The #Poinsettia that is such a Christmas tradition gets its name from a Charlestonian – Joel Roberts Poinsett. He was a Charleston attorney who was very fond of plants and trees, and created a massive garden in the upper peninsula that became known as Poinsett’s Grove. He was apparently a brilliant man who enjoyed the company of great thinkers, and was known for hosting breakfasts, at which ideas were offered and discussed with great scholarly detail. With a reputation as a scholar, a jurist, an elected congressman, and fluent in various languages, Poinsett became a trusted diplomat, and was appointed by President John Quicy Adams as ambassador to the newly-independent Mexico in 1825.
Poinsett was as interested in Mexican plants as politics, and became enamored of the fiery-red blooming shrub known Flor de Fuego, or Fire Flower, as well as Flor de Noche Buena, or the Christmas Eve Flower. It’s scientific name is Euphorbia Pulcherrima, but has been known as the Poinsettia since Joel Roberts brought the plant back to his grove and cultivated it as a Christmas ornamental flower, and by the 1840’s, it became known as the Poinsettia. It is one of the most recognized plants in the world today, but few know how it got its name. It is pronounced “poyn-Setta” for the benefit those TV football commentators who pronounce the Poinsettia Bowl game with an “eeah”.<img src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Historic Charleston”>
It 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”>
The Jenkins Orphanage Band became such an international sensation by the early 20th century, that the group was invited to play for King George of England. The jazzy genesis of the band came from orphanage director, Rev. Daniel Jenkins, who wanted to give the poor young boys some enthusiastic distraction from the tedium of life in the old building on Franklin Street. In the aftermath of the Civil War, most of Charleston was poor, and poor black children from broken homes faced little hope were it not for learning skills at the orphanage as cobblers and tailors, which were menial jobs nonetheless.
Re. Jenkins added a new inspiring spirit by asking Charlestonians to contribute used musical instruments, and getting former Citadel cadets to donate old uniforms. With bent horns and faded tunics, the little boys lit up Charleston with impromptu concerts on street corners – a fast-paced, brassy sound whose fame spread far and wide.
Several band members went on to fame playing for such orchestras as Count Basie and Duke Ellington.