Charleston is very different than New Orleans but in a couple of ways there are similarities… Both are a mecca for fans of American history and both are cities where a person really needs to put on their walking shoes! Fortunately for my aging bones and joints, Charleston is a much small place to explore…
This is the main entrance to Charleston’s famous City Market. As per the Market’s website, it is the city’s most visited attraction and it’s been the cultural heart of Charleston since 1804.
In 1788, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney ceded the land to the City of Charleston for the express use as a public market, and he cleverly stipulated that the land must remain in use as a market for perpetuity. (C.C. Pinckney and his cousin Charles Pinckney were both signers of the US Constitution) To learn more, you can go to http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/signers.html.
This is the interior of the building shown in the first photo. In 1841, a few years after the Masonic Hall adjacent to the Market was destroyed by fire, the current Market Hall was erected. This building was originally used by the Market Commissioners for meetings and social functions, while the space beneath the hall housed vendors.
In 2011, the newly refurbished City Market reopened to the public. The centerpiece of this historic landmark is the Great Hall. For folks who don’t like heat and humidity, the good news is that the portion of the Market under the Great Hall with its 20 vendors is now enclosed and air-conditioned!
To meet Pinckney’s requirement, between 1804 and the 1830’s the city built a number of low buildings—sheds—that stretch from Market Hall to the waterfront. Today vendors sell everything from clothes to candles, food items, souvenirs (including sweet grass baskets), jewelry and artwork.
These sheds originally housed meat, vegetable, and fish vendors. Over the 2 succeeding centuries, the sheds have survived many disasters, including fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and bombardment. In 1944, during World War II, the economy stalled and only 4 vendors remain in operation. However in 1973 the Charleston City Market was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. That resulted in a resurgence of popularity and eventual remodeling and updating of the facilities.
To learn more about Charleston’s City Market, you can go to http://www.thecharlestoncitymarket.com/.
This is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon… It was built in 1767-71 and it has served a variety of functions, including as a prisoner of war facility operated by British forces during the American Revolutionary War. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973. The Old Exchange is currently a museum operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. For information on the museum, you can go to http://oldexchange.org/.
· In World War I, the building served as the army headquarters of General Leonard Wood and the United States Lighthouse Service—the latter having been in the building since the late 1800s.
· In World War II, the building not only served as a USO facility and canteen for troops, but served as the Coastal Picket Station for the Sixth Naval District of the United States Coast Guard.
· In 1965, the Half-Moon Battery, a 1698 fortification, was discovered underneath the building.
We love Charleston’s side streets in the historic center of the city! Cobblestones combine with the historic buildings and the greenery to create a city environment unlike few others in North America. A side benefit for these neighborhoods is that unless a person is totally drunk or ‘stoned’, no one speeds down these streets!
· "Cobble", the diminutive of the archaic English word "cob", meaning "rounded lump", originally referred to any small stone rounded by the flow of water; essentially, a large pebble. It was these smooth "cobbles", gathered from stream beds that paved the first "cobblestone" streets.
· A major change in Charleston streetscapes came from cobblestones that were used as ballast in the holds of colonial sailing ships. These oblong stones were often dumped on city wharves to make more room for valuable cargoes of rice and cotton, offering a new form of landfill. By the 1720’s the city had officially gotten into the act, offering sea captains tax-free port visits in return for ballast stones, and by the late 18th century, provided pavement for more than 10 miles of streets.
· According to an old Charleston historic lore, the best remedy for an extended pregnancy was a ride down Chalmers Street, whose bumpy cobblestones worked their magic often enough to earn the street the nickname “Labor Lane”.
This is one of many historic private homes, (not open to the public), in Charleston that has a documented history with a sign posted on the structure by the Preservation Society of Charleston that documents its history. The Society has placed over 100 markers throughout the old city, with at least 46 on historic homes. Markers are made available to homeowners at cost plus a small donation to the Society.
The Caspar Christian Schutt House was built on Bay Street 1892 for Mr. Schutt, who was a successful merchant of German descent. As was the practice in those days, he operated his business from on the first floor and used the 2 upper floors as his residence. The lot is quite deep and the property also includes several of the original structures, including a kitchen house, carriage house, servants’ quarters and stables.
This historic home is open to visitors. The Edmondston-Alston House was built in 1820 on the foundation ruins of Fort Mechanic, which was located here in the late 1700s. The home was built for shipping merchant Charles Edmondston, a Scottish immigrant from the Shetland Islands. He’d purchased the low sandy lot in 1817 and when the city built its seawall in 1820, he started building his home.
Charles Alston, a successful South Carolina Lowcountry rice planter and rice producer, bought the property in 1838 for $15,500. Ownership has remained with the Alston family ever since then! The house, which was converted to a museum in 1973, is managed by Middleton Place Foundation. If you would like to visit this historic property, the related website can be found at http://edmondstonalston.com/.
· General P. T. Beauregard, the Confederate commander who gave the order to fire cannons on Fort Sumter that started the American Civil War, watched the bombardment from the house porch on April 12, 1861.
· General Robert E. Lee also stayed overnight at the house in 1861.
· The Edmondston-Alston home is located at 21 East Battery Street. If you’re in the market for a home in Charleston, there is currently one for sale that is located at 29 East Battery. Asking price is ‘only’ 4,395,000!
As I mentioned earlier, Charleston built its original seawall in 1820. The original High Battery seawall, which was reconstructed in 1893-1894, is comprised of a stone wall on the seaward side that is backed by two (2) masonry/concrete walls approximately 10 feet apart. The space between the two walls is backfilled with soil and the top is capped with stone slabs to create a walkway or promenade. East Bay Street parallels the seawall…with the harbor view from the homes along the street creating some of the most desirable real estate in Charleston…
As I really like ships…I thought that I’d end this particular posting with a couple of ship sightings from Charleston’s seawall. The first sighting was of the huge car carrier Tosca as it left port… (At this writing, that ship was moored in the port of Bremerhaven Germany)
The second vessel is the schooner “Pride”. It’s an 84 foot tall ship that provides tours of the harbor and it’s a replica of 18th Century schooner that once served Charleston. This 2-hour tour isn’t typical in that it isn’t a narrated tour. It’s really just a way to enjoy the serenity of Charleston Harbor with its beautiful views without having to listen to someone drone on about the city’s history and sights. (Yes, the crew is knowledgeable and they will answer your questions) To learn more, just go to http://www.schoonerpride.com/.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for another tour!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave