Artistic Anthemion

A very common detail in classic architecture throughout historic #Charleston is the anthemion. This is symbol represents the Greek palmette, whose natural symmetry impressed ancient architects enough to be depicted in stone, iron and wood as an example of beauty and welcome. With the great influence of Greek and Roman styles in Charleston’s historic architecture, the anthemion became a fashionable addition to gates, furnishings and facades throughout the city. Although most commonly framed by wood, iron or stone, some versions are free-standing, a detail called the acroterion. Some versions are more detailed and embroidered than others, and this version pictured from a gate on Hasell Street, is a grander example than the simpler shapes at places such as the gates of St. Philip’s Church. Some of the symbols are hand-forged, but this gate pictures is clearly iron cast in a mold. Look around at details both interior and exterior in Charleston’s classic structures, and the anthemion is sure to be there. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Anthemion Symbol

College Columns

The grand portico of Randolph Hall is the most recognized image of the College of #Charleston. The college was officially founded in 1770, but not chartered until 1785, and its first graduating class of six men was in 1794, yet it still ranks as America’s oldest municipal college, when it was taken over the city of Charleston in 1837. Part of the city’s plan was to expand curricula and improve buildings, and the original 1829 classroom building was given a grand new look, adorned with the Greek Revival style portico on a high, arched basement.  The portico was designed by heralded Charleston architect Edward Brickell White, a West Point graduate and engineer, whose work can still be seen in buildings throughout the historic city. The college building he transformed is now known as Randolph Hall, named for college president Harrison Randolph, who expanded the student body and established the inclusion of the first women students. Today, Randolph Hall is used as an administrative building, but its distinctive facade is most associated with the famed outdoor Mother’s Day graduation ceremonies, as well as special musical events, and was prominently featured in a scene from The Patriot. The square in front of the building features a massive 19th century cistern, and the grounds are referred to as The Cistern. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Randolph Hall

Tidal Technology

Rice was a major export from #Charleston throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and became a source of considerable wealth, as well as the basis for a slave labor system. Grown in massive amounts in low wetlands that were steamy hot and filled with mosquitoes, rice production was hard labor in tropical conditions that those of European descent were not used to, whereas rice had been cultivated in West Africa for centuries in even more sweltering conditions. There had also been a thriving slave trade in West Africa for centuries, so that’s where slaving ships went for gangs of slaves to work the rice fields. The means of cultivation was very simple in coastal Africa, involving flooding of fields with fresh water to irrigate and flooding with brackish water to kill off competing vegetation. The idea was recreated in South Carolina lowlands with the use of tools that controlled water flow, such as this reconstruction of a rice gate and trunk in the Charleston Museum. The tidal action in coastal rivers was manipulated in this way to push open and close the gates. allowing for  fresh water to irrigate and salty water to eliminate competitive vegetation in the fields. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Rice trunks and gates

Historic Hangout

Everyday on my walking tour, I take visitors along the historic waterfront promenade we call the High Battery. This pleasurable walkway overlooking scenic Charleston Harbor was first completed in 1854, but got its name from a fortification built in this area after the American Revolution where a row of cannon, a cannon battery, stood for so many years that the name has stuck. Standing about 14 feet above mean sea level facing the harbor and Fort Sumter, the height of the stone structure added to its lofty name and appeal. And as the boys in this picture enjoyed the breezy outlook back in the days of tall-masted ships that crowded the waterfront at that time, today visitors are still mesmerized by one of the best tourist attractions in Charleston that is completely free. We often see dolphin and pelicans hunting for fish in Charleston Harbor<img.src=”Charleston Landmarsk” alt=”The High Battery

Furious Fiddler

The colorful crustacean that swarms in coastal creek beds each Summer gets its name from its habit of waving claws much like a violin player sweeping strings with his bow. This behavior is actually a mating routine, in which males, who have the bigger claws, are making themselves appealing to females in fiddler crab fashion. Besides sitting near the bottom of the salt marsh food chain as a tidbit for fish, birds and larger crabs, the fiddler provides a valuable service with its tunneling into mudbanks for habitat, which great helps aerate the creek beds and promotes growth of other plant and animal species. <img.src=”Charleston Nature and Wildlife” alt=”Fiddler Crabs

Hardly Historic

With statuesque oak trees, exquisite wrought iron gates and grand houses overlooking the Ashley River, Murray Boulevard at first glance seems to be one of the most historic areas in #Charleston, yet nothing was here at all prior to 1911. The southern tip of Charleston’s peninsula was once no more than sand flats and mud banks, and the closest anyone built with houses the still stand today was on what would become South Battery Street, a full block inland. But filling of the area began in earnest when Charleston philanthropist Andrew Buist Murray donated part of his considerable fortune in a project that would take more than a decade to complete, as acres of river bottom were dredged to build the promenade that now bears his name. The first house was built on Murray Boulevard in 1913. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Murray Boulevard

High Half

Wandering around the parts of #Charleston where the buildings are older, visitors will often see houses with half-gable rooftops. Some of these are row house, but some are free-standing, and in each case, the gable lowers toward the side of the property where there is some open ground, and never lowers toward the ground of another separate property. These are all houses built long before Charleston’s first tapped water became a reality in 1879, when the first artesian well was successfully drilled. Prior to that, the cleanest water came from above in the form of rainfall, and any method of catching, collecting or storing it was considered a good idea. Some could be diverted through gutters and pipes to metal attic vats, but much of it cascaded off the roofs into the ground below, so many Charleston gardens featured masonry cisterns to catch the flow, and run-off was good for plants that may have included citrus fruits and herbs. The half gable, therefore, became a good way to divert all the water that struck the roof back into the owner’s property.  This particular building can be seen from Ropemaker’s Lane, where we often go on the tour. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Half Gable Roofs

Opulently Original

The 1818-era Aiken Rhett House is on of six museum houses in #Charleston, but is unique in way that separates it from the  others. The grand 19th century home of Governor William Aiken is preserved, not restored, and it looks much the same as it did when Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended a reception in its grand ballroom during the Civil War. The house is an Italian Villa design with later Greek Revival entrance, and also has a fully intact area in the rear garden with slave quarters and carriage house. It is not air-conditioned, so it can be stifling in Charleston’s Summer heat, but still a magnificent structure that literally takes you back in time. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Aiken-Rhett House”

Fawning Friends

The deer population has exploded in coastal #South Carolina, so the annual deer hunting season that begins in mid-August is largely sanctioned by the state Department of Natural Resources to cull the herds so that they do not over-populate to the point of starvation. Still, I would hope there is a better way, and any close encounter for me would make it difficult to do any harm to such a delicate creature. <img.src=”South Carolina Wildlife” alt=”Deer Hunting Season

Limestone Labyrinth

It may come as a surprise to find out that not far from the flat #South Carolina coast, there are a wealth of underground rock caves. Forty million years ago, the Coastal Plain of South Carolina was a sea bed, and the many centuries of calcium deposits from decaying sea life left the receding ocean front filled with limestone. Now a full hour’s drive from #Charleston, Santee State Park features this incredible rock formation that has passages that wend their way deep below the surface with ice-cold water trickling through them. The caves are ideal habitat for the Rafinesque big-eared bat, which thrive in the cold, dark caverns and give  them a creepier nature. However, like all bats, the creature’s diet is primarily insects, and provides a helpful pest control along the banks of Lake Marion, where the park is located.  <img.src=”South Carolina Natural History” alt=”Santee Limestone Caves”