Convivial Congregations

One of the often-overlooked aspects of #Charleston is the cities extensive social history, and by that I mean social clubs and gatherings. As I tell visitors to the city on my walking tours, Charlestonians have always been very inclined to social events, and have created a wealth of organizations for that purpose. The oldest social group in the city is the St. Andrews Society, founded back in 1729, and although largely a gathering for pleasantries today, like most of these groups, there is a philanthropic purpose. Many historic Charleston societies have charitable functions that are meant to better the community, and some offer stipends and scholarships to the needy and the deserving throughout the city. But the central purpose of each group is for gathering and convivial exchange, and historically whether it was the intellectual pursuits of the Philomathean Society, the musical interests of the Arion Society, or the help offered those of African descent by the Brown Fellowship Society, the pleasantries were always foremost in each meeting agenda. Some of the old societies dies out over the years, and one in particular, the Ugly Club, I would like to see reincarnated. It was purely for fun that 18th century Charleston gentlemen met in this society, with the idea of having laughs with self-deprecating humor. I came across an old poem that was read at each meeting, and although I have edited it somewhat, you will get the drift.

our rumpled hairs and chins that double

flank winged ears and veins that bubble,

with wrinkled necks and pockmarked faces

the fairer sex would nigh embrace us,

our sagging jowls and bulbous lashes

meet with howls in looking glasses,

there is no boasting visage in tatters,

but ugly we toast friendship that matters

Consistent Climate

We have a sub-tropical climate here in #Charleston that is quite warm and humid in parts of the year, but we can also have snow and hard freezes in other months. I am often asked on the walking tours about the climate in Charleston and about climate change. I have no ideological position one way or another on the subject of climate change, and I look at it very objectively, but there is one very noticeable study done in Charleston by scientists centuries ago that offers some startling information that contradicts the commonly held belief that we are getting much warmer. Two Scottish-born scientists, John Lining and Lionel Chalmers published extensive studies about Charleston’s climate which can be read in entirety on line under the title “An account of the weather and diseases in South Carolina”. The two men measured temperatures for the 10-year period between 1750-59, measuring thermometers every day, every week, every season, day and night. They concluded, as you can see in the table below, that the average temperature for that period was 66.3 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature for Charleston in 2019 was 65.85 degrees. Of course climate does change, and the entire Charleston area was a sea bed 40 million years ago, and may well be again. But Lining and Chalmers’ study does offer an intriguing perspective.

Compelling Camellia

One of the enduring pleasures of Winter in #Charleston is the sight of camellias blooming in an assortment of reds, whites and pinks. We pass numerous private gardens on my walking tours of the historic city, and visitors are typically very impressed with the beauty of this wonderful flower. The version of the plant in bloom now is the Camellia Japonica, which, as the name suggests, is a plant native to Asia. There is no certainty as to when the Camellia Japonica was introduced to the Charleston area, but there is proof that French botanist Andre Michaux brought the plant as a formal gift to Middleton Plantation in 1786. Michael was the royal gardener of King Louis XVI, and was sent to America in 1785 to help develop better relations between France and the newly independent America colonies. He moved to Charleston, where hew created an 110-acre botanical garden just outside the city, and introduced Charlestonians to colorful blooms that he had gathered in extensive travels around the world.  <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Camellia Japonica”

Evening Elegance

One of the great things about historic #Charleston, SC is that the city is so safe after dark. I often encourage visitors on my walking tours who are looking for things to do in the evening to take a stroll down some of the streets of the older city and enjoy the light show at place such as First Scots Presbyterian Church pictured below. Night lights are a long tradition in Charleston, dating back to the first street lamps in the 1700’s lit by hand with burning wicks. By 1846, wick-lit lamps gave way to gas lamps, as the city burned coal and piped the coal gas underground to ignite lamps after dark. The first electric lighting came at the turn of the 20th century, and one of the most memorable displays at the international Charleston Expo in 1901 was a landscape lit by Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulbs. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Night lighting”