Horsing Around

The horse has been a common sight on the streets of Charleston since its colonial beginnings. Carriages, sulkies and trolleys were common conveyances for people throughout the city’s history, and there were also an assortment of ice wagons, garbage carts, cotton drays pulled by both horse and mule for centuries. In fact, there were livery stables throughout the old city at the turn of the 20th century, and numerous buildings found on Queen, Tradd, Church and Chalmers streets today stand were liveries were in business a century ago.
With the combination of wealth, ample land and idle time, many early Charlestonians got hooked on horse racing, and the first regularly-scheduled races were held at the New Market Race Course in the city neck. The area that is now roughly bounded by Blake, King, Huger streets and Morrison Drive offered thoroughbred racing for the first time in February of 1760, and proved so popular that, within the decade, race grounds were created in Jacksonborough, Beaufort and Srawberry.
Horse breeding became a major business with stock from around the world, primarily Arabian mixes from England, and highly-advertised races brought immense bets between local planters and equestrians from overseas and other colonies. Some contests were sprints distancing four miles, with wagers well over 2,000 pound sterling. The Revolution proved the value of South Carolina stock, as Francis Marion, William Washington and other mounted patriots overcame tremendous odds on fast, powerful horses.
After the war, the Washington Race Course opened at what is today Hampton Park, and had a long, heralded tradition of racing that only died out with the destruction and stealth of horses during and after the War Between the States.

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