Colonnade Curiosity

Many visitors to historic #Charleston are impressed with the wealth of classic architecture that makes our city so special and scenic. The styles of ancient Romans and Greeks had become all the rage in Europe in the 17 and 1800’s, and those styles also became very popular in America. What tourists are seeing in abundance with the columns, arches domes and elaborate details is what the Greek and Romans treasured. As I often explain on my walking tours, the architectural concepts of the ancients can provide some interesting optical illusions, and one is called “entasis”, which comes from the Greek for “stretching”. The towering fluted Corinthian columns pictured here at Charleston’s Trinity Methodist Church appear to be uniform in circumference from top to bottom, but in fact are slightly larger at the base, tapering almost imperceptibly to the top. The concept is classical displayed in the 451BC Parthenon in Athens, Greece, where the symmetrical look of the columns is actually created by the asymmetry of entasis. Because the base is closer to the eye, a perfectly uniform column shape would appear to be concave and unstable, but the entasis corrects the visual illusion with its own. Also, an interesting note is that big columns such as the one pictured are made of stucco over brick, with details at the top sometimes made of zinc. Come join me on the tour, and I’ll show you. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Classic Columns”

Captivating Curvature

When asked what makes historic #Charleston, SC such a captivating scenic experience for those touring the city, I say it’s all in the details. Most of the buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries are basically no different in concept than modern structures – all typically built in box-like symmetrical fashion. But what greatly separates the charm of the classic buildings from the bland of the modern is exquisite detail on the exteriors. Pictures here is the Blacklocke House on Bull Street built around 1800. What attracts the sightseeing eyes is evident in its grand entrance. The side-to-side steps are what’s known as an Imperial Staircase to replicate European grandeur; The doorway is embellished with attached columns and fanlight tracery; and the stair rail is beautifully hand-forged in the style of the ancient musical instrument, the lyre. These details are expensive and demanding of super architectural skill. This was very important to buildings owners and craftspeople long ago, but sadly not so much today.

Soldiers’ Service

The 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in World War II coincides with the “class that never was” at the South Carolina Military Academy – The Citadel. The Citadel was created in Charleston in 1842 as a college for military cadets, and Citadel graduates have served in every war going back to the Mexican War. The campus is located along the Ashley River, with distinctive crenelated barracks and parade ground that thrills visitors to Charleston year after year with military parades and a wealth of military hardware from various wars, including tanks, aircraft and cannon. The Citadel has produced more soldiers in American wars than any other colleges with the exception of the military colleges at West Point and Annapolis, and 6,000 cadets served during World War II, including a group of seniors who never had a graduation ceremony, thus the “class that never was”. With the Allies badly in need of manpower in the Spring of 1944, the senior cadets were asked to enlist in the war effort before the academic year was completed. They all did, and served admirably in the latter stages of the war. Surviving members of the class did return to get their senior rings, which is a great tradition at The Citadel, but never a graduation ceremony.

<img.src=”Charleston Military History” alt=”The Citadel Class of 1944”

Resurrection Reality

One of the most interesting aspects about historic and scenic #Charleston, SC, is the Holy City’s wealth of plants that visitors find so appealing on walking tours. In our warm Summer season, one plant that often catches the eye does so not because of its beautiful flowers or statuesque trunk, but its ability to seemingly come back to life after dying. The scientific name is a great tongue-twister, Pleopeltis Polypodioides, but its common name is Ressrection Fern. This small plant is an epiphyte, one that grows on top of other plants, such as the limbs of live oaks, as well as crevices in walls, by absorbing nutrients out of the air. The Resurrection fern’s diet consists mostly of water, and when dry periods occur, instead of dying, it restricts the amount of water it needs by creating a hormone called abscisic acid, allowing the leaves to curl up and turn brown and look dead without hurting the plant. The fern can tolerate dryness for weeks and lose up to 97 percent of its water and still come back strong after a good soaking rain, turning lush green. <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Resurrection Fern”