Rodgers’ Rouge

The towering mansion that Francis Rodgers built in the 1880’s features bricks that were highlighted by iron oxides in the kiln process to give them a distinctive hue, and highlighted by stone quoins and a Mansard roof, this 14,000 square foot structure is hard to miss. Rodgers was a very successful businessman and councilman in #Charleston after the Civil War, and was dedicated to creating the first public fire department, which he helped organize in 1881. The architect who designed the house, Daniel Wayne, would also design the three first public fire houses in the city. Today the Rodgers Mansion is a hotel called the Wentworth Mansion, from the name of the street if faces, but the structure should be called for the person who created its fire-red bricks and Charleston’s firehouses, Francis Rodgers. <img src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Rodgers Mansion”>

Longitude Landmark

Of the many old alleys that still grace historic #Charleston today, Longitude Lane certainly has the most interesting stories. Named for its east-west direction as longitude is measured, it once led to a massive cotton press factory built along the lane in 1853, where cotton bales were compressed to fit them in greater numbers on ships for export. And because the   old cotton wagons would sometimes try t squeeze through the narrow west entrance, a bollard was placed there to prevent it. For many years, the bollard was an old Revolutionary War cannon planted muzzle down. But the city of Charleston announced plans to remove the gun to a public display, starting a battle with residents that infamously became known as the “War of Longitude Lane”. <img src=”Famous Charleston Streets” alt=”Historic Alley ”>

Memorable Mother

This oil on canvas image is my great great great grandmother, Caroline Poincignon Trouche, the first American-born mother my family, born in 1808 here in Charleston SC to French immigrant parents. Her delicate face was captured for eternity by her artist husband, Auguste Paul Trouche, whose work is featured in the #Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. <img src=”historic images” alt=”Charleston artists”>

Southern Stonehenge

The bollards that grace lower Church Street are frequently misrepresented as being once used to tie boats plying  an old  creek that  historically flowed near this spot. But in truth, the bollards were always used as a barrier or buffer to vehicle traffic in the days of carts and wagons. Horse-drawn vehicles can easily sway laterally and bang into structures, especially in a bending street such as this and property owners often put up bollards to keep the wagons and carts from smashing walls or gates. These bollards today are used mostly by wedding photographers, as #Charleston has become such a wedding event destination, and brides-to-be like the combination of winding street, leaning bollards and historic house and gate. <img src=”famous landmarks” alt=”historic streets”>

Revolution Remembrances

The John Stuart House on Tradd Street is one of the most storied houses in #Historic Charleston. Built in the 1760’s by Stuart, a Scottish immigrant who played a huge role in resolving conflicts with native Cherokees and whose house features a combination of historic wooden siding – beaded weatherboard on the sides and rear as well as shiplap on the front. But the most famous story involving the house occurred in the Spring of 1780, during the Revolution, when British forces were besieging Charleston. According to this legendary tale, officers of the 2nd South Carolina regiment defending the city met in the house to discuss strategy, finishing the meeting with heavy drinking, when one officer Francis Marion, a Calvinist who did not drink alcohol, refused to participate and when reverted from leaving, leapt from a window to escape, breaking his ankle. Retiring to his rural plantation to recuperate, Marion also escaped capture when the British took the city in May, 1780. He would recover and lead forces against the British from the swamps of coastal South Carolina, and famously became known as the “Swamp Fox”, eventually helping drive the English from South Carolina.<img src=”famous houses” alt=”Swamp Fox”>

Cobblestone Collection

The cobblestone streets of Charleston are very picturesque with stones of various sizes and shapes that are easy on the eye, but hard on the driver. Cobblestones are erosion-formed igneous rocks that get their name from the old English term “cob”, which is a lump. They should be distinguished from cut Belgian blocks, which can be found on other streets. These stones originally came in the bottom of sailing ships, as what is called ballast, that kept ships upright in the wind. But ship owners wanted as much valuable cargo in the ships that docked in Charleston in the sailing era, and often dumped the cobblestones on the wharves. Charleston was happy to have them, because we have no natural rock on the coast, and they were used to fill in lowlands and muddy streets. At one time, Charleston had 10 miles of #cobblestone streets, but today only 5 through-streets are surfaced in cobblestone. <img src=”Charleston curiosities” alt=”cobblestone streets”>

Slave Trade

The Old Slave Mart Museum tells a sadly tragic story of human bondage that was once legally protected by the US Constitution. Slavery began in earnest in Charleston during the 18th century, when rice cultivation became a major source  of wealth. Rice was grown in steamy wetlands filled with mosquitoes which European workers were not used to. In West Africa, people had been planting rice in similar conditions for centuries, and factions there had long been selling people into slavery. So West Africa become the source of a bustling #slave trade that was largely kept intact by three very different groups – New England ship owners, West African slave traders, and Southern planters. The importation of slaves was made illegal in America as of 1808, but the slave population in the Charleston area had grown to the tens of thousands by then, and small markets such as this were carrying on a domestic slave trade until the end of the Civil War. Today, the museum features artifacts and implements from slave life and slave sales, as well as memorials to those poor souls were bought and sold inside.<img src=”Slave Trade” alt=”Charleston History”>

Silent Sentinels

In the 1880’s three fire bell towers were erected in #Charleston, and attached to the new technology, electricity, as a “electric telegraph” system was created    to send fire alarms. The wires connected to various boxes throughout the city, in which there was a large key handle in a mechanism that, when turned, sent an electric current to one of the three fire houses and showed the source of the electric power on a city grid. The alarm also automatically raised barriers inside the fire houses where horse were kept, so that they could swiftly be harnessed to fire engines and on their way to the fire location. <img src=”Fire Towers” alt=”Historic Charleston”>

Steeple Showcase

The steeple of St. Philip’s Anglican Church was added to the 1830’s structure in 1848, and is another superb example of the architecture of Edward Brickell White. At 200 feet, and on one of the highest areas of the city,  the steeple is very visible from the entrance to Charleston Harbor, and until 1918, was lit at night with navigation lights to helped incoming ships locate the channel. The four bells inside the steeple were added in 1976, replacing the original bells that were donated to the Confederacy to be melted down as cannon during the Civil War.

<img src=”St. Philip’s Church” alt=”Historic Charleston”>


Historic Engines

The #Charleston, SC Fire Department was not created until 1881, and fire fighting in the city prior to that was done by individual private fire companies, called “fire brigades” who were located in small buildings around the town, such as this location pictured on Hayne Street. From the 1850’s to the early 1900’s, most fire engines were little more than water pumps on wheels pulled by horses, that used the pressure of steam boilers to create both vacuum and positive pressure to force water out of wells and hydrants on to burning buildings. A few of the old boilers still exist and are on display at the Main Fire Station at 262 Meeting Street.<img src=”fire engines” alt=”Charleston Fires”>