Methodist Mobility

The third oldest church in historic #Charleston is not one of the grand, towering s structures so commonly shown in images of the city, but a small, simple wooden structure tucked away almost unnoticed on Calhoun Street. Construction on Old Bethel Methodist Church was begun in 1797, by a small congregation located near what was the northern boundary of the city. With only a few dozen congregants that included free blacks and slaves, the tiny wooden structure did not have the same architectural grandeur as other famous houses of worship the city. nor did its membership have any great influence on the issues and politics of the day. it served simply as a house of worship for a sect whose principles were simple in purpose and ritual – charity and service for all with faith in the Gospel. By 1852, he old wooden structure was, in the words of its pastor Rev. C.H. Pritchard, “in a very dilapidated condition, in which our congregations can scarcely worship from its leaky state”, and funds were raised to build a new masonry church in its place. But rather than condemn the older church, the congregation paid for it to be rolled on logs across Calhoun Street to its current location, and donated to the black members of the congregation who, for the first time could freely use the pews throughout the church. In the antebellum slavery era, blacks were not allowed to sit in the pews downstairs, but on crowded benches in upstairs galleries where there was often not enough room. Today, the little wooden frame of Old Bethel is still struggling to stay open with a small congregation, but stands very large as one of the oldest and most cherished churches in our historic city. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Old Bethel Methodist Church”

Hydrating History

The question of safe drinking water was historically a problem in #Charleston. Natural springs were virtually non-existent on the peninsula, so the initial source came from shallow wells. The sand and clay substrata made it easy to find ground water in an city that gets as much as 60 inches of rain each year. But the wells dug typically in backyards within a growing, tightly-packed  urban area were very susceptible to bacteria intrusion from the days in which outdoor bathrooms, or privies, allowed waste to be dumped into the same soil strata. People did not understand this completely until science improved by the late 19th century, so up until then, typhoid fever and cholera were constant companions of Charlestonians and killed many over the years. The safest water came from rain funneled into metal attic vats, as well as and masonry pools, called cisterns, which many of the houses still have today. Many cisterns were built in the house basements, but others became a common part of the outdoor urban landscape, and during the Civil War, buildings with the largest reservoirs of rain water were used as soldiers’ hospitals. The concept is still very similar to the landscape pools still gracing houses such as this one on Laurens Street, and although purely an atheistic addition these days, is a reminder of the methods used to gather safe water long ago.

Jeopardized Joe

The Joseph Manigault House is a statuesque museum house in the Wraggborough section of historic #Charleston. The grand house was considered a garden villa when it was completed in 1803 in an elegant Adam style, and originally overlooked open lands that now are crowded with buildings. Located North of Calhoun Street in an unincorporated  area that was once considered the “neck” of the Charleston peninsula, the house and the area fell on hards times after the Civil War, when much of the area was abandoned and became a low-income section where housing projects and inexpensive commercial buildings took over the landscape. The Manigault House was converted into an apartment building but the early 1900’s, and was in dilapidated condition and considered for demolition when the Standard Oil Company bought the property in 1922, and converted part of the house as a filling station for the new wave of automobiles. Put up for auction in 1933, the Manigault House was purchased by the Charleston Museum, which raised money for its restoration during World War II by leasing it out as a USO club for women in the military. Eventually restored, the Manigault House is famed for its open floor plan and elegant gardens today. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Joseph Manigault House

Hurricane History

I am always amused to read the dire weather predictions as to how some new hurricane is going to wash #Charleston away.  There have been numerous significant storms that have struck this coastal city over its 349-year history, and yet buildings such as the 1850’s structure pictured, the Porcher-Simonds House, which overlooks the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, are still standing strong. Yes, there have been fallen trees and power lines and flooded streets at times, but Charleston has always come back to life very quickly. In 1989, Charleston was the bullseye for category 4 Hurricane Hugo, but there were no houses in the old city that were washed away, and I was walking along the Battery the next morning in sunshine. It is well-advised to be prepared for some loss of power and to move away from low-lying barrier islands, but no need to evacuate homes on high ground that have seen storms of all kinds many times before. Tourists are often told the erroneous story that the house in the picture was a compromise design between a wife and husband. That is completely untrue, as the house was an antebellum structure modified in the 1890’s to look Victorian, and I point out similar looks in houses elsewhere on the tour. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Hurricane Legacy

English Evidence

Two of the most intriguing stories about St. Michael’s Church in historic #CharlestonSC are those of its chandelier and pipe organ. Both came from London, the organ in 1768, and the chandelier in 1803, and both were originally much different than they are today. The tracker organ, created by John Snetzler, originally featured about 900 pipes. It was damaged in the Civil War and again in the earthquake of 1886, and after years of minor repairs, was completely refurbished in the 1990’s, with new ranks and stops added to what was left of the original, and now features 2519 pipes. The chandelier was originally lowered by a winching mechanism that still exists in the church attic, and was brought low enough for lighting candles on the chandelier in its early years. Eventually, gas lamps replaced the candles, and today, electric bulbs. So the sight and sound may be a bit more powerful today than in the church when these implements were installed.<img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”St. Michael’s Church organ and chandelier


Evolving Avenues

Since the first streets were created in #Charleston back in 1672, thoroughfares have been changing in a variety of different ways. Surfaces were originally soil, sand and broken sea shell, and the first major change was the arrival of non-native stones, either lumpy cobblestones or cut perpendicular Belgian Block. This section of Broad Street was once paved in wooden blocks to reduce the noise of passing carts and wagons. The late 1800’s brought the introduction of the first tar, or Macadam surfaces, and in the early 20th century, many streets were paved in vitrified brick from the Catskill Mountains in New York. Since the 1920’s the majority of surfaces have been paved in asphalt, but there are still brick, Belgian Block and cobblestone streets. The early conveyances were carts and wagons pulled by mule and horse, which were pulling much larger vehicles when the first trolley tracks were laid in 1866. The trolleys were made electric in the 1890’s, and within a decade after that, the first automobiles appeared, and at one time, the traffic flow included horse-drawn drays, electric trolleys and gas-powered jitneys. There were no traffic signals or stop signs until the 20th century, and the first creation of right and left lanes began before the Civil War. Parking spaces were added by the 1930’s and the first parking meters came shortly thereafter. Speed limits were also a 20th century addition, as were the first speeding and parking tickets. One thing that is very noticeable about the old streets in images like this that differs greatly from today is the volume of traffic, now much heavier, and you’re not going to have the chance to tie the horse and carriage to the nearest tree. <img.src=”Charleston Streets” alt=”Changing Lanes

Skewered Skyline

The People’s Building is quite an odd sight in old #Charleston, standing awkwardly above the graceful city skyline at its 126 feet of garish yellow Stoney Landing brick. The 8-story building was supposed to be the wave of the future when it was finished in 1911, part of Mayor Robert Goodwyn Rhett’s attempt to bring Charleston out of the doldrums after the Civil War. He was on the board of the People’s Bank on Broad Street, and the bank became the basis for the People’s Bank Building, as it was originally called. Sadly, the only redeeming quality of the building was a roof-line cornice that made it look similar to the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, but the cornice was damaged in the 1938 hurricane, and the cheapskate owners refused to restore it, and it became the eyesore of downtown Charleston that it is still today. Restoring the cornice might help, as would painting the yellow brick or stuccoing it. But in true penny-pinching Charleston fashion, the People’s Building remains an ugly anomaly in an otherwise gracefully scenic city. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt= “The Peoples’Building”

Historic Hideaways

One of the best reasons to walk historic #Charleston is that many of the city’s most scenic treasures might be completely missed when driving by in a car. There are numerous charming gardens visible through exquisite, picturesque wrought iron gates along streets not commonly traveled such as Gibbes Street, Lamboll Street, Hasell Street and lower Church Street. This particular scene on lower Church is facing in the same direction as the one-way thoroughfare is driven, so it would be almost impossible to see while driving, yet is a breath-taking pause on a leisurely stroll through the old city. There are also wonderful alleys, historic graveyards, and several scenic greens and parks in the older part of Charleston that are meant to be observed on foot. And what makes the city even more appealing to those who walk it is the fact that the historic areas are contiguous an blend into each other from Ashley to Cooper river on each side, and from White Point Garden to the upper peninsula. The city is safe, clean, and fairly compact, with the historic district comprising about four square miles. This garden and gate can be found on lower Church Street on the Charleston Footprints Walking Tour, and I consider this area to be among the most charming in the Holy City. <img.src=”Charleston Sightseeing” alt=”Hidden Historic Gems

Definitely Deutsche

The 1730’s opened a new era in the history of #Charleston with the first German immigrants arriving in the city from migrations down the eastern seaboard of the English colonies. German artisans were attracted by the burgeoning wealth of the young city, and were skilled in fashioning iron, wood and plaster. This group of Germans was of Lutheran origin, and began congregating in the first suburbs of the original city around what is now Archduke Street, where they built their first church in 1764. Like other immigrant groups in this city, the Germans initially were closely-knit and lived within proximity of each other and spoke their native language among themselves. To the majority English-speaking population, hearing the Germans refer to themselves as “Deutsche” was easily confused as being Dutch, and the nickname given the area where the Lutherans lived was “Dutch Town”. The German population grew after the American Revolution, including many Catholic Germans who joined the new St. Mary’s congregation on Hasell Street. The older Lutheran group replaced the original structure with the current St. John’s Lutheran Church by 1817, which still stands as grandly above this historic part of Charleston that was not Dutch, but Deutsche. <img.src=”Charleston  Landmarks” alt=”St. John’s Lutheran Church”