Soiree promises to be an elegant affair

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Photo above: Chairman Donna Dehncke and Co-Chair Mary Fermin Savage stand in front of the Dr. A.P. Prioleau House on Federal Street. Photo by Jasmina Kimova Photography.

Staff reports

The Historic Beaufort Foundation’s (HBF) annual gala, the elegant and popular Lafayette Soirée, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22.

The location will be the waterfront garden of Nancy and Howell Beach, behind their historic home, the ca. 1892 Dr. A.P Prioleau House on Federal Street. The HBF is also grateful to Betty Chamlee Miller, Dr. Katherine Kinghorn and Dr. Robert Bell for the use of their adjacent properties.  

The headline sponsor for this year’s event is O’Quinn Marine Construction.

“This year’s theme is ‘Joie de Vivre,’ ” said Chairman Donna Dehncke and Co-Chair Mary Fermin Savage, “and we will be celebrating the joy of living here in Beaufort, Lowcountry-style.”

“Since the Soirée has long been known as the town’s most elegant garden party, we expect this year’s event to sell out, just as we did last year,” said Dehncke. 

“Our décor and garden setting will reflect the essence of Lowcountry beauty,” added Fermin Savage.  

The Soirée honors the 1825 visit of the revered French general, the Marquis de Lafayette. 

The party will begin with champagne and freshly shucked oysters, accompanied by a lively jazz trio.  

In addition to a full bar, this year’s liquid libations will include a signature cocktail and a whiskey bar.  

Small plates of contemporary Lowcountry fare from Beaufort’s best restaurants will be served. 

The annual Silent Auction is guaranteed to be the best ever, with numerous vacation opportunities and donations. 

When they are not bidding on the auction, revelers will dance the night away to the music of the Michel Jons Band from Savannah. Dress is Lowcountry cocktail attire.

“This year we are adding some exciting enhancements, including on-line preview and pre-sale of silent auction items,” said Dehncke. 

To supplement traditional open seating, Marquis Tables will be offered for the first time. 

“For $2,000, you will be able to reserve a table for 10,” said Fermin Savage. “There are only eight of these and they will go fast, so put together your tables now.”  

Individual tickets are available today for HBF members at $125 each, and can be purchased online at or by calling 843-379-3331. Marquis Tables may also be reserved at this time. 

Open sales for nonmembers begin on Wednesday, March 1, and are priced at $150. A family membership to HBF starts as low as $50.  

“We strongly urge everyone to purchase tickets early,” said Fermin Savage and Dehncke. “The garden has a limited capacity, and we don’t want anyone to be disappointed.”

The mission of the Historic Beaufort Foundation is to support the preservation, protection and presentation of sites and artifacts of historic, architectural and cultural interest throughout Beaufort County. 

Revenues generated by this year’s event will go toward the renovation of exhibit space and reception area of HBF’s flagship property, the John Mark Verdier House. 

It was once locally called the Lafayette Building because of anecdotal evidence that Lafayette greeted the people of Beaufort from its front portico during his visit in 1825.

“Many people don’t realize how important the Marquis de Lafayette is to American Revolutionary history,” said HBF Director Maxine Lutz.   

Gravitating as a young man to the beliefs of liberty, morality and ethics that were being put forth by the Americans as they began their revolution, he used his own money to have a ship built and he sailed it to America, learning English on the way.  

He became a protégé of George Washington, and eventually commanded American forces in Virginia.  

“Not only did Lafayette play a key role in Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown,” added Lutz, “he also persuaded his home country of France to aid the Americans in the war effort.” 

The Americans would later return the favor, sending 2 million men to fight in France during World War I.  

So admired was Lafayette by the American military that an aide to U.S. Gen. Blackjack Pershing, Col. Charles E. Stanton, visited the grave in Picpus Cemetery the moment he arrived in Paris. Bearing an American flag, he placed it on the grave, declaring, “Lafayette, we are here.”

“We look forward to welcoming you on April 22 where, under a sliver of a Carolina moon in a starry sky, we will celebrate the Joie de Vivre of Beaufort,” said Fermin Savage and Dehncke. “With glasses in hand — be they filled with French champagne or Southern whiskey — we will raise them high and proclaim, ‘Lafayette, we are here!’ ”