Because we only had one full day in Charleston, we had to get busy in the morning. Having booked a sightseeing tour the previous night, we had couple hours in the morning to cruise the city. First stop was Philadelphia Alley in the French Quarter, one of the beautiful historic alleys in Charleston. According to legend the alley was a popular place for duels, and it was once known as
Duelers Alley. Legend has it that that at least one dueling victim still haunts the alley. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any ghosts or anything paranormal. We saw a tranquil and beautiful alleyway with nice yards, cobblestone and old brick warehouses.
Our tour started at 11 am and what a wealth of information that was. I tried to jot down few notes of the most memorable things I heard but I must confess I missed most of it. Somehow, only interesting stories stick to my mind and not facts itself.
Charleston has over 400 churches, the most of any city in the USA, of quite few different denominations. Reason for the multitude is that early on if you rounded up seven or more people, you could start your own church and build on the land the city gave you.
Charleston is full of iron gates, fences, etc. Iron works on your house were the marks of wealth. They don’t let you forget the bricks made in Boone Hall Plantation that a lot of old houses are made of. Four million bricks were made at Boone Hall yearly during slavery. One of the saddest places was Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where Dylan Roof committed his heinous mass murder few years back. Roof killed nine people after the service but left one person alive, so the person could tell others that this sick person wanted to start a race war. He was given the death penalty and because of the forgiveness of the church and the city, no race war was started, or any violence was instigated.
Luckily for all of us the city of Charleston is very well preserved, and the Preservation Society of Charleston will keep it that way. If the house is 75 years old or older it can not be torn down or as they like to say here: Cannot be taken down by hand of people, only by hand of god. And not just houses are preserved but cobblestones, sidewalks, lamppost and old stepping-stones to
help you to cling on carriages. And you can’t renovate your old house by yourself. You have to have it inspected by the Society, that will also decide who can do the renovations. Also, tall buildings are not allowed. A certain church steeple sets the height limit.
Because of the aforementioned rules historic Charleston is and will stay a very beautiful place to visit.
The tour took us through the famous Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. My first sight was two cadets halfway running. It looked funny. At some point they were almost walking and then they speeded up once again. I just thought that they we in a hurry to get to the class. Then our guide told us that the freshman cadets or so-called gutter rats are not allowed to walk on the sidewalk, and they were not allowed to walk at all, but they have to do double time. Citadel was all male college until 1995 when Shannon Faulkner was able to enroll after a successful lawsuit. The suit alleged that the Citadel, which received state money, was “denying her equal protection under the Constitution”. The reception for her was not the best when she entered and she had to be escorted to Citadel by United States Marshals. During the so called “hell week” Faulkner suffered a heat stroke and eventually dropped out citing emotional and psychological abuse and physical exhaustion. However, she won the lawsuit and now women comprise approximately 9% of the Corps.
Another historical tidbit that stuck to my mind was the story of single houses in Charleston. During colonial times the inhabitants found out that traditional rowhouses did not work out because they were storing heat and the summers in South Carolina coastline and hot and humid. The idea for single houses was copied from the Caribbeans. Single houses were constructed to according to direction of the southernly winds that are blowing in the area. The houses are well-suited to long, narrow lots which were laid out in early Charleston. Although not a part of the earliest single houses, later buildings had two- and three-story porches,
known locally as piazzas, added. Houses had hospitality doors. They were social signs for neighbors and friends. If the porch door was propped open, it meant that the family inside was ready for you. If the door was shut – stay away.
In front of the Museum of Charleston we saw the replica of submarine H.L Hunley, that the South used in the Civil War. Hunley looked very small, but guide told us that the replica is, surprisingly enough, actually too tall. The replica was made before they found the actual submarine in 1995 and the boat was not lifted up from the sea until 2000. I know people were shorter and smaller in those days, but it was amazing they were able to fit eight men into it. And the boat only had oxygen for 2 hours. What is more amazing how they were able to find men to go into that death trap in the first place. And not only one crew. During two test rides 13 out of 16 men perished and during the only actual war mission all 8 died. During the only mission they were able to sink USS Housatonic with its crew of 155 men. Only 5 of those 155 died, so H.L. Hunley killed 21 of they own and only 5 of Northern troops.
Charleston was famous for its slave trade. 48 per cent of the slaves came through and was sold in Charleston and that comes to total of 250 000 slaves. The biggest slave plantation was Magnolia. Nine of the wealthiest persons of the colonies lived in Charleston area. The first shot of the American Civil War was shot by and cannon from Fort Johnson to Fort Sumter in 1861.
The bus tour lasted only 90 minutes we had plenty of time to drive around the historic downtown. First stop was Waterfront Park and the famous Pineapple Fountain. Afterwards we learnt that the Pineapple Fountain was only built in 1990 but to us it looked like it belonged and had been there for ages. Pineapple represents hospitality. American sailors would place the pineapple outside of their door to show that they had safely returned. In Charleston the woman hung the pineapple from the door to show that her husband had returned. Maybe to show the other gentlemen callers not to bother for the time being?
After Pineapple Fountain we took a nice break in the White Point Garden in The Battery and droveby the Rainbow Row.
Later in the afternoon we drove over another spectacular bridge, Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, to Shem Rock in town of Mt. Pleasant. Had a late lunch at Tavern & Table by the creek and prepared ourselves for the sunset. We walked along the Shem Creek Boardwalk to catch the glorious sunset. I will post these photos in the nexrt post as this is already an overload of images.
The Palmer Home (Pink House) in historic Charleston is one of the Holy City’s most iconic mansions, frequently photographed and often depicted in paintings of the grand homes along the Battery. Built between 1847 and 1849 by John Ravenel, a wealthy merchant and president of the South Carolina Railroad Company, the home remained in the Ravenel family until 1953.
On the way back to the hotel we visited the city center once again. The center was very easy to navigate even in the dark without the navigator because it has been built into a grid. Naturally because it was off-season the traffic wasn’t bad either. Sometimes the one-way streets caught us off-guard but the clear grid saved us.
7 thoughts on “Charleston”
I’ve heard and read that Charleston is a beautiful place and your photos certainly confirm that. I enjoyed your narration as well.
Thanks Janet, we enjoyed it, such a lovely palce to visit.
What a fabulous place!Downtown Charleston looks most interesting and I enjoyed😕 your images and prose, Ritva
Thanks Sue, We really enjoyed the visit.
Great to hear!
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