Historic Hideaways

One of the best reasons to walk historic #Charleston is that many of the city’s most scenic treasures might be completely missed when driving by. There are numerous charming gardens visible through picturesque wrought iron gates along streets not commonly traveled such as Gibbes Street, Lamboll Street, Hasell Street and lower Church Street. This particular scene on lower Church is facing in the same direction as the one-way thoroughfare is driven, so it would be almost impossible to see while driving, yet is a breath-taking pause on a leisurely stroll through the old city. There are also wonderful alleys, historic graveyards, and several scenic greens and parks in the older part of Charleston that are meant to be observed on foot. And what makes the city even more appealing to those who walk it is the fact that the historic areas are contiguous an blend into each other from Ashley to Cooper river on each side, and from White Point Garden to the upper peninsula. The city is safe, clean, and fairly compact, with the historic district comprising about four square miles. We go past lower Church Street on the Charleston Footprints Walking Tour, and I consider this area to be among the most charming in the Holy City. <img.src=”Charleston Sightseeing” alt=”Hidden Historic Gems

Definitely Deutsche

The 1730’s opened a new era in the history of #Charleston with the first German immigrants arriving in the city from migrations down the eastern seaboard of the English colonies. German artisans were attracted by the burgeoning wealth of the young city, and were skilled in fashioning iron, wood and plaster. This group of Germans was of Lutheran origin, and began congregating in the first suburbs of the original city around what is now Archduke Street, where they built their first church in 1764. Like other immigrant groups in this city, the Germans initially were closely-knit and lived within proximity of each other and spoke their native language among themselves. To the majority English-speaking population, hearing the Germans refer to themselves as “Deutsche” was easily confused as being Dutch, and the nickname given the area where the Lutherans lived was “Dutch Town”. The German population grew after the American Revolution, including many Catholic Germans who joined the new St. Mary’s congregation on Hasell Street. The older Lutheran group replaced the original structure with the current St. John’s Lutheran Church by 1817, which still stands as grandly above this historic part of Charleston that was not Dutch, but Deutsche. <img.src=”Charleston  Landmarks” alt=”St. John’s Lutheran Church”

Artistic Anthemion

A very common detail in classic architecture throughout historic #Charleston is the anthemion. This is symbol represents the Greek palmette, whose natural symmetry impressed ancient architects enough to be depicted in stone, iron and wood as an example of beauty and welcome. With the great influence of Greek and Roman styles in Charleston’s historic architecture, the anthemion became a fashionable addition to gates, furnishings and facades throughout the city. Although most commonly framed by wood, iron or stone, some versions are free-standing, a detail called the acroterion. Some versions are more detailed and embroidered than others, and this version pictured from a gate on Hasell Street, is a grander example than the simpler shapes at places such as the gates of St. Philip’s Church. Some of the symbols are hand-forged, but this gate pictures is clearly iron cast in a mold. Look around at details both interior and exterior in Charleston’s classic structures, and the anthemion is sure to be there. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Anthemion Symbol

College Columns

The grand portico of Randolph Hall is the most recognized image of the College of #Charleston. The college was officially founded in 1770, but not chartered until 1785, and its first graduating class of six men was in 1794, yet it still ranks as America’s oldest municipal college, when it was taken over the city of Charleston in 1837. Part of the city’s plan was to expand curricula and improve buildings, and the 1820’s classroom building was adorned with the Greek Revival style portico on a high, arched basement designed by heralded Charleston architect Edward Brickell White. Randolph Hall, named for college president Harrison Randolph, who expanded the student body and established the inclusion of the first women students. Today, Randolph Hall is used as an administrative building, but its distinctive facade is most associated with the famed outdoor Mother’s Day graduation ceremonies, as well as special musical events, and was prominently featured in a scene from The Patriot. The square in front of the building features a massive 19th century cistern, and the grounds are referred to as The Cistern. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Randolph Hall

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.  This particular building can be seen from Ropemaker’s Lane, where we often go on the tour. <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”

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

Colossal Custom

The building of the U.S. Custom House in #Charleston was one of the city’s most ambitious and long-unfinished projects. The site is on former wetlands and a location used by fisherman originally know as Fitzsimmons’ Wharf. The federally-financed project was begun in 1851 with steam engines driving 7,000 pilings 30 feet down into the hard subterranean marl. The edifice designed by architect Ammi Young called for tons of imported stone and a ponderous Greek Revival look with a towering four-sided colonnade. The Civil War interrupted the construction, and after hostilities, the federal government was very reluctant to spend much money on the recently-seceded state, so the design was reduced to two porticoes and not finished until 1879. Despite the lessened girth, the Custom House is nevertheless and imposing sight, standing high above it’s raised basement with its waterfront entrance steps enough to have become a popular grand stand for annual outdoor musical events.<img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Custom House

Suave Side-hall

The side-hall single house design is fairly common in historic #Charleston, such as this 1850’s Italianate structure on Legare Street. The floor plan was a departure from the older single-house design, which featured a house with a single room width facing the street, bisected with a middle hall parallel to the street that separated rooms front and back on each floor. The problem with this kind of house is that the rooms are small and compartmentalized, which was not suit able for fancy entertaining by the 1820’s, when Charleston had become a very sociable city. The side-hall design took the hallway out of the middle of the house and put it on the side, perpendicular to the street, so that interior rooms would be interconnected by large archways, making the main floor potentially one big ballroom from the from of the house to the back. I often take my tour past our former residence on Legare Street and tell stories of what it was like growing up there. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Side-hall single house

Tiffany Tradition

There are a number of stained-glass windows in historic #Charleston that were created by the famous Tiffany Glass Company of New York. Louis Comfort Tiffany made his fame by revolutionizing the images made in opalescent glass, using such techniques as copper-foil soldered rims, fracturing glass to create creative detail, and even adding chemicals such as arsenic into the molten glass to enhance color. This window pictured is The Anunciation, which was done circa 1898, and shows similar iridescent features to the the famous lamps he started making about that time. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture ” alt=”Tiffany Windows”