January 18, 2018

Charleston, South Carolina

by Rosemary

The art of basket weaving was brought to South Carolina's lowcountry region by Africans who had been kidnapped into slavery in the 17th century. Baskets made of sweetgrass are a longstanding tradition in Charleston and the Mt. Pleasant area, where a long section of Highway 17 (also known as "Sweetgrass Basketmakers Highway") is lined with little basket stands. This one was right next to our hotel.

Charleston is also known for the beautiful wrought iron gates and railings that have been part of the city's architecture since the 18th century.

Cobblestone streets have been here since the 17th and 18th centuries. These stones were used as ballast in ships that came from England. When the ships were loaded with cargo, the stones were discarded. At some point, people began using them to pave the streets. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since it kept the streets from turning to mud after storms and high tides. A few of these historic streets have been preserved in Charleston. (We saw a few of them in Savannah, too.) They are very rough and miserable to drive on!

The street in the picture above is in front of the old Slave Mart. Prior to 1856, it had been the practice to hold slave auctions outside, but even in a city whose economy depended largely on slavery, the sight of human beings being bought and sold right out in the open made a lot of people uncomfortable, so public auctions were banned, and the trade moved indoors. After 1863, when the auctions stopped, the building went through various owners and expansions. Eventually, it was acquired by the city and the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission. It was restored and turned into a museum about the history of the city's slave trade.

There are many different kinds of historic buildings in Charleston. Rainbow Row is a group of 13 Georgian-style houses, nicknamed for the colorful pastels used to paint their exteriors.

Another colorful building is the Pink House. Originally a tavern, it was built some time between 1690 and 1712, using pink Bermuda stone. Depending on the source, it is considered either the oldest or second-oldest remaining house in Charleston. It has only one small room on each of its three floors. Although it is in a residential zone, it has no kitchen, and apparently never did. (In the 17th and 18th centuries, kitchens were typically outside or in separate buildings, to reduce the risk of burning down the main house.) Over the years it has been renovated several times and has housed a variety of businesses, most recently an art gallery. According to Zillow, it was sold for $799,000 in 2014.

We toured the Nathaniel Russell House. This mansion, completed in 1808, is not a typical Charleston home; it represents the lavish lifestyle of the ultra-wealthy. (It cost $80,000 to build at a time when average houses were worth less than $300.) The Historic Charleston Foundation has used extensive research and modern technology to restore the home's original look and feel.

Dinner time in 1820.

Decorative details at the ceiling's edge.

The Circular Congregational Church building is the third in this location, built in 1890 using bricks from an earlier structure that had been destroyed in a fire. The original congregation was established here in 1681. The graveyard is probably the oldest remaining English burial ground in Charleston.

We walked around town, but a lot of tourists enjoy the carriage rides.

From the waterfront, we could see the ruins of Castle Pinckney, a fort built in 1810 that proved to be of little use, now being gradually reclaimed by nature.

Charleston's Fort Sumter is famous as the site where the Civil War began. We didn't have enough time to take the tour there, but we were able to visit Fort Moultrie, which was part of South Carolina's seacoast defense from the Revolutionary War through World War II. Several underground rooms are set up as they were in the 1940s.

We enjoyed strolling through Waterfront Park, where we saw dolphins splashing near the shore, as well as a wide variety of seabirds, and a river otter.


River Otter

On a hot day, people might be tempted to jump into the pineapple fountain. We weren't there on a hot day.

All in all, we had a great time in Charleston. Next stop: Savannah.

Note: We were here in early December.

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1 comment >>

  1. Those baskets are so beautifully made and you buy them from the person who made them. Everytime I go through there I'm tempted to buy more, and I have them hanging on my wall at home.


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