Monday, January 11, 2016

Exploring Charleston South Carolina (#1)

On our second trip in September, we were joined by Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill and we set off to explore Charleston South Carolina for a couple of days, followed by a visit to Carolina Beach North Carolina. 

It was a beautiful afternoon when we began looking around historic downtown Charleston…

This is the Vendue Wharf at Charleston’s Waterfront Park.  This park is located in an area which had historically been a center of maritime traffic with several wharfs and shipping terminals.  It had fallen into decline and decay over time.   The park opened in 1989 despite suffering over $1 million in damage from Hurricane Hugo only a week earlier.
Vendue Wharf is a wide, wooden pier at the north end of the park which extends into the Cooper River and offers sheltered swings for visitors.  A floating dock is attached at the far end which offers some great views…

Among the views from the floating dock at the end of Vendue Wharf is this one of Castle Pinckney.  The ‘castle’ was a small masonry fortification constructed in Charleston’s harbor in 1910 by the United States government.  An original log and earthen fort, built in 1797 and named after the Revolutionary War hero Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, was virtually destroyed by a hurricane in 1804.
Note: On December 27, 1860, one week after South Carolina seceded from the Union, the fort was surrendered to South Carolina militia by its small U.S. Army garrison.  The garrison then retired to Fort Sumter to join Major Robert Anderson in defending that location.  Castle Pinckney became the first Federal military installation seized forcefully by a Southern state government during the Civil War.

Another spectacular sight from that floating dock is the retired Aircraft USS Yorktown which is moored across the Cooper River at Patriot’s Point. (Much more about Patriot’s Point will follow in another posting…)

This is a photo of Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill on the Vendure Wharf… Note the beautiful salt marsh tidal grasses behind them.

More photos of our little group followed…including this one of Laurie and her sister.

Charleston’s Waterfront Park received the 2007 Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  This award "recognizes a distinguished landscape architecture project completed between 15 and 50 years ago that retains its original design integrity and contributes significantly to the public realm of the community in which it is located."  It is indeed a beautiful setting…

Of course, it was just a matter of time before Laurie took a picture of Bill and yours truly! 

The 12 acre park is about a quarter mile long.  Part of it is occupied by a dense canopy of oak trees and many benches.  Parallel to the shady portion of the park and immediately adjacent to the riverfront, is an open lawn landscaped with palmetto trees.  In the middle of the grassy lawn is the Pineapple Fountain as shown above. 

We had a lot of walking and exploring to do so we didn’t walk on down to the south end of the park.  It is the location of North Adger’s Wharf.  A 17th century pier was rebuilt in the original footprint of the old wharf, using original granite which was fished out of the river and reused.  The ‘new’ pier was reconstructed using log cribbing construction of native palmetto trees that should last for many generations.

The fact is that just about everything in old Charleston has a certain beauty and charm… Even this cemetery we passed on our walkabout projects a quiet and dignified picture.

We liked this ironwork and these classy old wooden doors…which comprise the entrance to St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church at 89 Hasell Street.  This church is the third one to house a catholic congregation on this site.  The current ‘new’ structure was completed in 1839. 

If you’ve never been to Charleston, it really is one of a kind.  My feet will testify that the core old town portion of the city is quite large and very well preserved.   Most streets are narrow and traffic doesn’t exactly wiz along!

Charleston is the oldest and second-largest city in South Carolina.  It was founded in 1670 as Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England and Charleston adopted its present name in 1783.  By 1690, Charles Town was the fifth-largest city in North America, and it remained among the 10 largest cities in the United States through the 1840 census.

Construction on Charleston’s United States Custom House began in 1853, but was interrupted in 1859 due to costs and the possibility of South Carolina's secession from the Union.  After the Civil War, construction was restarted in 1870 and this imposing structure was completed in 1879.

Note: Cost of this structure’s construction in 1879 was about $2.806,000.  In today’s dollars, that’s roughly the equivalent of $67,600,000.

This building on East Bay Street stood out as being a little different looking than the surrounding structures.  It’s the former Farmers and Exchange Bank.  It was built in 1853-54.  It’s architecturally distinctive, with Moorish Revival features rarely seen in the United States.  The building is recognizable for its use of ‘muqarnas’—characteristic of Persian and North African architecture.

Note: OK…I had to look up muqarna to find out what that was!  As per Wikipedia, they are is a form of architectural ornamented vaulting, the "geometric subdivision of a squinch, or cupola, or corbel, into a large number of miniature squinches, producing a sort of cellular structure", sometimes also called "honeycomb" vaults from their resemblance to these.  What the heck??! I guess I’d have to be an architect to understand… 

Of course, given my side hobby of finding and photographing railroad depots, this seemed like a good place to end this first walkabout in Charleston.  This is the Charleston Visitor Reception and Transportation Center and it’s located in a building that was constructed in stages from 1840 to 1856.  Located right across from our Hampton Inn, this is one of 5 railroad related buildings known collectively as the William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures and is listed as a National Historic Landmark District.

Note: This National Historic Landmark District includes structures of South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company as well as the home of the company's founder, William Aiken.  The combined grouping makes up one of the largest collection of surviving pre-Civil War railroad depot facilities in the United States.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for the tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. Looks like you had a fine time - we enjoy Charleston as well.

  2. Great photos and I love the banks' architecture. It's one beautiful city and sounds like you all really enjoyed it. It's up to 9 degrees here now, wish you were here! :-)

  3. Charleston look like a beautiful place David :)
    Take care

  4. This place was amazing! Great food, it's smaller than others I guess but it is still a fair sized fun. The decor at this event venue was amazing as every note of music reverberates off the beautiful walls. Everything about this venue is nothing less than 5 stars.