High Half

Wandering around the parts of #Charleston where the buildings are older, visitors will often see houses with half-gable rooftops. Some of these are row house, but some are free-standing, and in each case, the gable lowers toward the side of the property where there is some open ground, and never lowers toward the ground of another separate property. These are all houses built long before Charleston’s first tapped water became a reality in 1879, when the first artesian well was successfully drilled. Prior to that, the cleanest water came from above in the form of rainfall, and any method of catching, collecting or storing it was considered a good idea. Some could be diverted through gutters and pipes to metal attic vats, but much of it cascaded off the roofs into the ground below, so many Charleston gardens featured masonry cisterns to catch the flow, and run-off was good for plants that may have included citrus fruits and herbs. The half gable, therefore, became a good way to divert all the water that struck the roof back into the owner’s property. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Half Gable Roofs

 

Opulently Original

The 1818-era Aiken Rhett House is on of six museum houses in #Charleston, but is unique in way that separates it from the  others. The grand 19th century home of Governor William Aiken is preserved, not restored, and it looks much the same as it did when Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended a reception in its grand ballroom during the Civil War. The house is an Italian Villa design with later Greek Revival entrance, and also has a fully intact area in the rear garden with slave quarters and carriage house. It is not air-conditioned, so it can be stifling in Charleston’s Summer heat, but still a magnificent structure that literally takes you back in time. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Aiken-Rhett House”

Fawning Friends

The deer population has exploded in coastal #South Carolina, so the annual deer hunting season that begins in mid-August is largely sanctioned by the state Department of Natural Resources to cull the herds so that they do not over-populate to the point of starvation. Still, I would hope there is a better way, and any close encounter for me would make it difficult to do any harm to such a delicate creature. <img.src=”South Carolina Wildlife” alt=”Deer Hunting Season

Limestone Labyrinth

It may come as a surprise to find out that not far from the flat #South Carolina coast, there are a wealth of underground rock caves. Forty million years ago, the Coastal Plain of South Carolina was a sea bed, and the many centuries of calcium deposits from decaying sea life left the receding ocean front filled with limestone. Now a full hour’s drive from #Charleston, Santee State Park features this incredible rock formation that has passages that wend their way deep below the surface with ice-cold water trickling through them. The caves are ideal habitat for the Rafinesque big-eared bat, which thrive in the cold, dark caverns and give  them a creepier nature. However, like all bats, the creature’s diet is primarily insects, and provides a helpful pest control along the banks of Lake Marion, where the park is located.  <img.src=”South Carolina Natural History” alt=”Santee Limestone Caves”

Junior Giant

Many years before it emerges from the sea as a hulking 300-pound creature, the loggerhead sea turtle begins its odyssey as a tiny hatchling barely larger than a person’s finger. The Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge near #Charleston, SC, is one of America’s largest nesting and hatching grounds for this amazing creature, which comes ashore on Summer nights in dark, remote beach areas to dig nests and deposit clutches of about 60 ping-pong sized eggs . The loggerhead is an air-breathing reptile that lives its life in the sea, but must drag its massive carapace and land-clumsy flippers on to remote beaches to lay its eggs in the sand, where they hatch about six weeks later and dash into the waves to renew the cycle. Because Cape Romain is the longest stretch of unspoiled coast line in the Atlantic U.S., thousands of loggerheads lay eggs here each Summer and this is crucial to keeping the species alive in the South Atlantic. <img.src=”South Carolina Wildlife” alt=”Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Legendary Libation

The propensity for alcohol consumption  in historic #Charleston has always been well known. In the colonial period, there was so much drinking at various “tippling houses”, that the city passed an ordinance in the 1730’s prohibiting  such taverns from serving sailors the day prior to embarking from the seaport. And the heavy indulgence of Charlestonians long ago earned the city the nickname “The Madeira City”. Temperance movements became particularly strong in the 19th century, and in 1893, the state of South Carolina passed the Dispensary Act, which prohibited sale of “alcoholic merchandise” from any source other than state-approved dispensary shops. The state got in the business of making the alcohol served as well, and it was sold in bottles with a uniform symbol of the palmetto tree with crossed palmetto logs. The Dispensary Act created such a spate of boot-legging in Charleston that it was finally repealed in 1907. Today, a distiller has used the Dispensary’s original 1898 bourbon recipe to recreated a concoction that is being sold with the old Dispensary logo. Hopefully it will not lead to any prohibition.<img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”South Carolina Dispensary

Singularly Simmons

Learning the iron trade as a teenaged apprentice in a blacksmith’s shop around the turn of the century, Philip Simmons became a household name in #Charleston during a career that spanned nearly a century. Mr. Simmons started out hammering wagon wheels and other working iron parts, but quickly fell in love with the historic wrought iron craftsmanship he saw in the streets of Charleston. Fashioning his first decorative gate in the 1930’s, Mr. Simmons showed a keen understanding of the possibilities of shaping iron, and became one of the most sought-after artisans in Charleston history. This gate pictured is the essence of Philip Simmons – a delicate beauty that incorporated both the nature scenes he liked to depict with the image of the heron, as well as personalizing it by adding a crucifix for the owner of the house, an ordained minister. <img.src=”Charleston Ironwork” alt=”Philip Simmons Gate”

Bridge Beginnings

The William Gibbes House on South Battery Street in historic #Charleston, is today a fashionable residence two rows removed from the Ashley River. When it was built just prior to the American Revolution, however, the lot overlooked the water in what was then called South Bay. The namesake William Gibbes was a very successful Charleston entrepreneur who bought the lot as a ship landing for various enterprises that included the export of timber. Because the muddy, shallow bay afforded no natural slip for ocean-sailing ships, Gibbes built a “bridge”, as the early wharves were called.  This was done by floating stones and debris on palmetto log rafts to deeper water, sinking them at  low tide, and building or bridging wth more fill in between to create a   protruding wharf, and the Gibbes built on South Bay was called “Gibbes Bridge”. The old wharf washed away  long before the Civil War, and in the early 20th century, the South Bay area was filled by dredging up river bottom and creating what is now Murray Boulevard. But the bridge connection did not die with Gibbes, as a later owner of the house was Cornelia Farrow Roebling, widow of Washington Roebling, chief engineer and designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”William Gibbes House

Frenetic Fritillary

A repeat visitor to #Charleston gardens in the late Summer and Fall is the radiant Gulf Fritillary. This creature is part of the insect family known as Lepidopterans, from the Greek “lepi”, which means scale, and includes butterflies and moths. The wings of the Fritillary are filled with fine scales that absorb heat from the sun for energy, as well as providing a visual attraction for mating, and a natural warning to potential predators with the various patterns of rings and spots mimicking poisonous plants. The Fritillary migrates north from the Gulf of Mexico each year after emerging from cocoons in the Spring, and will typically only live a matter of weeks before mating and restarting the life cycle. They feed on flowers by probing with a needle-like probiscis and are usually attracted to bright reddish/orange colors, so planting Pentas or Lantana this time of year is a good Fritillary magnet. <img.src=”Charleston Nature and Wildlife” alt=”Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

High Hydration

The Middleton-Pinckney House, built in an elegant Adamasque fashion in #Charleston during the 1790’s, became a most unusual public facility in 1879, when it was made into the Charleston Waterworks. The city’s first successful artesian well was dug in 1879, tapping into massive subterranean aquifers whose positive pressure from centuries of water trickling downward, established a non-stop gushing flow upward that poured in millions of gallons each day. The old house was equipped with pumping mechanisms and just outside, a huge reservoir that would also serve the city in an unexpected capacity in 1933 by being diverted into the municipal swimming pool until 1963.  <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Middleton-Pinckney House