One of many creeks along Highway 17 South.
Ceara Donnelley (above in her downtown dining room) grew up visiting her grandparents’ ACE Basin property and is the only one in the family to make Charleston her home base. Donnelley’s full renovation of her historic home served as a design lab for Ceara Donnelley Ltd., her interior design studio.
Dorothy and Gaylord Donnelley, pictured here at their Ashepoo retreat, were avid hunters and dedicated conservationists. “They lived out their civic ethics at Ashepoo,” says their granddaughter Ceara. The Gaylord & Dorothy Foundation continues to support the arts and land conservation in the Lowcountry and Chicago, granting more than $8 million in funding annually.
Donnelley and her extended family still gather at Ashepoo every Thanksgiving, and given her proximity now to the ACE Basin, she visits more frequently, enjoying the cypress-paneled home that her grandmother “curated over time and designed for joy and contentment.”
Ceara co-edited a collection of her father’s essays, published by the University of Kentucky Press a decade after his death.
The 8,048-acre Donnelley Wildlife Management Area gives the public access to its miles of managed rice fields, forested wetlands, and tidal marsh.
Sunset along the Ashepoo River by Highway 17
The Strachan Donnelley family on the Ashepoo mule wagon, circa 1989: (from left) Naomi, dad Strachan, Inanna, Aidan, Ceara, mom Vivian, and Tegan.
Ceara on horseback at Ashepoo.
Ceara with her sisters, (from left to right, clockwise) Inanna, Naomi, and Aidan at the stables, around 1985.
Today, Donnelley enjoys quiet time at Ashepoo and busy family times, too, as her son and daughter explore the horse trails and old rice fields with their cousins, just as she did decades ago.
Donnelley with sister Aidan and cousin Mimi Wheeler, checking out the horses, circa 1986.
Donnelley in the foyer of her East Bay Street home, with son Raff and daughter Hayes, where family heirlooms, like a carved owl that was ever-present in the New York City brownstone where she grew up, are prized amid the designer’s artful aesthetic.
Like her father and her grandparents before her, Ceara finds the Ashepoo landscape “transportive.” As board chair for the Coastal Conservation League and board member of the Center for Humans and Nature, she’s adding to her family’s legacy of enhancing humans’ relationship to the land around us.
The Charleston Profile