The Real Stag Story

IMG_2566The Stag Window at 73 Rutledge has been the subject of many stories over the years in fabled #Charleston, and an image that has so long been attributed to a local family name, actually has its origins in Hartford, Connecticut.

The house stands at the corner of Rutledge and Wentworth streets, and for years was the unfortunate target of wayward drivers speeding too fast down the formerly one-way thoroughfare. Now that the lanes have been made two-way, the old house is safe from cars, but not from misinformation.

Remodeled in the 1890’s by Charleston businessman Isaac W. Hirsch, the house has Victorian features, such as its stained glass windows. Because the German name Hirsch means “stag”, it has been logical to assume that Mr. Hirsch installed the window, but, after doing some interesting research, I find that Mr. Hirsch had nothing to do with it.

The house had been built in the 1850’s by another Charleston businessman, William Whilden, who was an insurance broker who represented The Hartford Insurance Company. In 1875, The Hartford established as its symbol a 10-point buck taken from a painting called “The Monarch of the Glen”, modifying it in 1890. A quick comparison of the latter version and the 73 Rutledge window are a perfect match.

So the truth is, Mr. Whilden, who didn’t sell the house until 1893. put the window in as a symbol of the company he represented here in Charleston.<img src=”famous houses” alt=”Stained Glass”>

Charleston’s Most Unusual Church Story

IMG_2309It was almost Charleston’s grandest church, and now its congregation hangs on to an aging, faded structure that never matched the original design.

Begun in 1859 as St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Charlotte Street, the massive Gothic Revival concept of famed Charleston architect Francis D. Lee was to have a 210-foot steeple and stucco facade over exquisite brick details. The church was not finished when the Civil War began, and money intended for its finish details was diverted to the defense of the city, so the spire and stucco never were added.

Changes in the city demographics by 1950 saw the congregation badly dwindled, and they joined St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Coming Street. The old building was sold to black parishioners and became the New

Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church, a congregation first established by Rev. Daniel Jenkins, who would achieve great fame as creator of the #Jenkins Orphanage Band.

Today, weeds grow from the old bricks, and the small congregation hangs on to a faded remnant of antebellum Charleston, in what is one of the most undiscovered areas of the historic city. <img src=”famous landmarks” alt=”Holy City”>

Crescent is Gorget

South Carolina’s “palmetto flag” was officially made the state banner in 1861. The crescent and tree symbolize the defense of Charleston in 1776, shortly after independence had been declared from England. Troops wearing the crescent symbol on their caps built a fort of palmetto logs overlooking the city’s harbor entrance on Sullivan’s Island, and their famous victory over the British on June 28, 1776 was largely attributed to the soft palmetto core that absorbed and smothered English cannonballs.

 Although the crescent is recognized to be a symbol of the troops and not the moon, some disagreement persists as to its origin.

 From what I have found, there seems to be little doubt that it is the “gorget.” The motif was derived from the throat plate of the medieval knight in armor, and during the 18th century became popular with King George II as a military symbol worn around the necks of English officers. One of South Carolina’s staunch loyalists was William Bull, who was named Lt. Governor by King George in 1755, and who personally designed the uniforms of a newly-reorganized South Carolina militia in 1760, adding the gorget symbol to their caps.

  Bull’s own family crescent includes the gorget symbol and it was he who commissioned William Moultrie as an officer of the 2nd South Carolina regiment. Moultrie is credited with designing a crescent flag as a symbol of his troops in 1775, and he later wrote that it conformed to the crescent symbol worn on their caps.

 This chain of evidence far outweighs anything that can be offered in opposition to this theory, and why I firmly stand by the research that proves the crescent comes from the gorget. Some confusion has been caused by the fact that the crescent on the state flag was tilted in the 1890’s to resemble the moon. Fortunately, one of the original flgas (and perhaps THE original state flag) still exists from the 1860’s. This large banner features a crescent straight up and down in the manner of the gorget. Ironically, this flag was stolen from the state capitol in Columbia in 1865 by Iowa troops under Sherman, who burned and ransacked that city. It is still kept at the Historical Society of Iowa, which should be willing to give back the property of a sister state (after all Iowa, wasn’t the Union “preserved” by those troops?) Thus far, no offering from Iowa, so the old flag remains in limbo.

Bull Family Crest1860's Flag

Pineapple Gates actually Finials

Finial detail
Pineaple Gates

 The statuesque brick single-house at 14 Legare Street is famously known for the its unusual “Pineapple” gates. Unlike the Sword Gates up the street, the namesake motif is not in swinging parts of the structure, but atop the brick frame from which the gates are hung. The main gates and two side gates are made of oak, and date to the early 1800’s when the house was built by James Simmons. He sold the house in 1815 to George Edwards, a wealthy shipping merchant who imported, among others goods, a hugely-popular novelty of the post-Revolutionary period called pineapple cheese.

    Pineapples had been become symbolic of gracious hospitality since the 1670’s, when King Charles II famously posed for a painting in which he was presented a luscious fruit borne from America. In the years  that followed, pineapple motifs appeared in wood and stone on exterior walls as a show of such hospitality. Edwards commissioned an Italian sculptor from Philadelphia to carve four stone finials his gates, which were added along with Edwards initials. Presumably Edwards asked for pineapples, which would have been the most logical motif, and in keeping with other pineapple shapes on walls and gates around old Charleston.

  Yet a close look at the so-called Pineapple Gates reveals no pineapples, but what look more like four peeled Brussels sprouts. Some writers have suggested over the years that what Edwards called for are Italian acorns, but pictures of Italian acorns look nothing like these. No, it’s safe to say that Edwards meant to get pineapples, but that his sculptor took artistic license in creating the look. It really doesn’t matter that they don’t resemble pineapples, because the “Pineapple Gates” is a misnomer anyway, as they should be more correctly called “The Pineapple Finials”.