Touring by walking in scenic, historic Charleston SC is a wonderful thing for visitors to do who want the best experience during their stay. This architecture-rich, waterfront city blends the beauty of the pristine South Carolina coast with the amazing character of a storied past. Now that we are officially in Spring, blooms will be bursting forth in gardens and landscapes all around the city, adding an eye-pleasing luster to wrought iron gates, classic steeples, charming parks, cobblestone streets and moss-covered oaks.
People who visit historic Charleston are often told things that simply are not true, such as the oft-repeated story about 27 East Battery. People are told that it’s called “The Compromise House”, with the explanation that the alternating squared and rounded details were agreed to by a couple living there as a compromise because “he wanted square and she wanted round”. That is pure nonsense. There are other houses in Charleston with very similar contrasting Renaissance Revival details, such as over at 68 Meeting Street, which also features that alternating squared and rounded look. Neither house had these built originally, by the way, as in both cases, the details were Victorian-era additions.
I have written two books about Charleston – The Charm of Charleston and Charleston, Yesterday and Today – which include the history, architecture, legends, gardens and gates, and wildlife that are unique to this city. Both are coffee table books with plenty of pictures and illustrations from past and present. A good place to find them is the Historic Charleston Foundation gift shop at 108 Meeting Street where I begin my walking tours.
This is the old central police station at Vanderhorst and St. Philip streets was built in 1905 in a castellated style to appear more imposing to those who saw it. In truth, the city police department was understaffed in the early 1900’s, and a big, scary police station perhaps made up for the lack of real authority. According to reliable stories from old-timers now dead, the station was notorious for the storage and resale of confiscated alcohol during prohibition. The city yearbooks say that many gallons were “flushed down the drains” of the station, when it was common knowledge that much of the stuff went out the back door. The building was demolished after the police station was moved to it current location in 1974.
Charleston was among ports all over the South subject to a Federal military blockade during the Civil War to cut off supplies to the Confederate forces. The South countered with elusive ships built to be difficult to see, hear or catch, that took out supplies of cotton overseas and returned with munitions, medicines and food. Despite dozens of warships guarding Charleston harbor day and night, thousands of blockade-running voyages got through, right up until the last day of the war.