Lycoris Lore

One of the more stunning plants that graces historic #Charleston each year is the Lycoris Radiata. This perennial is native to Japan, and was introduced to America in the 1850’s and thrives in warm Southern climates. The flower contains toxins that are potentially harmful and to the Japanese, it became a symbol of death, which is especially ironic considering that the blooms are prevalent in Charleston graveyards. Another irony is that because it re-emerges from bulbs year after year, that among its notable nicknames is Resurrection Lily. Most Charlestonians call it Red Spider Lily because of its dramatically protruding stamens, but because it also comes up typically in September, it is also known as Hurricane Lily. Like many plants in the Amaryllis family, the Lycoris Radiata blooms on top of an empty stalk after foliage has died away to expose its radiant color, and for that, the flowers are also known as Naked Ladies. <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Hurricane Lilies

Inventive Iusti

Johann August Wilhelm Iusti was a German-born immigrant to #Charleston in the 1830’s. He went by his second name, August, which is literally translated as “venerable”, appropriate considering one of his works is still among the most admired sights in the historic city. Iusti’s wrought iron gates at St. Michael’s Church are incredibly well-detailed and made exquisitely in  slender fashion that shows the artistic touch that he obviously had with hammer  on anvil. Done around 1840, the gates still bear Iusti’s name in the iron overthrow. But sadly, there are no records of other gates that he did, living in Charleston until 1895. Perhaps the answer lies in an invention he was credited with  by the U.S. Patent office for a mechanical rain conductor, which in that day were made out of decorative iron. Many of these still exist on historic houses today, and maybe they are part of Iusti’s legacy.



Steeple Study

Historic #Charleston, SC is famous for its steepled skyline, and features a variety of architectural styles in these that include English Renaissance Revival, Gothic Revival, Georgian Palladian, Romanesque Revival and Richardson Revival. The term steeple comes from Old English “steap”, meaning lofty, and these are indeed, with the highest being the 254-foot version at St. Matthews Lutheran Church. The steeple pictured here is St. Philip’s Anglican Church, and displays all the classic parts of the steeple, which not all in Charleston have. At the base, with the round window, is the Tower, above that the Belfry, where bells ring through the louvers, and above that the Clock, then the Lantern, where lights were typically shown, then at the top, the Spire. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Classic Steeples

Palladio’s Portico

One of the most striking features of the classical architecture in #Charleston is the multi-columned portico. Dozens and dozens of magnificent structures are adorned with them, adding greatly to their visual appeal. The appeal has transcended centuries, and was first created by the ancient Greeks and copied later by the Romans, and the term portico comes from the Italian word for porch. Typically two-story in height and featuring four or six columns, the portico gives any building a look of grandeur. It was the beauty of the ancient buildings that inspired Italian architectural historian Andreas Palladio in the 16th century, and he published four books of architecture with intricate details about the classic Greek and Roman designs. These works were later published in 18th century England, and the classical style became all the rage there in the 17 and 1800’s, and thus on to America. Few Americans ever knew of Andreas Palladio, but so many over the years have greatly enjoyed the aesthetic that he revived and stands so grandly throughout Charleston today. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”The Portico”

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, in the slavery era, had to sit in crowded upstairs galleries where there was 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, until artesian aquifers were finally tapped into by 1879, came from rain trapped in attic vats and outdoor masonry pools, called cisterns. Cisterns became a common part of the 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 an elegant museum house in the Wraggborough section of historic #Charleston. The grand house was considered a garden villa when it was finished in 1803 in an elegant Adam style, and originally overlooked open lands that now are crowded with buildings. Located North of Calhoun Street in what 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 348-year history, and yet buildings such as the 1850’s structure pictured, 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 this all many times before. <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