Historic #Charleston is a great city to explore at night. It is very safe in most parts of the old city, and the visual charm is often enhanced by interesting lighting schemes. Natural gas lines underground allow many downtown residents to burn flickering lamps that help create the feeling that pedestrians wandering old streets and alleys have been transported back in time to the days when gas lamps were the only source of illumination. Many historic church steeples are lit from below, giving a mesmerizing glow to spires and towers above, while soft garden lights offer enchanting silhouettes of exquisite wrought iron gates. It is one of the best ways to enjoy Charleston for free, and a pleasant excursion after an evening’s dinner. The South of Broad area and The French Quarter are my favorites, but there are also very enjoyable nocturnal views in Ansonbourough and around Marion Square. <img.src=”Charleston At Night” alt=”Lighting Historic Areas”
This impressive array of Civil War cannon stands outside Fort Moultrie on historic #Sullivan’s Island. The campaign in and around the Charleston area was largely dictated by firepower, and huge guns mounted on land fortifications or carried in ships. The North had a tremendous advantage with iron-making industries, and a far greater number of cannon. The South produced some cannon, but many guns used by the Confederates such as those in this picture were captured from Federal arsenals that fell into Southern hands. The Civil War saw the creation of the first “rifled” cannon, equipped with grooves inside the barrels to fire aerodynamic shells instead of cannonballs to make attacks more accurate. Another new technique for that era was the concept of “banding” cannon, by heating large wrought iron bands and placing them on the breech of the gun, where the calling metal contracted to form an extra layer of strength so that larger charges of gunpowder could be used without exploding the barrel. One of the guns in this row is a former Federal smooth-bore that was restructured by the Eason and Sons Foundry in Charleston during the war, as rifling grooves were cut inside the barrel, and iron bands added to the breech, to make it a stronger and more accurate weapon. <img.src=”Charleston Military History” alt=”Civl War Cannon”
Among the most charming details in historic #Charleston are its wonderful wrought iron gates. There are gates dating as early as the 1720’s done in the fashion of working iron by hammer and anvil into delicately decorative shapes. Wrought is a metal that is made up of iron, iron silicates and carbon. The carbon content of wrought iron is much lower than in other forms of iron and steel and the silicates are higher, which allows for a combination of elasticity and strength. All wrought iron in Charleston was imported, and the most sought-after form in the 19th century ws Swedish bar iron, forged in Swedish mills with a process that gave the iron considerable durability. Wrought iron was so strong, in fact, that during the Civil War, cannon barrels made of cast iron were strengthened by heating wrought iron rings that were placed over the cannon barrel and cooled to seal a powerful layer to keep the cannon from bursting during firing. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Wrought Iron”
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. We walk past St. Michael’s each day on my walking tour, and it is easy to see Iusti’s work, as well as his name wrought in the gate overthrow.
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”
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. 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 ”
Learning the iron trade as a teenaged apprentice in a blacksmith’s shop around the turn of the century, Philip Simmons became a household name in #Charleston during a career that spanned nearly a century. Mr. Simmons started out hammering wagon wheels and other working iron parts, but quickly fell in love with the historic wrought iron craftsmanship he saw in the streets of Charleston. Fashioning his first decorative gate in the 1930’s, Mr. Simmons showed a keen understanding of the possibilities of shaping iron, and became one of the most sought-after artisans in Charleston history. This gate pictured is the essence of Philip Simmons – a delicate beauty that incorporated both the nature scenes he liked to depict with the image of the heron, as well as personalizing it by adding a crucifix for the owner of the house, an ordained minister. We sometimes wander St. Michael’s alley on the tour, going past the Simmons gate. <img.src=”Charleston Ironwork” alt=”Philip Simmons Gate”