Home on the Horseshoe
First lady's book details life and times of the President's House
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1421
It’s a question USC first lady Patricia Moore-Pastides often hears about the historic building she and President Harris Pastides call home: “What’s it like to live there?” She quickly answers that it’s an honor and privilege to live in the President’s House on the Horseshoe, but she wanted to share more about one of the most recognizable buildings on the Carolina campus. She didn’t want to write a memoir. Instead, she wanted to talk about what life is like in the house for her family and the other seven families who have lived there as first families of the University of South Carolina.
The result: “At Home in the Heart of the Horseshoe: Life in the University of South Carolina President’s House,” published this fall by USC Press. The book offers a look at the first families and their memories of the home, along with some history of the house and photographs of the home and gardens. There are even a few recipes for entertaining and photos of floral arrangement designs.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the university’s Educational
Talk about a few of your favorite stories of other first families from the book.
I love the story of the blue jay that was rescued by Cissie Snow, President Thomas Jones’ daughter. Apparently, the bird lived freely inside the house and was known to land in bouffant hairdos. It was proven the culprit after Mrs. Jones’ earrings disappeared, when they were ultimately discovered atop the drapery valances.
First lady Norma Palms tells the story of when her puppy, Lady Carolina, chewed a shoe belonging to the wife of honorary degree recipient Jim Hoagland while the couples were out at the commencement dinner. With one shoe ruined, Mrs. Hoagland had to wear a different pair for commencement. In a subsequent note to Mrs. Palms, Mrs. Hoagland expressed her appreciation for the wonderful events, though she wasn’t sure what she would do with that one “doggone” shoe.
I also love Elizabeth Clark’s recounting of her Brownie Scout meeting that was held
at the President’s House and at her grandfather’s office at Osborne. One of my favorite
photographs is the one of President Robert Sumwalt surrounded by Brownies. You have
to see it!
What surprised you the most in researching the book?
While gathering information I was surprised to learn how important (First Lady Virginia)
Russell’s connection to the students was to them. The students of her time are now
in their early 80s, yet they still remember her so fondly. She believed that every
senior should have dinner at the President’s House, she brought cookies out to the
Horseshoe and introduced herself to groups of students, encouraging them to apprise
her and President Donald Russell of any concerns they might have about the university.
One student remembered her walking on the Horseshoe carrying a parasol that matched
her dress. She had a lasting impact in their minds and I find that touching. I also
attribute the culture of hospitality that we share here at USC to her.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I think many of our readers will be alumni, so I expect they will enjoy thinking back to their years as students. Some will have had personal experiences with the families of the presidents, but I suspect for most the stories will be new and perhaps surprising.
I also think folks will enjoy all the photos of rooms, furnishings, gardens and events.
The book provides a pretty thorough look into the house and how it’s used today.
Do you have a favorite piece of furniture, artwork, etc.?
I’ve always loved the French wall covering in the reception room on the second floor.
It amazes me that it was made by block printing. But my new favorite thing to talk
about is the fresco in the garden titled, “A Present Past.” It was created by our
alumna Taylor Tynes who carefully approximated true Italian fresco technique. The
workmanship on the 1780 Queen Anne highboy in the John F. Kennedy bedroom is also
beautiful. I’m most impressed with how these pieces were created.
Are there any downsides to living in the house?
As far as downsides to living in the President’s House, there are few. The major adjustment
for me was living in a home that has people working in it daily and on many evenings.
As you will see in the book we have an apartment on the second floor and we usually
keep those doors closed. House, garden and special events staff are very respectful
of our privacy.
Why was it important to carry on some of the traditions of the house?
I have said this many times, but I think the culture of USC is welcoming, hospitable
and nurturing. Much of that culture is perpetuated through events held on campus,
especially at the President’s House. I was thrilled to arrive at this university in
1998 because it had a small college feel, it was personal. I hope by carrying on the
tradition of entertaining at the President’s House we can keep that philosophy alive
well into the future.
What advice would you give the next inhabitants of the president’s house?
If I were to advise the next inhabitants of the President’s House, I would strongly
urge them to keep the same team. Lisa Robinette, house manager; Joyce Taylor, housekeeper;
Charlie Ryan, chief horticulturist; and Pam Bowman, director of special events, and
all those who work alongside them—they are experts and the nicest people. A true work
If this book is updated a few decades from now, what do you think would be mentioned as the highlights of the Pastides’ time in the house?
I think the highlights of the Pastides’ time in the house might be our emphasis on proving that healthy and delicious dining are not mutually exclusive concepts. We might be remembered for organic vegetable gardens and the greenhouse. But I hope most of all our sincere love for our university has and will continue to shine through the years ahead.
Catch Patricia Moore-Pastides in person at any of these locations during her spring book-signing tour.
Shoppes on Main
Shoppes on Main, 1626 Main St, Columbia, SC
Wednesday, May 8, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm, with author presentations at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Charleston Library Society
Charleston Library Society, 164 King Street, Charleston, SC
Wednesday, May 23, 6 - 7 p.m.
For author booking information or to invite Patricia Moore-Pastides to speak, contact Meagan Crowl, email@example.com, 803-777-3237
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