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Day 106 - Historic Charleston (Photo's added)

We visited Historic Charleston by Tour Bus, visited the Museum and one of the Historic Homes.

sunny 55 °F


Miles Driven - 22
Weather - Cool, Windy, but Sunny
Camped at James Island County Park



Once I made it over a very long, high bridge (in very nasty wind), the weather wasn't that bad. The temperature dropped about 20 degrees between 8 AM and 10 AM (60 to 40), but the clouds blew off and it was sunny the rest of the day. Also, once the wind died down a bit and we had a pretty good time of it (except for driving over bridges - difficult again at night, but maybe it's because I was tired by then). This is the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which was completed in July 2005 at a total cost of $632M. It is the longest cable stayed bridge in the America's.


We started at the Visitors Center. This was an old Railroad Station that has been restored. In 1833, the railroad between Augusta and Charleston was the longest in the world at 133 miles (this was 1833 afterall).


We decided to take one of the guided tours through the historic district to give us a chance to see more in less time. Our tour guide was George who liked to crack a lot of jokes so I wasn't always sure when to believe him vs when he was joking. The tour buses are not allowed to stop, and the historic area is quite full of trees - so it was hard to get good pictures. These are the best of my shots, but do give you some idea what these buildings look like.


On thing that impressed both Mom & I was how many flowers were still in bloom in mid December here. That and the ornate wrought iron grates, fences, and balconies are partly what make the city so beautiful.


In 1931, Charleston became the first city in the US to have a designated Historic District. One of the unique features about a number of these homes is that they are only one room wide and have large porches running the length of the house perpendicular to the street as opposed to facing the street as most homes would in other cities. There are 85 historic churches and 500 total churches in the area, I don't think I got a good shot of any of them.

Battery Park lies at the tip of the point of land between the Cooper and Ashley rivers. The tour bus was allowed to stop there and we could get out and look around at the park, historic town homes, and Charleston Harbor.


You can also get an idea how close Fort Sumpter is to Charleston if you look between the lines (literally) on this shot of the Harbor.


In Battery Park was a statue of Col. Moultrie. He organized the defense of Charleston during the Battle of Sullivan's Island in the Revolutionary War. The first time the British attacked Charleston in 1776, his small band defeated them, leaving Charleston in Patriot hands until 1780 - a vital four years for funnelling recruits and supplies to the war effort.


Across the street were two of the historic homes. The first of these is the Desault family's town home. They had a plantation upriver, but also wanted a house in town to stay when they came to town, e.g. 'town home'. The porches were placed on the side of the structure to catch the prevailing breezes on hot summer nights. Entertaining was done on the second floor so the guests would have a view of the harbor over the earthworks of Battery Park. It is very hard to see in this picture, but the balconies on the second floor are curved outwards, the ironwork on the top floor is straight. The curved ironwork was to accomidate the hooped skirts of women guests. This address is 1 East Battery and is now condo's. The top floor has a market value of $3M. The pink house directly behind is 5 East Battery. It has been converted to a B&B in order to help pay the estimated $40k - $50k annual property taxes. The pastel colors were copied from Barbados.


In 1989, Hurrican Hugo brought a 12 foot storm surge to Battery Park causing extensive damage (as well as wind damage to 60% of the roofs in the historic district). The most expensive home in Charleston sold last summer for $7M. There are also six addresses of "0", such as 0 South Battery Street - rather unusual for street numbering.

The Board of Architectural Review is quite strict, fortunately I would add, after comparing this historic district with others I've seen. One historic firehouse in the district needed new fire engines. They were not allowed to enlarge the doors to accomidate the newer, larger size fire trucks so instead had to have fire trucks custom made to fit within the original doors (perhaps this was a bit extream).


On of the central features near the visitors center is the old Citadel, a military college dating to 1842. In 1922, the college moved to a new, much larger location, but the original building still exists and has been converted to an Embassy Suites Hotel.


After the tour, Mom wanted to go to the Charleston Museum. This is the oldest museum in the country - but is in a new building, so you'd never know it to be so old. Outside is a full scale replica of the H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine that was the first submarine in history to sink an enemy vessel. However, the Hunley itself never returned to port either so it's success was mixed. The replica was built from the original plans, but now that the actual wreck of the Hunley has been discovered, it was found that the original did not conform to the plans in all respects, so there are some differences.


Interesting exhibits again - a whole section devoted to clothing by color? (Special exhibit I think) The museum does allow photography, but no flash - so I won't bore you with too many (dark) photo's. Just a few examples of what's here.


This painting was also in the Museum. It is "Lafayette at Yorktown" by Jean-Baptiste Le Paon from 1783, about when the Revolutionary War ended. The man holding Lafayette's horse is James, a slave. He had asked to enlist under Lafayette, then served him as a master spy. He made up reasons to frequent the British camps, where he gathered intelligence for Lafayette at great personal risk. Cornwallis believed that James was actually spying for him and was quite surprised to find him in Lafayette's headquarters after his surrender. The General Assembly of Virginia gave James his freedom in 1786. Later, as James Armistead Lafayette, he petitioned the Assembly for a military pension and received it.


Across the street from the museum (& part of a combo ticket you could buy) was one of Charleston's fabled antibellum mansions, the Manigault House, which we toured. This was built in 1803 in the Neo Classical style. The family were French Huguenots and owned the house until the 1850's. By the third generation in America, they had become wealthy from rice plantations (slave farms). This is the house that prompted local citizens to form the Historic District after a developer was going to tear it down to build a gas station. It has 10,000 square feet and 14' ceilings, and also used the second floor for entertaining.

They did allow photographs, but again no flash - so we'll see. Hopefully some were worth uploading.


As you can probably tell from some of the exterior shots above, it was getting pretty late by the time we finished touring the Manigault house. We decided to stay at the county park on James Island (several people had recommended this, even KOA). Great Park, very bad Internet signal on my data card (very frustrating). They were also having a hugh Holiday Light festival, a three mile loop around the park by car - both sides fully decorated with lights of all sorts & designs. It cost $10, but since we were camping - was part of the camping fee for us, so essentially free - an added and unexpected bonus.


Mom & I both felt we'd seen enough of historic Charleston (not really, but under the time circumstances of this trip), so tomorrow will do some of the other activites around town...

Posted by jl98584 21:37 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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