Curious Cupola

The John Ashe Alston House on #South Battery Street was completed shortly after the Revolutionary War and features a design that was very much in style at the time, including the distinctive cupola on the top. Cupola means “little cup” in Italian, and was a detail originating from the Roman and Greek styles and made popular by Andreas Palladio in his “Four Books of Architecture” published in the 16th century, which influenced American builders and architects for many years. The idea of this centrally-located feature was both aesthetic and functional, gracing the looks of the building and allowing hot air to be released from within. This particular cupola also has a legend that it was used as a navigation light in the days when it faced South Bay, which was filled by the 1840’s to create White Point Garden.  <img src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”John Ashe Alston House ”>

Quintessential Queen

The eye-catching look of #Two Meeting Street Inn is very unique to Charleston in its very distinctive Queen Anne Style. This type of Victorian-era architecture was based on details that had become popular in the early 1700’s when Anne was Queen of England. What is notable are the asymmetrical shapes and bulging windows with rounded glass and extended spandrels, as well as gable roofing and wooden fish-scale cladding. The circa 1902 house was built as the honeymoon home of Waring Carrington and Martha Williams Carrington. According to legend the money came from a  cash wedding gift of $75,000 given by Martha’s father George Walton Williams, a local banker who had built the Williams (now Calhoun) Mansion farther up Meeting Street, who reportedly left the money under Martha’s pillow. The house is now a popular  inn, and surely guests must hope they’ll find a gift from the ghost of Mr. Williams under their pillows.<img src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Two Meeting Street Inn ”>

Buccaneers Backinhere

The Pirates Courtyard on #Church Street has a wealth of legends concerning pirates who once made this a destination, and like so many stories handed down verbally from the past, it is hard to say which may be true. Certainly pirates did roam the seas offshore in the early days of the colonial city. They raided ships that brought goods in and out of Charleston Harbor, so were considered outlaws and dozens were hanged in 1718. The legend is that they continued to visit the city, secretly entering through tunnels under the cover of darkness and wandering to taverns, such as this site, and were served in back courtyards to avoid detection. This building dates to that era and was used as a tavern, and it does have a substantial underground cellar that extends into the street, which may well have been a secret passage. <img src=”Charleston Legends” alt=”Pirates Courtyard ”>

Brand’s Brand

Charleston Artist Hampton Brand can paint on canvas or paper, but his preferred surface is slate. From his little shop in a colonial-era building on #East Bay Street, Brand creates amazing likenesses of historic, houses, gates, windows and doorways on the slates he uses. He is a natural, who had no formal artistic training, but clearly has an eye for detail and beauty in capturing some of Charleston’s most memorable landmarks and hidden gems.  <img src=”Charleston Arts” alt=”Slate Paintings ”>

Rodgers’ Rouge

The towering mansion that Francis Rodgers built in the 1880’s features bricks that were highlighted by iron oxides in the kiln process to give them a distinctive hue, and highlighted by stone quoins and a Mansard roof, this 14,000 square foot structure is hard to miss. Rodgers was a very successful businessman and councilman in #Charleston after the Civil War, and was dedicated to creating the first public fire department, which he helped organize in 1881. The architect who designed the house, Daniel Wayne, would also design the three first public fire houses in the city. Today the Rodgers Mansion is a hotel called the Wentworth Mansion, from the name of the street if faces, but the structure should be called for the person who created its fire-red bricks and Charleston’s firehouses, Francis Rodgers. <img src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Rodgers Mansion”>

Longitude Landmark

Of the many old alleys that still grace historic #Charleston today, Longitude Lane certainly has the most interesting stories. Named for its east-west direction as longitude is measured, it once led to a massive cotton press factory built along the lane in 1853, where cotton bales were compressed to fit them in greater numbers on ships for export. And because the   old cotton wagons would sometimes try t squeeze through the narrow west entrance, a bollard was placed there to prevent it. For many years, the bollard was an old Revolutionary War cannon planted muzzle down. But the city of Charleston announced plans to remove the gun to a public display, starting a battle with residents that infamously became known as the “War of Longitude Lane”. <img src=”Famous Charleston Streets” alt=”Historic Alley ”>

Memorable Mother

This oil on canvas image is my great great great grandmother, Caroline Poincignon Trouche, the first American-born mother my family, born in 1808 here in Charleston SC to French immigrant parents. Her delicate face was captured for eternity by her artist husband, Auguste Paul Trouche, whose work is featured in the #Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. <img src=”historic images” alt=”Charleston artists”>

Southern Stonehenge

The bollards that grace lower Church Street are frequently misrepresented as being once used to tie boats plying  an old  creek that  historically flowed near this spot. But in truth, the bollards were always used as a barrier or buffer to vehicle traffic in the days of carts and wagons. Horse-drawn vehicles can easily sway laterally and bang into structures, especially in a bending street such as this and property owners often put up bollards to keep the wagons and carts from smashing walls or gates. These bollards today are used mostly by wedding photographers, as #Charleston has become such a wedding event destination, and brides-to-be like the combination of winding street, leaning bollards and historic house and gate. <img src=”famous landmarks” alt=”historic streets”>

Revolution Remembrances

The John Stuart House on Tradd Street is one of the most storied houses in #Historic Charleston. Built in the 1760’s by Stuart, a Scottish immigrant who played a huge role in resolving conflicts with native Cherokees and whose house features a combination of historic wooden siding – beaded weatherboard on the sides and rear as well as shiplap on the front. But the most famous story involving the house occurred in the Spring of 1780, during the Revolution, when British forces were besieging Charleston. According to this legendary tale, officers of the 2nd South Carolina regiment defending the city met in the house to discuss strategy, finishing the meeting with heavy drinking, when one officer Francis Marion, a Calvinist who did not drink alcohol, refused to participate and when reverted from leaving, leapt from a window to escape, breaking his ankle. Retiring to his rural plantation to recuperate, Marion also escaped capture when the British took the city in May, 1780. He would recover and lead forces against the British from the swamps of coastal South Carolina, and famously became known as the “Swamp Fox”, eventually helping drive the English from South Carolina.<img src=”famous houses” alt=”Swamp Fox”>

Cobblestone Collection

The cobblestone streets of Charleston are very picturesque with stones of various sizes and shapes that are easy on the eye, but hard on the driver. Cobblestones are erosion-formed igneous rocks that get their name from the old English term “cob”, which is a lump. They should be distinguished from cut Belgian blocks, which can be found on other streets. These stones originally came in the bottom of sailing ships, as what is called ballast, that kept ships upright in the wind. But ship owners wanted as much valuable cargo in the ships that docked in Charleston in the sailing era, and often dumped the cobblestones on the wharves. Charleston was happy to have them, because we have no natural rock on the coast, and they were used to fill in lowlands and muddy streets. At one time, Charleston had 10 miles of #cobblestone streets, but today only 5 through-streets are surfaced in cobblestone. <img src=”Charleston curiosities” alt=”cobblestone streets”>