Clay Crown

A still common sight in old #Charleston is the clay tile roof, which has been in vogue since the origins of the city in the 17th century. Clay is abundant in the Charleston area, and easily fashioned into bricks or tiles by baking in kilns. Clay is made up of natural compounds silica and alumina, as well as various amounts of water. The clay in Charleston’s coast plain is well-saturated with water, which gives the clay a very low thermal conductivity. With clay tiles, the double advantage is that heat does not pass through as easily, keeping houses cooler from scorching Summer sun outside, and in the Winter, retaining heat inside. The raised edges and depressed interior of the tiles, called cap and pan style, also serves to facilitate air flow in the cap and water run-off down the pan. This is the #PinkHouseTavern in the #French Quarter. <img src=”Clay Tile Roof” alt=”Pink House Tavern”>

Spiral Stair Mystery

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Some nice folks on my tour told me about the Loretto Chapel in Sante Fe that is built in the similar cantilevered style of the famous staircase at the #Nathaniel Russell House at 51 Meeting Street. The Loretto chapel was built in 1878, after Catholic nuns asked for help in building a passageway from their chapel to a choir area 22 feet above. They apparently prayed for help to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and had their prayer answered by an anonymous builder, who fashioned the magnificent staircase to spiral upward in elliptical shape without any supporting wall.

How interesting that the 3-story staircase at the Russell house also goes up without any support, and the carpenter is also unknown. Even more intriguing is that the Russell house also became home to nuns in 1870, when the Sisters of Charity of Our lady of Mercy moved in and turned the house into a convent academy for young girls .<img src=”Russell House” alt=”Historic Charleston”>

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”>