Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Charming City of Charleston

Charleston, SC oozes Southern charm.  Stately homes, cobblestone alleys and inspiring churches all may be found within the perimeters of Charleston's historic French Quarter.  Bounded by the streets of Broad, Meeting, East Bay and South Market, the quaint neighborhood gets its name from the French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution who immigrated to and settled within this once-walled city.

Equipped with a self-guided walking tour brochure I found online, Tim and I spent a day wandering through the quarter.

Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon

We began at the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, once the customs house where cargo offloaded from sailing ships was assessed and taxed.  Descending to the dungeon underneath the building, we listened avidly as our guide talked about pirates Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet who terrorized coastal South Carolina.  Bonnet was imprisoned here before Charleston authorities hanged him.  On the upper floor in the Great Hall, influential South Carolinians met and voted their support of the Declaration of Independence while below in the courtyard outside, slaves were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Old Slave Mart

I thought about selling off Tim at the Old Slave Mart, built in 1859 when city ordinances were passed to prohibit public sales of slaves.  I found it hard to countenance Tim's camera-wary ways and his inordinate interest in the Pink House, a former tavern and brothel, across the street.  

The Pink House

If I could have gotten a good price for him, I might have done so.  But then again, in all fairness, I'll admit that I'm rather insufferable when I'm trying to capture that perfect snapshot.

The Douxsaint-Macauley House

The Douxsaint-Macauley House exemplifies a typical Charleston "single house," those built to fit on the city's long, narrow lots.  Its gable faces the street while the entrance opens to a piazza that runs the length of the home.  A second and sometimes even a third-story piazza adds to the symmetry of these structures.  The result is a building that is one room wide when viewed from the street; hence, the name "single house."

When one looks at the skyline of Charleston with all the church steeples soaring to the heavens, it's obvious why its sobriquet, The Holy City, has stuck.  Within two blocks, we visited four churches, each unique in its own right.

The French Huguenot Church

The French Huguenot Church, notably the only independent Huguenot church in the United States, traces its origins to a group of 45 Huguenots who arrived in Charleston in April 1680.  Their doctrine stemmed from the Calvinist Church of France and its services still follow 18th century French liturgy, albeit in English nowadays.

The Dock Theater

Want to know who first concocted the drink, Planter's Punch?  Some believe it was a bartender at The Planter's Hotel, now The Dock Theater, located just across the street from the French Huguenot Church.

St. Philips Episcopal Church

Continuing north on Church Street, we came to St. Philips Episcopal Church.  Several notable Americans are buried in its graveyard, including Vice President John Calhoun, Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Charles Pinckney who signed the U.S. Constitution.

Charleston City Market Hall

Tim and I deviated from the walking tour's itinerary to visit Charleston's City Market.  Pictured above is the Market Hall, but look closely at the red brick arches on the side.  Those are a continuous series of market sheds that stretch over four blocks.

With all the art and crafts of over 100 vendors, I found it tempting to buy some of the treasures we saw, especially the sweetgrass baskets we watched women create.

The Circular Congregational Church

But back to our walking trail!  Circular Congregational Church is--well, circular!  Founded in 1681 by dissenters (English congregationalists, Scot Presbyterians and French Huguenots) who were treated with contempt by colonial loyalists, the church was a hotbed of revolutionary sentiment.

St. Michael's Church
St. Michael's Church is the oldest surviving religious structure in the city.  

Clockwise, from upper left:  Charleston County Courthouse, Charleston City Hall, St. Michael's Church and Federal Courthouse
Situated at the corner of Broad and Meeting streets, on one of the Four Corners of the Law as this intersection is called, St. Michael's Church represents ecclesiastical law.  The other three corners are occupied by Charleston County Courthouse, Charleston City Hall and the U.S. Post Office Federal Courthouse.

Interior of the Post Office

The Federal Courthouse is also home to the U.S. Post Office.  There you can mail a letter in the splendor of granite hallways, mahogany walls, balustraded balconies and ornate brass fixtures.  It's quite a sight!

Rainbow Row
Our final tour stop was Rainbow Row.  There thirteen Georgian row houses, each painted a different pastel color, line up along a block of East Bay Street.  Some say the Row is the most photographed sight of the city.

Perhaps next time we visit Charleston, we'll catch a carriage tour through the historic district.  That would be another way to experience the charm of the city.


  1. We enjoyed visiting Charleston on one of our trips to see Brent while he was in grad school at the University of South Carolina. I know we only scratched the surface, so it would be fun to go back some day.

  2. We were there only three days and that wasn't enough. Hopefully, you will get back there one day with plans to stay longer than we did.