Painting Perfection?

On my walking tours of historic #Charleston, SC, I often take groups past 8 Legare Street, and the 1850’s house where I grew up. Although the house is no longer owned by my family, it does have lots of family memories that I cherish, 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”

Bending Bricks

I am often asked on the walking tour of historic #Charleston, SC, as to what the large pillars adorning so many grand buildings are made of. And when I explain that in most cases, they are brick covered with stucco, I am often asked how could historic artisans create the rounded circumference of the pillar with bricks that are typically rectangular. The answer is the shape in which they were molded into casts. By creating wedge shapes, the bricks can be laid in a rounded face, and pillars could also be tapered by making the molds slightly smaller. This method dates back to the ancient Greeks, who tapered brick and stucco columns to create an optical illusion that the roof line of the building was farther away, and you can see this technique applied throughout historic buildings in our scenic city everyday.  <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”rounding bricks”

Taft Tale

We typically pass by this 18th century row house on my walking tour of historic #Charleston, and I enjoy telling visitors the story about a former resident of the building, Helen Taft. She was wife of President William Howard Taft, and went by the nickname “Nellie”. The couple came to Charleston on several occasions in the early 1900’s, and became good friends with a number of local citizens. After her husband’s death in 1930, Nellie briefly lived in Charleston at this residence on Tradd Street. She and her husband had been know for lavish social events before and during the era of Prohibition, and taking a drink was very much in the Taft protocol regardless of the law of the land. The story related to me by an older man whose parents were part of the Taft inner circle here in Charleston was that when she had a dinner party during the Prohibition years, she would simply call down to the Charleston police headquarters and tell the sergeant how many cases of confiscated bootleg whiskey she needed and they would send police cars to the house with boxes full. Here’s to you, Nellie! <img.src=”Charleston Folklore” alt=”Mrs. Taft’s Tippling”

Heckled Hext

The Hext tenement on Tradd Street has one of the great ironic histories here in #Charleston. The 18th century two house that we often pass on the Charleston Footprints Walking Tour has been beautifully restored and its grounds exquisitely manicured, and passing crowds are very impressed and take pictures of the building out of the inherent attraction it seems to convey. What a startling contrast to passing crowds in 1765. That was the year the Stamp Act was passed by British Parliament placing a tax on anything made of paper in the American colonies. To each colony, the British sent boxes of stamps that would be affixed to taxed items, as well as assigning local tax collector to oversee the process. The collector in Charleston was George Saxby, and his residence was at the Hext tenement. And after a series of events that led to mass protest and calls for independence, a crowd of Charleston residents marched on Saxby’s house and ransacked the building looking for him and the stamps, neither of which were there. How ironic that a building so reviled then is considered to be so esteemed today. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Hext tenement and the Stamp Act”

Scintillating Symmetry

The gardens of historic #Charleston are blooming this time of year with the fabulous blooms of the Camellia Japonica, and each day on the Charleston Footprints Walking Tour, we pass by the natural beauty throughout this scenic city. This asian shrub was introduced to America by French botanist Andre Michaux here in Charleston in 1786, and has been a winter favorite ever since. What is striking about camellias blooms besides color is their noticeable symmetry in the growth of the petals. The exactness of the growing blooms in relation to each other has been described as part of the “golden ratio” so cherished by the ancient Greeks in their architecture, and so evident throughout nature. Look at sea shells, pine cones, flower petals and even hurricanes, and the spiral shape is in the same proportion in each succeeding layer from the inner core. This is replicated throughout Greek architecture with similar proportions in height, width, and details of buildings. The Greeks considered this the perfect ratio in the shape of any object, and that perfection recreates itself in Charleston every year.  <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”The Golden Ratio”