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Picnic in the Parlor

Savannah is a beautiful little city, no doubt about it.

I've been appreciating it anew as I cycle around its empty cobbled streets each evening.

Possibly my favorite spot here is the old downtown mansion built in the 1860's by cotton merchant Noble Hardee. Also known as Savannah's "last unrestored grand mansion", it has been home to Alex Raskin Antiques for almost 30 years.

Some people dislike antiques, everything has to be sleek and modern. These might be the same people who wouldn't search through the racks of a vintage clothing store. I'm definitely not one of them.

By far, my most favorite thing to do as a child was to traipse around all the "junk shops" with my ( very unusual ) mother, searching through piles of old, brown furniture for something we were going to fall in love with, that hidden gem.

I'm not sure my father or siblings could appreciate the allure, especially if that creaky armoire meant we wouldn't have any food for a day or two that month....but, to me, the sacrifice was always worth it.

Not only is the timeless Noble Hardee mansion spectacularly beautiful, it serves as antique-store nirvana. Framed by towering magnolia trees, it sits in front of one of the town's lush, welcoming squares.

Rust corrodes the cast iron window frames and balconies, and its pink stucco façade has long faded.

Once you step inside you're assured that there is something remarkable about it.

It is a cornucopia of past beauty, a labyrinth of antiques, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, branching up four stories. Chairs are piled on top of tables, which are piled on top of dressers, which are nestled inside bedframes. Just enough space to squeeze through. The NY Times called it "The Ikea Antidote"

"Faded grandeur" is used a lot, but if any place could perfectly illustrate that term, this surely is it.

As you climb up the threadbare carpeted stairs, portraits watch you from walls of peeling paint.

Chandeliers hang from ceilings where the floorboards of the floor above are clearly visible, and you might have a momentary vision of the tons of antique weight coming crashing through.

But, it's not just this that takes your breath's the unexpectedly magical view across the treetops when you step out onto the balcony, and the imagining of days when the home was in its beautiful prime.

Last year, Conde Nast named Savannah the friendliest city in America.

I think it's a title well-deserved, and that its citizens have the tenacity to bounce back and welcome again, in due time, the tourists who like to experience the magic for themselves. It's a very show-must-go-on kind of place. I've been to a charity ball in the park , in a downpour, where ladies paired their gowns with rubber boots, or simply took their shoes off and let toes squelch in the mud.

Savannahians could throw a party anywhere, so I was thrilled when, a couple of months ago ( bc ), Art and Amble together with The Passenger Travel Company teamed up with Libbie Summers to create a cocktail party at Alex Raskin Antiques.

Not just any party....a Picnic in the Parlor, complete with hot soup from thermos flasks.

Somehow, amidst all the heirlooms, it managed to surreally hint at an aristocratic, post-pheasant-shoot gathering, in the grounds of a stately home.

As the grand front doors were opened to arriving guests, you could hear the clip-clop of a horse and carriage as it passed the house, on the street below. With gaslamps flickering in the darkness, and the house ready for the sounds of laughter and tinkling glasses, you could easily imagine for a moment that we'd stepped back in time and a top-hatted man would offer his arm to a crinolined lady, as she stepped from the carriage and made her way up the front steps.

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