photo by Brent Cline
My first visit to Aiken was love at first sight. It was 20 years ago, shortly after I moved to Augusta. And it was the beginning of a long relationship with this engaging little city and its grand mansions, quaint cottages and tree-lined streets. And perhaps best of all—Aiken residents keep horses in their backyards, literally. And not just any horses, but beautiful Thoroughbreds, elegant warm bloods and every variety of sport horse in between. Little did I know on that first visit that I, too, would have the opportunity to dapple in the magical world of horsemanship centered around Aiken. It turned out my daughter had a passion for horses and horse show competition that took us to Aiken almost daily for close to 10 years, a part of my life I still miss and look back on fondly.
During those years I got to know the city better, but I also learned it has many layers beyond my niche group of hunter/jumper folks. In my role as editor of Augusta Magazine I’ve expanded my knowledge of the city and increased my interaction with its residents beyond my small horsey realm, which has only intensified my fascination. Aiken people are friendly and welcoming, exuding a small-town charm mixed with a subtle hint of sophistication. In the planning of this, our first independent issue of Aiken Homes and Lifestyles, I had the good fortune to experience the famed hospitality of Wade and Sissy Brodie. Of course, I’d heard of the Brodies, as people unfailingly speak of them with an almost reverent fondness. And after spending a delightful morning with them at their lovely home, I understand why. In just a few short hours, I felt as though I’d known them for a lifetime. They are the embodiment of everything good about being Southern: They are gracious, welcoming and entertaining while at the same time displaying an effortless ability to make everyone who graces their door feel at home. I was totally enchanted.
There are others who generously gave of their time and knowledge to help me with this issue. Susan Kleinbub, Aiken native and talented landscape designer, spent an entire afternoon showing me numerous lovely homes and gardens in search of potential stories. Jamie Koelker and Steve Hale brainstormed over cocktails as they willingly shared their thoughts and made suggestions. Jenne Stoker fluffed and styled our featured house in the absence of its owners. And photographer Brent Cline went above and beyond the call of duty capturing beautiful images of some of the people featured as well as sharing his extensive social connections. I offer heartfelt thanks to all these wonderful people.
As you thumb through the pages of the magazine, I hope you enjoy this glimpse of Aiken. I also hope you’ll share with me your thoughts and suggestions for the issue we’re planning in March. I’m looking forward to it.