Palladio’s Portico

One of the most striking features of the classical architecture in #Charleston is the multi-columned portico. Dozens and dozens of magnificent structures are adorned with them, adding greatly to their visual appeal. The appeal has transcended centuries, and was first created by the ancient Greeks and copied later by the Romans, and the term portico comes from the Italian word for porch. Typically two-story in height and featuring four or six columns, the portico gives any building a look of grandeur. It was the beauty of the ancient buildings that inspired Italian architectural historian Andreas Palladio in the 16th century, and he published four books of architecture with intricate details about the classic Greek and Roman designs. These works were later published in 18th century England, and the classical style became all the rage there in the 17 and 1800’s, and thus on to America. Few Americans ever knew of Andreas Palladio, but so many over the years have greatly enjoyed the aesthetic that he revived and stands so grandly throughout Charleston today. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”The Portico”

Methodist Mobility

The third oldest church in historic #Charleston is not one of the grand, towering s structures so commonly shown in images of the city, but a small, simple wooden structure tucked away almost unnoticed on Calhoun Street. Construction on Old Bethel Methodist Church was begun in 1797, by a small congregation located near what was the northern boundary of the city. With only a few dozen congregants that included free blacks and slaves, the tiny wooden structure did not have the same architectural grandeur as other famous houses of worship the city. nor did its membership have any great influence on the issues and politics of the day. it served simply as a house of worship for a sect whose principles were simple in purpose and ritual – charity and service for all with faith in the Gospel. By 1852, he old wooden structure was, in the words of its pastor Rev. C.H. Pritchard, “in a very dilapidated condition, in which our congregations can scarcely worship from its leaky state”, and funds were raised to build a new masonry church in its place. But rather than condemn the older church, the congregation paid for it to be rolled on logs across Calhoun Street to its current location, and donated to the black members of the congregation who, for the first time could freely use the pews throughout the church. In the antebellum slavery era, blacks were not allowed to sit in the pews downstairs, but on crowded benches in upstairs galleries where there was often not enough room. Today, the little wooden frame of Old Bethel is still struggling to stay open with a small congregation, but stands very large as one of the oldest and most cherished churches in our historic city. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Old Bethel Methodist Church”

Jeopardized Joe

The Joseph Manigault House is an elegant museum house in the Wraggborough section of historic #Charleston. The grand house was considered a garden villa when it was finished in 1803 in an elegant Adam style, and originally overlooked open lands that now are crowded with buildings. Located North of Calhoun Street in what was once considered the “neck” of the Charleston peninsula, the house and the area fell on hards times after the Civil War, when much of the area was abandoned and became a low-income section where housing projects and inexpensive commercial buildings took over the landscape. The Manigault House was converted into an apartment building but the early 1900’s, and was in dilapidated condition and considered for demolition when the Standard Oil Company bought the property in 1922, and converted part of the house as a filling station for the new wave of automobiles. Put up for auction in 1933, the Manigault House was purchased by the Charleston Museum, which raised money for its restoration during World War II by leasing it out as a USO club for women in the military. Eventually restored, the Manigault House is famed for its open floor plan and elegant gardens today. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Joseph Manigault House

English Evidence

Two of the most intriguing stories about St. Michael’s Church in historic #CharlestonSC are those of its chandelier and pipe organ. Both came from London, the organ in 1768, and the chandelier in 1803, and both were originally much different than they are today. The tracker organ, created by John Snetzler, originally featured about 900 pipes. It was damaged in the Civil War and again in the earthquake of 1886, and after years of minor repairs, was completely refurbished in the 1990’s, with new ranks and stops added to what was left of the original, and now features 2519 pipes. The chandelier was originally lowered by a winching mechanism that still exists in the church attic, and was brought low enough for lighting candles on the chandelier in its early years. Eventually, gas lamps replaced the candles, and today, electric bulbs. So the sight and sound may be a bit more powerful today than in the church when these implements were installed.<img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”St. Michael’s Church organ and chandelier

 

Skewered Skyline

The People’s Building is quite an odd sight in old #Charleston, standing awkwardly above the graceful city skyline at its 126 feet of garish yellow Stoney Landing brick. The 8-story building was supposed to be the wave of the future when it was finished in 1911, part of Mayor Robert Goodwyn Rhett’s attempt to bring Charleston out of the doldrums after the Civil War. He was on the board of the People’s Bank on Broad Street, and the bank became the basis for the People’s Bank Building, as it was originally called. Sadly, the only redeeming quality of the building was a roof-line cornice that made it look similar to the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, but the cornice was damaged in the 1938 hurricane, and the cheapskate owners refused to restore it, and it became the eyesore of downtown Charleston that it is still today. Restoring the cornice might help, as would painting the yellow brick or stuccoing it. But in true penny-pinching Charleston fashion, the People’s Building remains an ugly anomaly in an otherwise gracefully scenic city. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt= “The Peoples’Building”

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”