Charleston – a stroll Downtown

Charleston, South Carolina,   is very proud of its list of ‘firsts’ and ‘oldests’ – first theatre,  first museum,  first golf course,  oldest public gardens,  oldest municipal college……  The city’s Preservation Society takes its job very seriously (and of course its the oldest community based historic society in the US).   The French Quarter and surrounding area boasts over 1400 significantly historic buildings as well as moss-draped tree lined streets,  winding alleys and some strange looking church steeples!  So if history or architecture is your thing than you’ll probably enjoy visiting this place which regularly makes it onto the ‘Best cities in the US’ lists.


Firstly,  the houses.  People talk of Charleston’s antebellum residences.   ‘Antebellum’ is not a particular style of architecture but rather refers to houses built in the American South in the 30 years or so before the American Civil War (1861 -1865).   Many homes were of the Charleston Single Style  – The gable end along the street,  the front door usually in the middle and then only one room on either side of the hall – regardless of how big the property was (so that means only 2 rooms per floor).   They usually faced south or west in order to avail of any cooling breezes.   Later buildings have porches, or piazzas, on the side of the house with the front door.DSC_2664




The white door here is not the actual front door,  but more of a screen… the front door is halfway along the piazza.DSC_2673


A massive earthquake in 1886 almost destroyed the city.  Afterwards,  all newly constructed buildings had to include earthquake rods – the bolts can be seen on many buildings…. usually round in shape….



…. but some are a bit fancier.


The Pink House on Chalmers Street was built in the late 1600’s and is the oldest stone house in town.



From the 1750’s  some insurance companies issued metal insurance plaques to policyholders which signified that their property was insured against fire damage.



The 13 townhouses on Rainbow Row form the longest stretch of Georgian houses in America.



There are plenty of alleyways to wander through.



This is a smaller version of the Charleston Single house…



Street names are embedded into the sidewalks.



There are still a few cobblestone streets remaining.



The People’s Building was the city’s first skyscraper.   Built in 1910,  the 8 storey building was considered by many as an intrusion into the city skyline.



The city is known as the ‘Holy City’ due to the number of churches and their steeples that pierce the skyline.



St Philip’s Episcopal Church was known as the lighthouse church as it had a light in the steeple to guide ships to port until the beginning of the 20th century.



By 1700 about 450 French Huguenots had settled in the region – attracted mainly by the promise of cheap land,  religious freedom and commercial opportunity.   This church was known as the ‘Church of the Tides’  because several members of the congregation were planters up river and services had to be timed to coincide with the direction of the tide to make for an easier boat ride.



This building once housed a slave auction gallery.  Today,  it is the site of a museum which tells the story of Charleston’s role in the slave trade.





Many bricks used to build Charleston homes were made by slaves on the nearby plantations.   The finger indentations on several bricks throughout town suggest that,  according to the print size,   they were often made by children.





The palmetto tree is the state tree of South Carolina and is planted everywhere for decoration.



King street is considered one of the best shopping streets in the US and is renowned for its local boutiques and antique shops as well as the usual chain stores.



The Hibernian Hall was constructed in 1840 for the Hibernian Society of Charleston – a group made up largely of Irish emigrants.  Built in the Greek style,  it boasted a double staircase and ballroom.  The building supposedly houses a stone from the Giant’s Causeway…. (wouldn’t get away with that today!!)   It still hosts social occasions and serves as the central location for St Patrick’s Day celebrations.



The Custom House was completed in 1893,  incorporating both Greek and Roman styles.   (it is not open to the public).



Resembling a Greek temple,  City Market opens 365 days per year and you will find pottery,  jewellery and souvenirs as well as the famous Gullah sweetgrass baskets.





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The Gullah-Geechees are descendants of enslaved West Africans who worked on the coastal plantations.   The art of sweetgrass weaving is one of the traditions brought to this region during the Slave Trade.



Charleston was originally founded as a harbour city,  at the site where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet.



That’s Fort Sumter out there – where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.  You can head over,  if you’ve time,  for a park ranger led tour.



Close by,  you can see a representation of the old city walls on the street surface.


Washington Park was one of the first parks in the city.   Monuments here pay tribute to war leaders and history.



Only a certain number of carriages are allowed on the street at any one time.   The city has been divided into different zones to reduce traffic issues.   All drivers have to pick out a randomly drawn bingo ball before setting off so you won’t know your route until you set off on your ride.



The city has emerged as a foodie capital with innovative chefs using local ingredients and paying homage to the culinary traditions of all who settled here – French Huguenots,  English Colonists,  Native Americans and later,  West African Slaves..

20200301_181532(Caribbean Style Fish Stew with Carolina Gold Rice at ‘The Ordinary’)


(Duck Breast and Scallops at ‘SNOB’)



21 thoughts on “Charleston – a stroll Downtown

  1. You’ve given us a fascinating trip through Charleston which I’ve only known from reading about it in novels. Your pictures of the architecture make are impressive and I feel I could find my way around the city with no problem but with your blog as my guide.

  2. I’ve heard of the beautiful historical homes in Charleston, but it was never on my list to visit. Your pictures are gorgeous, so maybe we should take a second look. Maggie

  3. Charleston looks like a lovely place! I love its charming architecture and bright colours. I’ve never really wanted to visit South Carolina, but having been at home for a week now, I would go anywhere. Thanks for sharing and stay safe 😊 Aiva xxx

    1. I know the feeling! I’m not even allowing myself think of actually being somewhere else!
      It was never on my list either Aiva but I was visiting a friend in the region and we traveled a little. There were lots of surprises and certainly enough to make a vacation ….
      Stay safe in the west …. hope 3 of you able to get out and about….

  4. Looks like a really interesting city to visit! Didn’t realise there was so much to see in Charleston.

    1. Hi Jason – there’s definitely enough for a few days – more if you’re into big houses, plantations, etc ( one’s enough for me)

  5. What a delightful place Charleston looks – thanks for such a comprehensive tour. The buildings are so charming and the history behind them all sounds fascinating. I love the feel of the place, which you have conjured up so well – the different cultural influences in the style and cuisine, the markets and the pretty streets. Lovely to dream of future places to visit once the world opens up again! Stay safe and take care 🙂

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