Gilded Guardians

One of the noteworthy details that intrigues many tourists visiting #Charleston, and often catches the eye of guests on my walking tours are the interesting door knockers featured on historic entranceways all over the city. The door knocker became fashionable back in ancient Rome as a means of alerting residents that someone was requesting entrance to the building. Typically, these were made of iron cast in molds to create a heavy object that would resonate when tapped on wood or iron and leave no question that someone was at the door. Charleston’s early architectural details were largely fashioned after what was stylish in England and Europe, and in England, the evolution of door knockers came with some interesting symbolism. Certain shapes fashioned in iron might indicate the trade or authority of the home owner, but the most popular appear to be those that symbolize that the house was well guarded. The fox was a very traditional motif, suggesting the clever, watchful nature of the animal was present in the house, and the fox is very well represented in the door fronts of old Charleston. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Historic Door Knockers”

Departed Detail

The structure at 50 Broad Street was completed in 1798 as the Bank of South Carolina, and is the oldest building in historic #Charleston used as a bank. The concept of banks was relatively new at that time, as most currency changed hands and credit was issued in custom houses and vendors offices, and much of the money used was English and Spanish coins of gold and silver. Early American banks issued their own paper currency, and quickly became a source of credit for the booming merchant class in Charleston after the Revolution. The new building was striking in appearance, featuring brick that was “rouged” with iron oxides for a bright red color, as well as details that included splayed lintels, belt courses, recessed edicules, and a protruding bracketed cornice along the roofline. The impressive building and its cache of coins and currency quickly caught the attention of a thief named Withers, who tried tunneling his way inside by digging through drain openings on Broad Street in 1801. The “Charleston Mole” was caught, and the bank went nearly another century without a significant loss until the earthquake of 1886. The violent tremors of the quake shook the building so hard that the cornice was dislodged, and with so little money in Charleston after the Civil War, there was no attempt to replace it. Today, the building houses city offices, and still is striking with the obvious marks of the missing cornice under the eaves. <img.src=”Charleston Architecture” alt=”Bank of South Carolina”

Welcome Wings

This time of year brings fluttering wings to historic #Charleston, as we see scores of butterflies darting through colorful gardens. The species we see most often on my walking tour of downtown Charleston are the yellow-winged Cloudless Sulphur, the Black and Yellow-winged Swallowtail, and the orange-winged Gulf Fritillary. These creatures thrive on the nectar of late Summer blossoms such as Lantana, probing with their needle-like probiscus as they flutter from petal to petal. There colors come from tiny scales that absorb the heat of the sun to provide extra energy for migrations that take these delicate bodies thousands of miles. Seemingly vulnerable to birds and other quick-moving predators, the natural color of the butterflies acts as an instinctive warning to other creatures, suggesting toxicity found in plants with similar colors that animals know to avoid. Fortunately, the color patterns provide enough defense to assure that these wonderful wings will provide an eye-catching spectacle each year. <img.src=”Charleston Natural Resources” alt=”Butterflies”