Synchronized Styles

There are many historic buildings throughout scenic #Charleston that display features that come from different architectural eras. It was common throughout the city’s history for building owners to update the look of an existing structure by adding a newer, in-fashion look. Most typical are the buildings, such as this one on Broad Street, that were “Victorianized” in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Victorian period in architecture was known for a dramatic change in roof lines, as the high-hipped, fish-sale slate Mansard Roof became all the rage. Times were tough in Charleston in the decades after the Civil War, so few building owners had the money to tear down and rebuild – which is out great fortune today. The body of this building dates to circa 1800, when the roof would have been much different. The Victorian additions give buildings like this a regal look, and it was all down without losing much history or money. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Victorianized buildings”

Maternal Memories

I have this enchanting oil on canvas of my great-great-great grandmother Caroline Poincignon Trouche, painted by her husband Auguste circa 1830. He was a gifted Charleston artist well-known for the realistic qualities of his work, and in her eyes there is a tangible look of the love, dignity and compassion for which she was known. They were married at St. Mary’s Church in 1826, and lived on Church Street in the old city. She was gifted in music, and his work survives in famed paintings featured at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Both were second-generation French immigrants, and I have composed a poem below her photograph in the language she grew up speaking to honor her on Mother’s Day.

Le doux visage de notre matrone de famille,

qui nous savons d’huile sur toile.

Vit encore dans sa lignée aujourd’hui,

avec nous toujours comme la caresse d’un voile.

Angelic Adornment

One of the most interesting interiors in historic #Charleston is that of St. Mary of the Annunciation Church on Hasell Street. Although the church is named after the Biblical story of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to announce that she would mother the Messiah, it’s most noticeable painted image is that of another biblical concept of the Assumption – when at Mary’s death, angels took her body to heaven. The scene of the Assumption was painted on the church ceiling after the building was completed in 1839, and according to church records was rendered by Italian artist Caesare Porte. The church is filled with remarkable painted images and has been my family’s church since it was completed. I spent many a Sunday morning in our family pew as a child, looking up at Mary surrounded by the angels’ faces, and in my youth always wondered if she were up there looking down at me.  <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”St. Mary’s Church”

Memorable Memorials

I typically take the walking tour into at least on of the historic #Charleston graveyards. Visitors to Charleston are usually very interested by the variety of unusual burial markers that often have a story of their own. This stone is from the Circular Congregational Church, which has the oldest grave markers found in the city, with some dating to the 1690’s. Fortunately for posterity, the style then was to carve images and memorials in slate, which has proven to be the most durable of all burial materials. Because the slate and the slate carvers where largely from New England, the procedure was to mail an epitaph to them, and have the stone delivered with the finished wording and symbols. Some of the old spelling is interesting, as well as images such as this skull with wings, a “soul effigy” representing the immortal memory of the departed Mrs. Peronneau.<img.src=”Charleston Folklore” alt=”Graveyard markers”

Amazing Azaleas

There is probably no image that better captures historic #Charleston, SC than that of blooming azaleas in the Spring. This native of India (Indica Azalea) is a member of the Rhododendron Family, and was not planted in landscape settings until 1843. Rev. John Grimke Drayton had inherited Magnolia Plantation before the Civil War, and turned its former rice fields into lush gardens. His prized showcase bloom was the azalea, so radiant with its creamy whites and blazing pinks and reds on star-shaped petals. I take my walking tours past numerous public and private displays of azaleas, which grow best under the canopy of larger trees, benefitting from mottled sunlight. The shrubs can easily grow as high as six feet, and seem to explode with vibrant color this time of year.  <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Azalea Flowers”

Staggered Steeple

The 200-foot steeple of St. Philip’s Anglican Church has endured natural and man-made assaults on its structural integrity. It is one of the most remarkable buildings in a city known for its classical architecture, and I often take my walking tour visitors inside.The biggest stress came from the 1886 earthquake, when tremors estimated at 7.3 on the (later invented) Richter scale caused the edifice great damage and the fear was that it would soon collapse. Massive wooden beams propped up the steeple until missing sections could be rebuilt, and all was well until the 1990’s when a public parking garage was built down the street, and heavy piling caused the steeple to crack and list once more. Modern engineers came in in 1996 and reinforced the steeple, as well as adding replacement bells for those that were donated to the Confederacy for melting down as cannon during the Civil War. So today, the grand old 1840’s-era steeple stands strong over the historic city.

Handsome Hues

One of the most noteworthy aspects of scenic #Charleston is the palette of dazzling colors found throughout the historic city. Shades of orange, raspberry, blue, mustard, green, canary and more are displayed on numerous facades all over town, and I explain how coloring methods changed over the years on my walking tours.. Although coloring buildings was popular going back to ancient times, these were typically basic earth tones derived from iron oxides. By the late 18th century, color schemes changed dramatically with new methods of creating pigments, and became a popular feature of the Adam style the swept America by the early 1800’s. Scottish historical architects Robert and James Adam fostered new methods of brightening and beautifying building interiors with such concepts as full-length windows and massive plaster ceiling medallions, but also promoted vibrant colors inside and out to show off the structure. Many of the old colors faded in Charleston for years after the Civil War, but as the restoration movement boomed in the late 20th century, the famed former pigments became all the rage again, and today, Charleston offers one of the most colorful streetscapes of any city in the world. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Historic Building Colors”

Battery Basics

This 19th century painting shows the area known in #Charleston as the High Battery. I take my group walking tours here everyday, and explain that the area was mostly marshes and sand flats facing Charleston Harbor in the early days of the city. A Charleston dredging project in the 1830’s filled waterfront areas to build the houses now known as Battery Row, but it wasn’t until the raised sea wall promenade was finished in 1854 that the are became free of constant tidal action. The name originally came from an historic cannon battery that was located at this spot in the early years of the city, and the raised walkway added the high. The area just inside the High Battery was a carriageway for nearly 70 years, and now is a roadway for a steady stream of driving sightseeing visitors. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”High Battery”

Joyous Jessamine

One of the pleasant hues bursting forth in #Charleston this time of year is our state flower, Gelsemium Sempervirens, better known as Yellow Jessamine or Carolina Jasmine. It is a vine that we see most often on my walking tours adorning a gate, wall, or other plants with larger trunks, and some large trees become very decorative with its golden yellow trumpet-shaped blooms. The flower is a good source of nectar for native insects, but the leaves and stem can be toxic to humans, so it is better observed than anything else. So many of the colorful plants in bloom in late winter here in Charleston are not native, such as Camellia Japonica, Indica Azalea, and Loropetalum Chinense, which, as their Latin names suggest are Asian in origin. So it is always a welcome sight to see the state bloom as a reminder of our colorful gardening past.

Painting Perfection?

On my walking tours of historic #Charleston, SC, I often take groups past 8 Legare Street, where I grew up. Although the house is no longer owned by my family, it does have lots of family memories, such as in the picture I show people of my brothers and me from long. long ago. My mother was a very frugal women, and did not hire contractors when she had five sons to do the job. Here we are painting the stucco wall in front of the house back when I was about 10 years old, and that’s me with the hat in the foreground doing my best Tom Sawyer imitation. Needless to say, more of the paint went on us, the sidewalk, and any other kids passing by than on the wall itself, but it is one of those cherished memories of growing up in old Charleston.  <img.src=”Charleston Memories” alt=”Boyhood Chores”