Eventual Edifice

The first Catholic cathedral in the South was begun in #Charleston in 1850, with a brownstone, Gothic Revival design by Irish-born architect Patrick Keely of Brooklyn, New York. The church was finished an consecrated in 1854 as the Cathedral of St. John an St. Finbar, but was destroyed seven years later in a great fire that swept the city in 1861. Keely was called on again to design a replacement structure on the same site, but it was nearly 30 years later. Charleston’s fortunes were decimated by the Civil War, the the Catholic diocese had barely enough money to build at all, and the replacement church, named the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was constructed piece-meal over 17 years and after Keely’s death in 1896. Consecrated in 1907, the cathedral opened unfinished, lacking a steeple that  cost too much, and for more than a century, it was a flat-topped structure until the current steeple was finally completed in 2010. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

 

Artistic Ancestor

This painting, entitled “The Hundred Pines”, was painted by my great-great-great grandfather, Auguste Paul Trouche circa 1830. He was of French heritage, and  was trained in a method landscape realism that was made famous at the Barbizon School near Fontainebleau outside Paris. The painting is part of the collection at the #Gibbes Museum of Art in #Charleston, where curators have told me that his obvious skill in the exceptional lighting in this  oil on canvas may indicate that he was actually trained in France. The Hundred Pines was a cluster of large trees used as a landmark for ships entering Charleston Harbor, and a great example of the natural settings around Charleston in those days. <img.src=”Charleston Artists” alt=”Auguste Paul Trouche

Prehistoric Peculiarity

A common sight along the coastline of #SouthCarolina this time of year is the helmet-shaped shell of the Horseshoe Crab. This unusual creature, whose real name is Limilus Polyphemus, is actually not a crab at all, but closely related to spiders and other arachnids. Scientists have evidence that Horseshoe crabs have existed for millions of years and benefit from having no natural enemies. The outer shell, called a prosoma, has two eyes, but the creature is mostly nocturnal, feeding and mating in shallow ocean beachfronts. It also displays a long sharp tail, or telson, that is used primarily for flipping the crab over if waves turn it upside down in sand. The unusual look is not the only thing odd about the Horseshoe crab. It’s rare copper-based blood contains elements that are extremely important in human medicine, and are commonly used to test sterility of syringes and surgical tools. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Horseshoe Crab”

Consumption Conundrum

Prior to Prohibition in the 1920’s and 30’s, South Carolina had experienced its own form of alcohol control with the Dispensary Act of 1893, which banned private sales of alcoholic beverages. The state of South Carolina took over the sale of what was termed “alcoholic merchandise” with state-operated dispensaries and all alcohol was sold in bottles with the insignia of the era, a Palmetto tree with crossed palmetto logs from the South Carolina state seal. The dispensary system was marked with corrupt officials as well as a new wave of bootlegging, mostly in the #Charleston area, all of which led to the system being repealed in 1907. Today, the old dispensary bottles are collector’s items, and one new distillery has adopted the old insignia for its new product. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”The Dispensary System

 

Distinctive Doors

At the corner of Broad and East Bay streets in #Charleston #SC, the details of the scenic 1853 building are exquisite and eye-catching. The building was created as a bank by the same man that many believe Margaret Mitchell fashioned her character of Rhett Butler in “Gone With The Wind”, whose real name was George Alfred Trenholm. Trenholm’s building was in use as a bank well into the 21st century, when it was at last converted into a restaurant and condominiums. But the classic details still adorn the old bank and provide a glimpse of what customers saw when entering more than 150 years ago. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Number One Broad Street

Fortunate Faber

The 1836 Palladian villa built by Henry Faber on East Bay Street in #historic #Charleston was one of several grand mansions built in the heyday of the city’s antebellum fortunes and classic architecture. The line of elegant buildings faced the Cooper River from a section of rising land known as Hampstead Hill. The higher elevation and the proximity to the river gave owners a spectacular view and cooling breezes. One of the first railroads built in the city ran down the waterfront in front of the houses, making them in the line of fire during the #Civil War, and the area were largely abandoned by owners who fled the conflict. After the war, the area was mostly inhabited by former slaves, or freedmen, and by the early 20th century, the Faber House had been transformed into one of the few black-owned hotels in Charleston, the Hamitic Hotel. After the depression, the hotel closed and many of the former houses were razed for housing projects. A flurry of preservationism saved the Faber House in 1948, and today it has been beautifully restored as a combination of residential and office spaces. <img.src=”Charleston Historic Sites” alt=”Faber House”

Misplaced Markers

Many of the #historic grave stones in the burial ground of the First Baptist Church in #CharlestonSC are leaning up against the north wall of the property – and there’s an interesting reason why. The lot was purchased in 1696 by a group that moved to the city from Kittery, Maine. At that time, Maine was part of the Massachusetts colony, and the group from Kittery were being persecuted by the Massachusetts Puritans for religious beliefs that ran counter to those accepted in the colony. The people in the group called themselves Antipedobaptists, believing that infants did not have the capability to choose to be baptized and that baptism  into Christianity had to be a conscious adult choice. The Puritans reacted harshly, so the group moved to Carolina, as the colony was then called, which offered  freedom from persecution for all beliefs at part of its colonial constitution. The group built a small wooden meeting house on a lot they bought on #Church Street, which was surrounded by a small graveyard. As the years progressed, the group changed its name to Anabaptists and then Baptists, and grew in numbers. Eventually the old structure was replaced with a church in the 1740’s, and the current church on the site added in 1822. Because the newer building required a much larger footprint on the small lot, the church was built on old grave sites, and the stones moved to the wall to remember this buried beneath. <img.src=”Charleston Historic Sites” alt=”First Baptist Church”

Peculiar Panes

The window panes in several of old #Charleston’s most #historic buildings feature an odd look that seems as though someone shot them with a BB gun. In fact, what this curious circles in the glass represent are the skills of the artisans who made these panes by hand. Before the industrial revolution made glass-making a mechanized procedure, window were typically made of what became known as Crown glass. The term comes from the molten glass that was created in kilns with a raised edge, or crown. The still-molten glass was attached as it cooled to a long pole, or pontil, and spun so that the centrifugal force would spread it into plates that were made into window panes. The attached section, was called the bullseye because of the large ripples created by the spinning, and was often cut out and thrown away. But it became fashionable to add the bullseye as one of the panes to show the skill of the artisan who made the glass. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Bullseye window pane”

Brick Background

This 1830’s #Charleston house is very typical in two ways. First, it is a brick structure dressed up with a stucco facade, and in this case clearly shows how these thin layers of lime and sand can be made very colorful. In the days before latex paint, oil colors would only seal in moisture and damage the building, so the stucco was pigmented with colors that came from mineral sources and compounds. The most rare and difficult to make usually became the fashion in hues such as this dazzling blue, and in modern times have been recreated in latex paints that allow the surface to breathe. Secondly, the house is like so many in the Ansonborough district, which burned in a huge 1838 fire that claimed more than 1,000 buildings. The city of Charleston was very wealthy at that time with the introduction of railroads that stimulated the economy, so the municipal government helped landowners rebuild Ansonborough very quickly with “fire loans” that made money available at cheap rates. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Ansonborough houses

 

Mother Mary

The 1839 Greek Revival style Church of St. Mary of the Anunciation on Hasell Street is my family’s church and my great-great-great grandfather, Auguste Paul Trouche, is buried in the churchyard. The congregation was the first official Roman Catholic church in the South, incorporated in 1791. The original wooden structure on the location was replaced by a brick church in 1806, which burned in 1838, and a year later the current structure was opened. Contrary to what is commonly told on tours in #Charleston today, Catholicism was not banned in colonial South Carolina, as paragraph 97 of the 1669 Fundamental Constitution of Carolina cleared states that all beliefs were tolerated. Catholics were banned from holding public office until after the Revolution, but there were Catholics in Charleston long before that – but there was no acting priest or diocese until after the Revolution. Originally part of the Diocese of Baltimore, the Diocese of Charleston was created in 1820. Interestingly, the church is directly across Hasell Street from another congregation that was shunned in the early days of the colony as well, but still had practicing believers – Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim,  the oldest Jewish synagogue in continuous use in America. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”St. Mary’s Church