Linda’s Bistro
An intimate feel in a refurbished home. Continental fare.
803.648.4853

Magnolia Natural Market
Serves lunches that are totally healthy, mostly vegetarian. They also carry vitamin supplements and locally-grown organic groceries.
803.649.3339

Malia’s
The grande dame of downtown with a Continental menu and excellent wine list.
803.643.3086

New Moon Café
This wonderfully funky coffee house serves great breakfasts and lunches; the only thing
open on Sunday mornings. Sit inside or out and read the newspaper.
803.643.7088

The Alley
Home to many of Aiken’s downtown restaurants, except for on Thanksgiving Day, when it is transformed into one big outdoor dining room. As a new tradition, the One Table restaurant also offers up delicious, home-cooked Thanksgiving meals, free to rich and poor alike.



 Spend the Night

Carriage House B&B
An 1870s house with 16 luxurious guest rooms in the heart of downtown. Pets accepted.
803.644.5888
www.aikencarriagehouse.com
 
Rose Hill Estate
This elegant historic home has lovingly been renovated and turned into THE place to be in Aiken, with Full Moon Nights, concerts, gourmet meals, vast array of wines and guest rooms.
803.648.1181
www.rosehillestate.com
 
Town and Country B&B and Barn
Located on the south side near shopping, this is a four-acre farm with boarding for those traveling with horses.
803.642.0270
www.towncountrybb.com
 
The Willcox
A stately and genteel guest house in the Historic District at the edge of town that oozes Southern charm. FDR stayed here on his trips to see Miss Lucy. 803.648.1898 · www.thewillcox.com
 

Recent History
In the 1950s and 60s, DuPont engineers and their families moved to the area to work at the Savannah River Site. The nuclear research facility is still a major employer in the region.

The most recent newcomers are those who are moving here from cities all over the country and abroad who are attracted by the mild climate, reasonable cost of living and the gracious, slightly quirky town. Young professionals are attracted to Aiken because of the expansion of several national and international companies. In fact, out of 117 cities listed, Aiken was named the Number One small city for a company to locate to in the Spring 2008 Southern Business & Development magazine.

Recent retirees are attracted to Aiken because of the many golf communities, a mild, four-season climate, equestrian pursuits, good medical care, cultural activities and a diverse, educated population base.

One can’t talk about Aiken, however, without talking about horses. It was the foresight of the wealthy folks from more Northern climates who loaded their families, stables of horses and help onto the trains that took them to winter in Aiken that has had the most impact on what Aiken is today. The 2,100-acre Hitchcock Woods, the largest privately owned urban woods in the country, forms the centerpiece of the town. The land was donated by the Hitchcock family and set aside for horse and human use only – no bicycles or motorized vehicles (also notably, Mrs. Louise Eustis Hitchcock founded the Aiken Preparatory School in 1916). Equestrian enthusiasts also appreciate that today, 126 years after opening, Whitney Field – in the middle of the downtown historic district – still hosts regular season polo.

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