Tuesday, May 15, 2007

So, Charleston.

I've been trying to figure out how to post these photos without turning it into a history lesson, but I can't, so to hell with it, we'll have a history lesson. (You're more than welcome to scroll through without reading, of course.) I'm using the medium setting for these photos, but as always you can click to make them larger.

First, the obvious: Where we're talking about.

(Image from Google Earth.)

See the little red circle, under the Charleston label, at the very end of the peninusla? Kinda? (Well, if you click on the photo it's more obvious.) That's Battery Park, so named because they had artillery batteries there during the Civil War (1860-1865). And it's where I parked my Jeep Sunday for my walk-around, so you can get a feel for where these photos were taken. ALLLL the way at the top of the pic is North Charleston. That's where I live. It's like a giant truck stop on the way to Charleston, but affordable. The small river that goes up the left side of the Charleston peninusla is the Ashley River, and I live near it. The larger river (that forks) on the right side of the peninsula is the Cooper River. The husbeast works on the Cooper River. If you look almost directly to the right of Charleston, on the photo, you will find Sullivan's Island, location of Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. (Some people living down here are still proud of that. I'm sure you all know how I feel about that.) You can also see now, why I'm so thrilled at the idea of hurricane season. Charleston regularly (about every sixty years) gets nailed with a hurricane and has to be rebuilt; we're overdue for another major hit. The house I live in has a new roof that was put on in '91 after the last hit.

The drive into the historic district of Charleston is pretty easy; it's a straight shot down I-26, then when it ends, you keep going on Meeting Street until it dead ends at Battery Park. At first it all looks rather normal, except for the church steeples in the distance. (There ARE church steeples in the distance on that photo, taken out the windshield of the Jeep at a stop light; I swear.) Then the odd historic building pops up between the gas stations and the parking lots.

The pink building is now an inn. (Check out the wrought iron balcony.) No idea on the brown building.

When I got to Battery Park, I found a space along the water. The road looked like this:

Facing one way, I could see out across the harbor to the Atlantic, and facing the other way, I could see Battery Park proper.

Charleston was founded in 1670, across the Ashley river on the actual mainland. It moved over to the peninsula soon after, but due to lousy building techniques (early buildings were wood or sod, thrown up as fast as possible to protect settlers) and a series of fires, earth quakes, and hurricanes, most of the buildings in this area date to the 1800's or later. Most of the buildings I've taken photos of date from between 1800 and 1820; there was a boom during that time, and people got rich growing rice and cotton in the surrounding marshes. (Charleston was not damaged much during the Civil War or the following reconstruction. This blows my mind, because it was the place the Civil War started. The next large city further south on this coast - Savannah, Georgia - was wiped out - burned to the ground, on purpose, by the Northern armies as they moved through securing the area. Why Charleston was left standing is a mystery to me.)

Several of the larger houses surrounding Battery Park have been turned into inns.

But a lot of the houses are still privately owned. For something right on the water (there's a breakwater right beside the street - no beach, just a water view) it will run you a couple million dollars. And you better have another million for upkeep. At least. These places are money pits.

Quite a few of the old carriage houses have been turned into darling little cottages, back behind the main house in shady gardens. This one's my favorite.

What really makes the historic district, though, is the detail. Like the old-fashioned version of pavement here in the Low Country - crushed oyster shells for sidewalks.

And the wrought iron - look closely and you can see some fancy boot-scrapers next to the stoop, and a curlicue to hold the shutter, in the brick wall of the house:

And fancy tiles set in the garden walks:

And of course there's the smell.

Dead fish, all over the historic district.



Amy Lane said...

Now see, in Sacramento, it's all about the gold rush... the rednecks, the gold rush, and the @#$%ing basketball team...

Dana said...

Great post!! A couple things to fill in the blanks...
Ft Sumter is not on Sullivan's. That's Ft. Moultrie. Ft. Sumter is actually located in the harbour on its own little island, poised between Moultrie and the Battery. And that brown building... it's the newly renovated "Market Hall," part of Old City Market, formerly referred to as the Slave's Market. It was called that not because they peddled slaves, but because it was where the slaves did their shopping. Today, it's a mighty touristy place to buy chachkie and sweet grass items.

Lynn said...

Thanks for that!

As for here in Milwaukee, it's all about brauts and beer. :)

amy said...

Thanks for the tour. I hope to visit in person one of these days...

gemma said...

lovely photos, but how do not get confused driving on the wrong side of the road? You Americans, you're so funny .... :)

Bells said...

great tour Julie! I've got a greater sense of place for you now. When I think of your town, I think ants and mozzies and swamp lands. Now it looks prettier in my mind!

Julie said...

It IS ants and mozzies and swamp lands. The death tolls from mosquito-bourne illness here was staggering, before science figured out what was going on.

But it's a pretty, historic swamp, I'll give you that. Haha.

KnitTech said...

Very nice tour, I love history. I didn't see one yarn store. :(

Roxie said...

I love tours with native guides. Thank you! Looks very pretty right now. Does it get steamy in the summer?

No hurricanes! No hurricanes! (I'm doing my hurricane diversion dance for you.)

Alwen said...

You know, I always think of malaria as a southern illness, so I was gobsmacked when I found out it used to be a major killer in Michigan. Michigan, cold freezing snowy winters, malaria. Huh. History is fun.

1830's chant:
"Don't go to Michigan, that land of ills;

The word means ague, fever and chills.

Back then, draining the wetlands was a public service, as it got rid of the mosquitoes vectoring malaria.