Junior Giant

Many years before it emerges from the sea as a hulking 300-pound creature, the loggerhead sea turtle begins its odyssey as a tiny hatchling barely larger than a person’s finger. The Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge near #Charleston, SC, is one of America’s largest nesting and hatching grounds for this amazing creature, which comes ashore on Summer nights in dark, remote beach areas to dig nests and deposit clutches of about 60 ping-pong sized eggs . The loggerhead is an air-breathing reptile that lives its life in the sea, but must drag its massive carapace and land-clumsy flippers on to remote beaches to lay its eggs in the sand, where they hatch about six weeks later and dash into the waves to renew the cycle. Because Cape Romain is the longest stretch of unspoiled coast line in the Atlantic U.S., thousands of loggerheads lay eggs here each Summer and this is crucial to keeping the species alive in the South Atlantic. <img.src=”South Carolina Wildlife” alt=”Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Legendary Libation

The propensity for alcohol consumption  in historic #Charleston has always been well known. In the colonial period, there was so much drinking at various “tippling houses”, that the city passed an ordinance in the 1730’s prohibiting  such taverns from serving sailors the day prior to embarking from the seaport. And the heavy indulgence of Charlestonians long ago earned the city the nickname “The Madeira City”. Temperance movements became particularly strong in the 19th century, and in 1893, the state of South Carolina passed the Dispensary Act, which prohibited sale of “alcoholic merchandise” from any source other than state-approved dispensary shops. The state got in the business of making the alcohol served as well, and it was sold in bottles with a uniform symbol of the palmetto tree with crossed palmetto logs. The Dispensary Act created such a spate of boot-legging in Charleston that it was finally repealed in 1907. Today, a distiller has used the Dispensary’s original 1898 bourbon recipe to recreated a concoction that is being sold with the old Dispensary logo. Hopefully it will not lead to any prohibition.<img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”South Carolina Dispensary

Singularly Simmons

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”

Bridge Beginnings

The William Gibbes House on South Battery Street in historic #Charleston, is today a fashionable residence two rows removed from the Ashley River. When it was built just prior to the American Revolution, however, the lot overlooked the water in what was then called South Bay. The namesake William Gibbes was a very successful Charleston entrepreneur who bought the lot as a ship landing for various enterprises that included the export of timber. Because the muddy, shallow bay afforded no natural slip for ocean-sailing ships, Gibbes built a “bridge”, as the early wharves were called.  This was done by floating stones and debris on palmetto log rafts to deeper water, sinking them at  low tide, and building or bridging wth more fill in between to create a   protruding wharf, and the Gibbes built on South Bay was called “Gibbes Bridge”. The old wharf washed away  long before the Civil War, and in the early 20th century, the South Bay area was filled by dredging up river bottom and creating what is now Murray Boulevard. But the bridge connection did not die with Gibbes, as a later owner of the house was Cornelia Farrow Roebling, widow of Washington Roebling, chief engineer and designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”William Gibbes House

Frenetic Fritillary

A repeat visitor to #Charleston gardens in the late Summer and Fall is the radiant Gulf Fritillary. This creature is part of the insect family known as Lepidopterans, from the Greek “lepi”, which means scale, and includes butterflies and moths. The wings of the Fritillary are filled with fine scales that absorb heat from the sun for energy, as well as providing a visual attraction for mating, and a natural warning to potential predators with the various patterns of rings and spots mimicking poisonous plants. The Fritillary migrates north from the Gulf of Mexico each year after emerging from cocoons in the Spring, and will typically only live a matter of weeks before mating and restarting the life cycle. They feed on flowers by probing with a needle-like probiscis and are usually attracted to bright reddish/orange colors, so planting Pentas or Lantana this time of year is a good Fritillary magnet. I can sometimes catch a fritillary on the walking tour to explain the creature’s details -they can be handled gently without hurting them,<img.src=”Charleston Nature and Wildlife” alt=”Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

High Hydration

The Middleton-Pinckney House, built in an elegant Adamasque fashion in #Charleston during the 1790’s, became a most unusual public facility in 1879, when it was made into the Charleston Waterworks. The city’s first successful artesian well was dug in 1879, tapping into massive subterranean aquifers whose positive pressure from centuries of water trickling downward, established a non-stop gushing flow upward that poured in millions of gallons each day. The old house was equipped with pumping mechanisms and just outside, a huge reservoir that would also serve the city in an unexpected capacity in 1933 by being diverted into the municipal swimming pool until 1963.  <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Middleton-Pinckney House

Ear-ie Evolution

The massive tracker organ in St. Michael’s Anglican Church is one of the oldest, in part, and most changed ,in fact, here in historic #Charleston. The original organ, created by in 1767 by Swiss organ-builder John Snetzler, featured 21 stops and 900 pipes. The organ deteriorated in Charleston’s humid climate, and in 1834 the Henry Erben Company of new York rebuilt and refitted the organ with new word chest and pedals, and was called on again for more repairs in 1859. The organ was removed from the church during the bombardment of the Civil War and stored at St. Paul’s Church in Radcliffeborough. After image from the move and the war, English immigrant John Baker overhauled the the organ in 1871. More repairs came in 1910, as the Austin Organ Company of Connecticut refurbished and added to the mahogany case and in 1940, the manual bellows were replaced with electric motors. The last changes came in Ireland where the organ was reconstructed using parts of the original 1767 case, and today’s version has 40 stops and 2519 pipes. On most tours, I take the group into St. Michael’s for a first-hand look at the old organ.<img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Snetzler Organ”

Fashionable Firefighters

This image of the various fire brigades gathered near City Hall on Meeting Street in historic #Charleston dates from between 1838, when the 182-foot steeple of the Circular Congregational Church in the background was finished, and 1861, when that same steeple and most of the buildings in the background were destroyed by the great fire of 1861. There were nearly two dozen of  these volunteer fire brigades at that time, all of whom had their various uniforms and insignias. They were  considered to be very dashing in their grand sartorial display, but they apparently looked better than they performed in fighting fires. To their credit, there was no pressurized water or underground water source available until the 1880’s who the fire brigade system was scrapped and the Charleston Fire Department created. Occasionally, I take the walking tour inside City Hall chambers to see this and other famous paintings. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Fire Brigades

Colossal Custom

The building of the U.S. Custom House in #Charleston was one of the city’s most ambitious and long-unfinished projects. The site is on former wetlands and a location used by fisherman originally know as Fitzsimmons’ Wharf. The federally-financed project was begun in 1851 with steam engines driving 7,000 pilings 30 feet down into the hard subterranean marl. The edifice designed by architect Ammi Young called for tons of imported stone and a ponderous Greek Revival look with a towering four-sided colonnade. The Civil War interrupted the construction, and after hostilities, the federal government was very reluctant to spend much money on the recently-seceded state, so the design was reduced to two porticoes and not finished until 1879. Despite the lessened girth, the Custom House is nevertheless and imposing sight, standing high above it’s raised basement with its waterfront entrance steps enough to have become a popular grand stand for annual outdoor musical events.<img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Custom House

Free Our Flag

This is the original state flag of #South Carolina, which was created in 1861 after South Carolina seceded from the Union, and flew over the state capitol in Columbia. The crescent was clearly not intended to depict the moon, but the crescent-shaped gorgets of the South Carolina militia, and along with the palmetto tree were symbols of our state’s independence, as both the militia and the palmetto logs were crucial to our Revolutionary War victory over the British in #Charleston in 1776. When Sherman’s armies ravaged the state in 1865, a unit from Iowa took our flag from the capitol as a war trophy. It is now in the possession if the Historic Society of Iowa in Des Moines. Because we are not a conquered enemy, and because the intention of the Northern armies was supposedly to “preserve the Union”, there is no reason why this banner stays a trophy of war. We would like it back. <img.src=”South Carolina History” alt=”The Palmetto Flag