Fearsome Fortress

The imposing District Jail looms over Magazine Street in downtown #Charleston  with its fortress-like crenelations that make for a very forbidding facade. The jail first opened in 1802 as a much smaller structure, and was extensively remodeled in the 1850’s to stand four stories high as a stark example of punishments that was harsh in those days, and made to look like an imposing castle. It was severely damaged by the  1886 earthquake, and restored at the current height of three stories. Among the famous and infamous held here were murderer Lavinia Fisher, hanged in 1822 and who supposedly still haunts the jail today; Denmark Vesey, whose attempted slave uprising also earned him a place  on the gallows; as well as hundreds of Federal soldiers, some brought up from Andersonville prison when Sherman marched through Georgia, who were briefly kept here as captives during the Civil War. The building was never used as a city jail, which is commonly told to visitors, but as a district and then county jail, and closed in 1939. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Old District Jail

Riverside Reminder

The circa 1800 Gaillard-Bennett House on Montagu Street is several blocks from the Ashley River today, but when it was built, it faced the water. The #Charleston peninsula was much different then, and on its western edge grand houses were built by prominent citizens to take advantage of the prevailing breezes that came over the Ashley. This Adam-style house built by Theodore Gaillard was designed with extensive side porches and windows to take in the cooling breezes, and it stands on a considerable lot that stretches back nearly one block. Filling of Ashley River marshes in the 1880’s left the grand old house high and dry, but it still retains its classic elegance, if not its breezy nature. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Gaillard-Bennett House

Regal Ravenel

The Arthur Ravenel Bridge in #CharlestonSC is marvel of 21st century technology that adds a graceful modern look to a charming historic city. The bridge, which opened in 2005, spans nearly three miles, with two 575-foot towers that suspend an 8-lane roadbed 186 feet about the water level at high tide by means of 126 powerful cables. The bridge has both a pedestrian and bicyclic lane, and has become one of the most popular destinations for hikers and photographers alike. It replaced two parallel bridges, one built in 1929 and the other in 1965, that were narrow and downright scary to drive. The new Ravenel is a driving delight, and is built to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes or the unlikely strike from a passing ship. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Ravenel Bridge

Scot Spot

The First Scots Presbyterian Church on Meeting Street in historic #Charleston is among the oldest in the city, completed in 1814. The church replaced the original Scottish “Kirk” built on this site in 1731, which was too small for the expanding congregation by the 19th century. The builders were also Scots, John and James Gordon, who in the frugal Scottish tradition, saved the cost of a steeple with a pair of domed towers, The concept had come from another pair Scots, Robert and James Adam, whose  Adam style swept America in the early 1800’s. One tower had a bell that was donated to the Confederacy and melted down for cannon, and the church went without chimes until the current bell was installed in 1999. We go past the First Scot church on my walking tours, and often hear organ or bagpipe music. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”First Scots Presbyterian Church

Washington’s Warriors

The Washington Light Infantry Monument in #Charleston #SC is and obelisk very reminiscent of,  in a smaller scale, the Washington monument. The irony is not only that they are both named in honor of George Washington, but that the Washington Monument was designed by Charleston-born Robert Mills, the same architect who designed the building in background of this picture, the Fireproof Building. The obelisk stands in Washington Square, erected in 1892 in honor of the Washington Light Infantry, a volunteer military organization created in 1807. Soldiers of the WLI  have served in every American conflict from the War of 1812 until World War II.  <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Washington Light Infantry Monument

Factually Fictional

This idyllic image of the grand Regency-style mansion on Rutledge Avenue in #CharlestonSC seems to come from some dream of the past when it was owned by the man many believe Margaret Mitchell fashioned her character of Rhett Butler in “Gone With The Wind”. The    house built for Patrick Duncan in 1816, was bought in 1845 by Charleston banker George Alfred Trenholm. Trenholm was everything the novel and movie portrayed in Butler, who was said to be from Charleston – dashing ladies’ man, expert with dueling pistols, and financer of blockade-running ships that brought in supplies during the #Civil War. Ironically, the house of the ladies’ man has been home  since 1909 to Ashley Hall  School – a girls school. My mother taught school at Ashley Hall for many years. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Ashley Hall”

Eventual Edifice

The first Catholic cathedral in the South was begun in #Charleston in 1850, with a brownstone, Gothic Revival design by Irish-born architect Patrick Keely of Brooklyn, New York. The church was finished an consecrated in 1854 as the Cathedral of St. John an St. Finbar, but was destroyed seven years later in a great fire that swept the city in 1861. Keely was called on again to design a replacement structure on the same site, but it was nearly 30 years later. Charleston’s fortunes were decimated by the Civil War, the the Catholic diocese had barely enough money to build at all, and the replacement church, named the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was constructed piece-meal over 17 years and after Keely’s death in 1896. Consecrated in 1907, the cathedral opened unfinished, lacking a steeple that  cost too much, and for more than a century, it was a flat-topped structure until the current steeple was finally completed in 2010. We go past the church on my tour on most days, and I point out that my parents were married in the structure. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Artistic Ancestor

This painting, entitled “The Hundred Pines”, was painted by my great-great-great grandfather, Auguste Paul Trouche circa 1830. He was of French heritage, and  was trained in a method landscape realism that was made famous at the Barbizon School near Fontainebleau outside Paris. The painting is part of the collection at the #Gibbes Museum of Art in #Charleston, where curators have told me that his obvious skill in the exceptional lighting in this  oil on canvas may indicate that he was actually trained in France. The Hundred Pines was a cluster of large trees used as a landmark for ships entering Charleston Harbor, and a great example of the natural settings around Charleston in those days. I have some of my ancestor’s paintings in my private collection. <img.src=”Charleston Artists” alt=”Auguste Paul Trouche

Prehistoric Peculiarity

A common sight along the scenic coast of #SouthCarolina this time of year is the helmet-shaped shell of the Horseshoe Crab. This unusual creature, whose real name is Limilus Polyphemus, is actually not a crab at all, but closely related to spiders and other arachnids. Scientists have evidence that Horseshoe crabs have existed for millions of years and benefit from having no natural enemies. The outer shell, called a prosoma, has two eyes, but the creature is mostly nocturnal, feeding and mating in shallow ocean beachfronts. It also displays a long sharp tail, or telson, that is used primarily for flipping the crab over if waves turn it upside down in sand. The unusual look is not the only thing odd about the Horseshoe crab. It’s rare copper-based blood contains elements that are extremely important in human medicine, and are commonly used to test sterility of syringes and surgical tools.  Visitors wandering area beaches such as Sullivan’s island and Isle of Palms will often see the horseshoe crabs washed up near the dunes. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Horseshoe Crab”

Consumption Conundrum

Prior to Prohibition in the 1920’s and 30’s, South Carolina had experienced its own form of alcohol control with the Dispensary Act of 1893, which banned private sales of alcoholic beverages. The state of South Carolina took over the sale of what was termed “alcoholic merchandise” with state-operated dispensaries and all alcohol was sold in bottles with the insignia of the era, a Palmetto tree with crossed palmetto logs from the South Carolina state seal. The dispensary system was marked with corrupt officials as well as a new wave of bootlegging, mostly in the #Charleston area, all of which led to the system being repealed in 1907. Today, the old dispensary bottles are collector’s items, and one new distillery has adopted the old insignia for its new product. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”The Dispensary System