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Charleston History and Homes

I scheduled a History & Homes tour for us today at 1:30pm because I knew if I didn't, we'd just spend the day working in the Airstream and we really need to get out and see more of Charleston before we leave on Thursday morning.

We met our guide at Washington Park and headed out from there to check out the Edmondston-Alston House on Battery Row.


From its balcony, General P. T. Beauregard watched the bombardment of Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, that signaled the start of the Civil War. 

View of Fort Sumter (the location of the beginning of the Civil War) from the balcony of the Edmonston-Alston House:


We did a 30 minute tour of the home (no photos allowed inside). Apparently the house has 90% of its original furniture and it's got some interesting history (of course). Much more history and pictures on their website here.

We walked around for almost three hours looking at houses and talking about history and architecture. Our guide was great and super enthusiastic about Charleston.

This is the Poyas-Mordecai house (1788). 


Notice its haint blue porch ceiling. Haint blue is a special color of blue that is meant to confuse evil spirits and to keep them at bay, and it's quite common to see the undersides of porches painted in this color or a variation thereof.

From "History of Things to Come":

Haint Blue originated in the deep American South. Today, in cities and towns throughout the south, one will find these blues and greens tints on shutters, doors, porch ceilings and windowsills, gracing many historic homes. The pretty blues and greens compliment any grand old Victorian mansion, but the first painted strokes of Haint Blue adorned not the homes of the rich, but the simple shacks of African slaves.

Known as the Gullah or Geechee people, the original Haint Blue creators were descendants of African slaves who worked on rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia. Many of their ancestors came from Angola, which may be where the name Gullah originated. They are well-known for preserving their African heritage more than any other African American community. They kept alive the traditions, stories, and beliefs of their ancestors, including a fear of haints.

Haints, or haunts, are spirits trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead. These are not your quiet, floaty, sorrowful ghosts, they are the kind you don’t want to mess with, and the kind you certainly don’t want invading into your humble abode looking for revenge.

More cool architecture:


The style of architecture below is called the Charleston Single House style. The homes are basically one or two rooms wide with the side of the house toward the street, and the porches/balconies (they call them "piazzas" in Charleston) running the length of the house. There's a door on the street side, but it only gets you into the yard or porch…the actual front door is on the side of the house. 


This is apparently the oldest buiding in Charleston (below, built in the 1690s). It's referred to as The Pink House and there's a ton of cool hisorical information here if you're interested


This house on Chalmers street has a carriage step out at the curb. (And look at that street…it's made from ballast stones that were brought in on ships from Europe!)


The whole slave thing creeps me out, but this is the Old Slave Mart (now a museum) on Chalmers Street.


This is the Hugenot Church, the oldest Gothic Revival church (built in 1844) in Charleston, located in the French Quarter:




This is the interior of the Dock Street Theater:


Cool typeface on the exit signs:


This next area is referred to as  the Four Corners of the Law.

From Wikipedia:

The term was coined in the 1930s by Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley's Believe it or Not! St. Michael's Episcopal Church, constructed between 1752 and 1761, stands on the southeast corner of the intersection. In its churchyard are the graves of John Rutledge and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, signers of the United States Constitution. On the northeast corner of the Four Corners is Charleston City Hall, constructed in the Adamesque style between 1800 and 1804. Across the street, on the northwest corner, stands the Charleston County Courthouse, originally constructed in 1753 as South Carolina's provincial capital, the building was rebuilt in 1792 for use as a courthouse. On the southwest corner is the United States Post Office and Federal Courthouse, built in 1896. The term "Four Corners of the Law" represents the presence of institutions representing federal, state, local and ecclesiastical law on each corner of the intersection.

Charleston City Hall:


Charleston Federal Building:


Inside St. Michael's Episcopal Church:


This decoration up in the dome was executed by Louis Tiffany in 1905, as well as the three stained glass windows shown in these photos.




Cemetery outside the church:


And this is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (an enormous neo-gothic structure), taken from the car on the way back to the Airstream:


We got back from our tour a little frazzled because we had just taken in SO MUCH information. We did a couple more hours of work before we headed back into town to meet up with Kyle again for dinner, this time at FIG, which stands for "Food Is Good"…and it was. I think in the overall experience category McCrady's last night wins, but the food at FIG was wonderful as well. Tomorrow's another work day, with a little sightseeing built in, and then dinner and Halloween ghost tour with Kyle. Boo!

We need to go buy jackets now, too, since we'll be traveling where there's snow to get home. 

We were thinking about something today: It's interesting how a little bit of struggle or frustration when you're traveling around in a new place can affect your overall feeling about it so quickly. Savannah had tough parking at first but pretty quickly we found a good parking garage (with enough clearance for our truck with the rack on top) and we were set for the next several days because that parking lot was centrally located.

Parking in Charleston is really tough too. At first we found a garage that we thought would work great (clearance stated at opening was 8'2") but as soon as we paid and got inside, it went down to 7'0" and we were so close we ended up turning around and looking elsewhere. Every time we've come into the city we've struggled with parking (except tonight at dinner…we found an "after 7pm okay" spot and grabbed it at 6:52 and waited 5 minutes until we were close enough.) But we both noticed that every time it's time to head into the city for whatever, we both have a little bit of stress about finding parking and whether we're going to be late to whatever appointment we have. It could be for just this reason that we both feel like we liked Savannah a little better than Charleston…because of the parking garages. Dorky.


  1. Savannah vs Charleston. Hmmm. Debbie and I have always leaned towards Charleston for our own dorky reasons. It’s in South Carolina, our home state/ We went there first. My son went to college there. The Spoleto Festival every spring. Market Street, East Bay street. The Battery. But we also love Savannah, with its’ squares and ghosts. Glad you enjoyed both.
    Where are you going next?

  2. Savannah vs Charleston. Hmmm. Debbie and I have always leaned towards Charleston for our own dorky reasons. It’s in South Carolina, our home state/ We went there first. My son went to college there. The Spoleto Festival every spring. Market Street, East Bay street. The Battery. But we also love Savannah, with its’ squares and ghosts. Glad you enjoyed both.
    Where are you going next?

  3. Hi Frank! Tomorrow we head to Asheville, then up to Lexington…Louisville…that’s as far as we’ve planned. 🙂

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