Roper House Curiosity

No Ghosts, Just Guns In This Attic
This fabulous Greek Revival mansion hides a very peculiar piece of history in its attic – a 500-pound piece of a Confederate cannon. The William Roper House at 13 East Battery was accidentally bombarded by the fragment of a weapon blown up near the end of the Civil War to keep it from being used by the Federals, and where it’s located now, there will be no more salvos. The original cannon was a monstrous weapon invented by British Captain Theophilus Alexander Blakely, whose creations were purchased by the South to defend seaports because of their accuracy and range. The huge cannon was mounted at the northeast corner of White Point Garden when that area was built up as an artillery battery, but was too big for the Confederates to relocate when Charleston was evacuated in February, 1865. To keep the 5-ton cannon from falling into Union hands, it was packed with black powder and exploded. Part of the muzzle flew over the DeSaussure and Ravenel houses to the South, and into the 1830’s
home of cotton merchant William Roper. Today the Roper House is beautifully preserved, and to accommodate the big cannon section wedged in among the attic joists, a small door offers a glimpse of this fascinating anecdote to history. Unfortunately, it is a private home, and the view is not open to the public, but I have had the good fortune to have seen it, and the cannon section is preserved very well.


Rusticated Facade
A fairly common architectural detail found in Charleston is exterior “rustication”. The Latin origin of the word is “of the country”, referring to something that is less polished, more natural in look. Typically a detail in stone facades, the rusticated look is rough-hewn, uneven surface that adds more dimension when built with deep-set joints. It provides a striking contrast to flat facades, and is often built in combination with smooth areas to highlight the rustication.
Created by cutting back the edges of stone blocks while leaving the inner sections broken and jagged, rustication dates back to ancient Persia, and was used by both the Romans and Greeks. The look was revived by Renaissance architects and found its way to England in the 17th century, and enjoyed a brief period of popularity in America during the Victorian period, featured prominently in Richardson Revival architecture popular in the 1880’s.

Lighting Charleston

Morris Island Light 1860
It has been 50 years since the Morris Island Lighthouse was decommissioned, but it still stands strong against waves and wind near Charleston Harbor. The 161-foot lighthouse was built in 1876, and is the third beacon on Morris Island. The original light built on the uninhabited island was constructed in 1767 by the same man who undertook the building of historic St. Michael’s Church, Samuel Cardy. That structure was remodeled in 1838 to build it higher and more sturdy, and stood until December 20, 1861, when Confederates blew it up. Abraham Lincoln had declared a blockade of Southern ports in 1861, and the defenders of Charleston did not want a light that could fall in Northern hands. Blockade runners that brought needed supplies and medicines in through the blockade depended on darkness, and the less light, the better.
The 1876 structure, like the two that preceded it, was built well inland on the island, and was manned by a light keeper whose house was nearby. Since construction of the harbor jetties in the 1880’s, hydrodynamics have changed on Morris Island, and more than three-fourths of the original island has washed away, including the land around the lighthouse. A cofferdam was added in 2010 to protect the structure’d base from erosion, and the old beacon is still a familiar sight to mariners who come and go into Charleston.
Morris Island Lighthouse

Marking the First

Tartan Marker First Scots
Charleston’s original Presbyterian congregation held prayer services at the old White Meeting House on the site of the present Circular Congregational Church, sharing the meeting house building with other “Dissenters” (Protestants who did not accept the supremacy of the Church of England). In 1731, they moved to their present location at the corner of Meeting and Tradd streets, bulding a wooden “kirk” at the southeast corner of the lot. Being the initial group of Presbyterians to establish an independent congregation, they called themselves First Scots Presbyterian, but because of size restrictions in the old wooden church, a second group pf Presbyterians estalbished another congregation farther up the peninsula in 1809, consecrating their current structure in 1811 as the Second Presbyterian Church. The old wooden “kirk” was replaced in 1814 by the church used by the First Scots congregation today, so technically, the First is the third, and in a literal sense, the Second is the first in age and the First is second. Today, all that remains from the actual First are four tartan cloth markers in what is now the graveyard, marking the four original corners of the church.