2012-08-10 / Travel

Spoleto 2012... Part 5: We dined at 82 Queen

By Warner M. Montgomery
WarnerM@ TheColumbiaStar.com

The 82 Queen restaurant is a delightful combination of Lowcountr y cuisine and Charleston history. The 82 Queen restaurant is a delightful combination of Lowcountr y cuisine and Charleston history. The 82 Queen restaurant has a rich history as well as rich food. The history dates back to 1670 when the Lord Proprietors financed a colony of the British colony of Barbados at a peninsula between two rivers on the Atlantic coast of North America. The tip of the peninsula became Charleston, the rivers Ashley and Cooper, and the colony South Carolina.

Walls were built around the small colony to protect it from Indians, Spanish, French, and pirates. Land within the walls was divided into lots and sold. In 1688 Bernard Schenckingh, a Barbadian (Bajan) with a bag of rice seeds, bought three acres on a muddy path named Queen Street between the barely passable King and Meeting streets. On Schenckingh’s Square he built a home, guesthouse, kitchen, carriage house, slave quarters, and garden inside a protective tabby wall. He also bought land on James Island where he hoped to plant his rice seeds.

Bernard, the hopeful planter, died in 1692. His widow, Elizabeth, passed the property to their son, Benjamin, was granted an annual annuity of 620 pounds, and remained at the 82 Queen Street home.

Benjamin Schenckingh became a successful planter, acquired thousands of acres of rice lands, and got involved in politics. He helped overthrow the Proprietors in 1719 and was rewarded with a seat on the King’s Council, a position he held for 10 years.

After Benjamin’s death in 1733, the Schenckingh property went to his grandson, Bernard Elliott, who squandered the family inheritance. When Bernard died, the property was divided and sold off to pay his debts. The Queen Street home was purchased by William Mills, father of Robert Mills, America’s first great architect.

( There is no proof, of course, but what if Robert Mills experimented with his first drawings of the Washington Monument at a table in the 82 Queen restaurant?!)

Records show the Queen Street house was destroyed by fire in 1861. Damn Yankees!! It was rebuilt then took a hit from a series of “herycanes:” 105 mph winds in 1885, 1893 storm surge killed 1,500 people, 1911 killed 17 people, and 1959 Gracie took hundreds of roofs.

A developer from Atlanta bought the property in 1978 with plans to demolish the remaining buildings and put up a parking lot, BUT the Charleston Architectural Board thwarted his plans in the name of preservation! New owner Steve Kish opened 82 Queen in 1982. Seven years later Hugo hit, killing 26 people and severely damaging 82 Queen.

Linda and I first visited 82 Queen’s in 1993 and found it had been beautifully restored. Chef Steven Lusby continues the 82 tradition with Southern, Lowcountry cuisine influenced by African, French, Caribbean, and Anglo-Saxon tastes. Our preferences: she-crab soup, lump crab cakes, BBQ shrimp & grits, oyster chowder, pesto flounder, and peach cobbler a la mode. Your mouth watering yet?

Next week: Where to play?

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