The Old Slave Mart Museum tells a sadly tragic story of human bondage that was once legally protected by the US Constitution. Slavery began in earnest in Charleston during the 18th century, when rice cultivation became a major source of wealth. Rice was grown in steamy wetlands filled with mosquitoes which European workers were not used to. In West Africa, people had been planting rice in similar conditions for centuries, and factions there had long been selling people into slavery. So West Africa become the source of a bustling #slave trade that was largely kept intact by three very different groups – New England ship owners, West African slave traders, and Southern planters. The importation of slaves was made illegal in America as of 1808, but the slave population in the Charleston area had grown to the tens of thousands by then, and small markets such as this were carrying on a domestic slave trade until the end of the Civil War. Today, the museum features artifacts and implements from slave life and slave sales, as well as memorials to those poor souls were bought and sold inside.<img src=”Slave Trade” alt=”Charleston History”>
In the 1880’s three fire bell towers were erected in #Charleston, and attached to the new technology, electricity, as a “electric telegraph” system was created to send fire alarms. The wires connected to various boxes throughout the city, in which there was a large key handle in a mechanism that, when turned, sent an electric current to one of the three fire houses and showed the source of the electric power on a city grid. The alarm also automatically raised barriers inside the fire houses where horse were kept, so that they could swiftly be harnessed to fire engines and on their way to the fire location. <img src=”Fire Towers” alt=”Historic Charleston”>
The steeple of St. Philip’s Anglican Church was added to the 1830’s structure in 1848, and is another superb example of the architecture of Edward Brickell White. At 200 feet, and on one of the highest areas of the city, the steeple is very visible from the entrance to Charleston Harbor, and until 1918, was lit at night with navigation lights to helped incoming ships locate the channel. The four bells inside the steeple were added in 1976, replacing the original bells that were donated to the Confederacy to be melted down as cannon during the Civil War.
<img src=”St. Philip’s Church” alt=”Historic Charleston”>
The #Charleston, SC Fire Department was not created until 1881, and fire fighting in the city prior to that was done by individual private fire companies, called “fire brigades” who were located in small buildings around the town, such as this location pictured on Hayne Street. From the 1850’s to the early 1900’s, most fire engines were little more than water pumps on wheels pulled by horses, that used the pressure of steam boilers to create both vacuum and positive pressure to force water out of wells and hydrants on to burning buildings. A few of the old boilers still exist and are on display at the Main Fire Station at 262 Meeting Street.<img src=”fire engines” alt=”Charleston Fires”>
The Confederate Home and College was created in 1867 by Amarinthia and Isabella Snowden as a home for widows, mothers and daughters of Confederate soldiers killed during the Civil War, and as a college for women, who had little advanced educational opportunities in that era. The building is a circa 1800 dwelling that became a local bank, and was abandoned after the Civil war, and was a purchased with money the sisters raised by mortgaging their houses. Damaged by an earthquake in 1886, the building was restored with its distinctive Mansard roof and finial-topped dormer windows. Today the organization still provides housing for indigent widows as well as providing five college scholarships for women.
The Proscenium Crest above the curtain on the stage of the Dock Street Theatre is a version of the famous Order of the Garter from the English Kings, who used such symbols of heraldry as tokens of rank for various nobles. The hand-painted replica is among the many details at the Dock Street designed to give the theatre the look and feel of and old English playhouse, where such royal displays were commonplace. The unusual motto comes from the legend of the garter, a strap that holds knights’ armor in place, which from appearance seemed unmanly, thus “Honi soit qui mal y pense” or “foolish are those who think badly of others” followed by “Dieu et mon droit” “God and my right” to be king. <img src=”Dock Street Theatre” alt=”Charleston Fine Arts”>
The mesmerizing Pineapple Fountain at the newly-renamed #RileyWaterfrontPark is symbolic of hospitality based on an image shown in an earlier blog of Charleston’s namesake, King Charles II, accepting this healthful fruit from the new world from his royal gardener, and has since become a standard on Charleston gate posts, showing that we welcome those who come to our city.<img src=”Pineapple Fountain” alt=”Charleston Parks”>