138 Market St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Welcome to Charleston - one of the oldest cities & most historic cities in the United States of America! This tour will help you get to know this beautiful campus nestled right here in the heart of Washington, DC. Before we begin, let me briefly explain how UC Places works. It uses your location to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. That way, you may explore on your own schedule with step by step navigation and audio commentary. After tapping the ‘Start Tour’ option, you heard the tour intro. I suggest that before we begin this tour, you look at the route and the Points of Interest, or POI’s on the map I have planned for you. This will come in handy if there are any issues with the GPS tour technology due to all the tall buildings here. Every time you reach a POI, I will automatically narrate that location. If you can see on the map that you're in the right spot but the audio isn't playing, give it a few seconds. Usually the gps will find you. If it doesn’t, you may always forward the audio to the next track, and if you wish to replay the audio for any POI, simply use the audio control buttons on the screen bottom. Don't worry if I'm silent at times when I'm not giving directions or telling stories. Remember, there's a map on your screen if you ever feel lost. When you are ready, head in through the gates and meet me at the statue that is straight ahead of you.
Meeting St / S Market St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you near the intersection of Market & Meeting Streets, across the road you should see a yellow building directly opposite you. If you look in front of, or to either side of the building, you will likely see vendors selling goods - from sweetgrass baskets to local foods to jewelry and clothing. Welcome to the Charleston City Market! Remain in place for a moment as I tell you about it. Charleston’s first public market was established in 1692 but was originally located just a few blocks away, at the corner of Broad and Meeting, where Charleston City Hall stands today. Almost a hundred years later, the Revolutionary War General Charles Pinckney upgraded the location by donating the strip of land in front of you for express use as a public market. Because of that, this land must remain in use as a market in perpetuity. In the beginning, the market served primarily as a place to sell food. Vendors would pay $2.00 to rent a booth with a marble slab to keep their meat cold. This attracted vultures - so many in fact, that they soon became known as the “Charleston Eagle”. They were protected by law, however, because of their hard work as public servants - putting in long, hard days keeping the streets clean of scraps. Needless to say, it would have looked very different a couple centuries ago. However, if you try hard enough, you can still catch a whiff of the old market - ahh, the smells of the city. Well, despite the smell, the market would have also acted as a social center where the middle and lower classes would gather to drink and play games. I now invite you to cross the street and walk through the first block of the present day market, where you are almost guaranteed to see sweetgrass baskets being woven and sold. Though today the makers of these baskets are primarily Gullah women, it would have often been enslaved males making the baskets a few hundred years ago. The Gullah are an African American cultural group who speak a unique creole language. They’ve been in the South Carolina Lowcountry for over 300 years and their legendary basket weaving skills have helped to preserve their history & culture. It’s a tradition dating back to the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade as the modern baskets strongly resemble those woven in West Africa before the European slave traders arrived. The shukublay baskets of Sierra Leone were coiled so tightly that they could hold water. When enslaved workers made these baskets on the plantation, they were used to separate the rice seed and chaff as well as to hold household goods. After emancipation, sale of the baskets became a way to make money for the artisans able to weave them. This money carried many families through the Great Depression and World War II. When Ida Jefferson Wilson lost her job picking strawberries in the 1930s, she set up the first basket stand along Highway 17 near Boone Hall Plantation. Like Ida before them, today’s weavers are fighting to ensure that this symbol of the Gullah people will be preserved for generations to come.
71 S Market St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
157 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
147 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
You should now be looking at an old, one-story building topped with Mediterranean tiles and fronted by two black cannons placed diagonally on the grass in front. This is the Powder Magazine a building synonymous with Charleston’s rich military history. How rich? Well, the Civil War began just a few miles from here when Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in 1861. If you go a few miles in the other direction, you’ll find the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. This university has been graduating top military officials since its founding in 1842. This building in front of you, the Powder Magazine, represents the beginning of that military history. Take a moment to let yourself be transported back to the year 1713. Don’t worry, we won’t stay here long - colonial America could be a scary place! Charles Town, named after King Charles II, is one of just a handful of walled cities in all of North America. This Powder Magazine & weapons arsenal was built near the northernmost wall in order to protect you from attacks by the Native Americans, the French, and the Spanish. It was also created as an added protection against slave revolts. It boasts 32 inch thick walls along with hundreds of pounds of sand packed between the roof and vaulted ceiling - all in an effort to prevent damage from any explosion since the building was crammed full of highly combustible material. Although it fell out of use temporarily in the mid-1700s, by the time of the American Revolution, the rebellious colonists decided to reopen it - until a shell exploded less than 30 feet from the building. Fearing the possibility of a major explosion, the powder was moved to another location and the building was officially retired after 1780. The walls of the city were coming down and Charleston was expanding. As you can imagine, property values would have been really low around a building whose contents could single handedly level the neighborhood. By the turn of the 19th century, it was privately owned. It then served as a print shop, stable, wine cellar, and carriage house. Okay, you can come back to the 21st century now. Even though the rest of Charleston’s fortifications are gone, this Powder Magazine remains the second oldest building in South Carolina thanks to the Colonial Dames of America who saved it from demolition by purchasing it outright. Today, it’s a museum focusing on Charleston’s colonial history. Let’s continue our stroll through the city. As you look around, I’m sure you’re wondering about that steeple behind the Powder Magazine to your left. Let’s head that way! Retrace your steps on Cumberland Street and make right onto Church Street.
142 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you walk down the aptly named Church Street, you can’t help but notice the big brown church & accompanying cemetery space on both sides of the road. Take a pause when you reach the middle of the block and take it all in. Did you know that Charleston is sometimes called “the Holy City” because of all of the churches and religious sites it contains? This beauty is St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, one of the most famous churches in Charleston. St. Philip’s is the oldest congregation in South Carolina, though the building you are looking at is not the original. That building, a small wooden structure, was built on a different site in 1680 and destroyed by a hurricane. Afterwards, the location moved here to Church Street and a brick building was constructed to house the congregation - funded partially by duties on rum and the importation of enslaved Africans. But you’re not looking at that building either as it was destroyed by fire in 1835. That same year, construction began on the final building (which you DO see in front of you). You’ll notice that the church extends to the center of the street, a choice made by architect Joseph Hyde and a common practice of parish churches in England. The steeple was added between 1848 and 1850. The original steeple bells were melted down to fashion Confederate cannon during the Civil War. The steeple also served as a beacon for ships from 1893 to 1915. Surrounding the church is St. Philip’s Graveyard and on the opposite side of the street you might be able to see the gravesite of John C. Calhoun, the seventh vice president of the United States and one of the most influential senators in U.S. Congressional history. John C. Calhoun served as vice president under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. His permanent residence was a plantation in upstate South Carolina (where Clemson University sits today). Calhoun spent nearly his entire life as a politician and was a strong proponent of slavery, states’ rights, limited government, nullification, and opposition to high tariffs. His beliefs strongly influenced southern secession prior to the Civil War. He was an unabashed slavery adovcate who believed the institution to be a “positive good”. Needless to say he remains both an impactful and controversial figure in local and national history. In 2020, his statue was removed from nearby Marion Square after a unanimous vote by Charleston’s city council. The statue, which was placed in the square in 1896, took 17 hours to remove and was finally brought down amid cheers, applause, tears, and song. Other notable burials in the St. Philip’s Graveyard are several colonial governors, five Episcopal bishops, and DuBose Heyward, an author and playwright. Take all the time you like to investigate the church grounds and the graveyard. If there are no services going on inside, it is typically open for daytime visitors. When you’re ready, continue on Church street until you reach Queen and take a right. I’ll meet you there.
137 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you turn right on Queen Street and leave St. Philips behind, it might interest you to know that Charleston has over 400 churches inside the city limits - a Holy City indeed! You see, way back in the 1600s, the original colony of Carolina was founded upon a law which guaranteed settlers religious liberty. This means that Charleston has been a spiritual safe haven from its very beginnings since it attracted people from all over Europe seeking relief from religious persecution throughout the 17th & 18th centuries. If you want to dig deeper with us and learn more on the subject, make sure to download Historic America’s Churches & Cemeteries of Charleston Tour. Speaking of churches, there’s one at our next stop. Up ahead, turn left onto Meeting Street and continue walking toward the big white steeple.
120 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you turn onto Meeting Street, two blocks ahead you’ll notice the prominent white church on the left hand side. This is St. Michael’s - the oldest surviving religious building in Charleston. In the 1680s, the first church in Charles Town was built on the site of St. Michael’s. It was a small, wooden Anglican church named St. Philip’s. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because St. Philip’s is the church we just came from. They moved locations early in their history - remember? What you may not know is that by 1751, the size of St. Philip’s congregation had outgrown its new worship space so they built St. Michael’s atop their original church site in order to handle the congregation’s overflow! That means that St. Michael’s is older than the United States itself. Want to guess the height of the steeple? I’ll give you a moment to think it over … aw heck I’ll just tell you. It’s 186 feet (and it would be even taller except for the fact that the entire building sank eight inches during an earthquake in 1886). St. Michael’s steeple houses a ring of bells and a clock plus it functioned as a look-out tower during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and both World Wars. When the British withdrew from the city following the Revolution, they stole St. Michael’s bells - because it’s no fun to lose a war and the redcoats wanted a consolation prize. However, they were later recovered and returned. Keep walking until you reach St. Michael’s. When you arrive, position yourself on the St. Michael’s corner of the intersection, but make sure you can see the other corners of the intersection as well.
71 Broad St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you arrive at St. Michael’s, look across the street to the building immediately opposite the church’s front door. That building is the United States Post Office. Diagonally across the intersection is the Charleston County Courthouse and to the right of St. Michael’s is the Charleston City Hall. Where you are right now - at the intersection Meeting and Broad - is known locally as Charleston’s Four Corners of the Law - city law, state law, federal law, and God’s law. Locals joke that here you can get married, taxed, divorced, and go to jail - how convenient! First, let’s take a look at the Charleston City Hall (with the two grand staircases outfront). This is city law. Remember when I told you that the Charleston market was originally situated a few blocks away from its current location? This was the place - but the market that stood here burned in 1796. Four years later (between 1800 and 1804) this building was constructed to serve as a branch of the First Bank of the United States (one of just eight found throughout the young country). In 1818, the federal government gave the building to the city and it became City Hall. It serves the same purpose today but it is also a gallery for some of the city’s most important portraits, including John Trumbull’s 1791 painting of George Washington. In fact, if you’ll entertain me for just a moment, I would love to tell you about it. If you’re able to go inside and see the canvas, you’ll notice that just behind George Washington, his horse is painted with its rear end facing the viewer and its tail held aloft as though he is about to… well, you know. Why did Trumbull paint the horse this way? Many think it was out of spite. You see, the City of Charleston commissioned Trumbull to paint Washington’s portrait in commemoration of Washington’s one time visit to the city which had taken place decades earlier. Trumbull’s original portrait, however, depicted Washington & his horse in New Jersey at the Battle of Trenton in 1777. Well, the city had another image in mind when they commissioned Trumbull and they refused to accept his original canvas. They wanted to see Washington depicted as he was in Charleston during his 1791 visit. So, Trumbull did just that, and repainted Washington as he was in that moment with the Charleston skyline in the background. As the story goes, after Trumbull received payment for his work, he was still angry that he had been made to paint two canvases for the price of one, so he hastily added a horse behind Washington, with its hind quarters positioned as though he was about to - make a deposit - all over the Charleston skyline. Next comes the white building diagonally across from you. This is the Charleston County Courthouse. The ground it sits on was originally designated as South Carolina’s provincial capitol in 1753 (making it the corner for state law). However, as you might expect - it too burned down and was replaced by the building you see now, the Charleston County Courthouse, in 1792. If you look toward the side of the courthouse which faces Broad Street you may notice a resemblance to another, more famous building. Figured it out yet? Though amateur architect Judge William Drayton oversaw the construction of the neoclassical courthouse, Irish architect James Hoban likely contributed to the design. Hoban’s most famous building, however, is none other than the White House in Washington, DC. Do you notice any similarities between the two? Prior to designing the country’s most famous residence, Hoban set up shop in Charleston where he worked alongside & trained both white apprentices and enslaved African Americans. One of his apprentices, Robert Mills, would go on to design another D.C. landmark - the Washington Monument. Though the Courthouse you’re now looking at has undergone a few renovations since its initial design, its original form is still largely preserved and it continues to function as the Charleston County Probate Court. The beautiful stone building I’ve not yet talked about is the United States Post Office. It represents federal law. This building was built in 1896 on the ruins of an old police station that was destroyed earlier by the earthquake of 1886 (you thought I was gonna say it burned down, didn’t you?). Today it is the oldest continuously operated post office in the Carolinas and is also home to the Postal Museum. So if you want to see all that the building delivers, pun intended, head on over and check it out! Finally, behind you is St. Michael’s Church, representing the final corner - God’s law. If you came here looking for the highest legal advice possible, I guess you know where to find it. Whenever you’re ready, let’s head to our next stop. Leave Meeting Street and continue on Broad Street keeping St. Michael's on your right and City Hall on your left. Walk one block. When you reach Church Street, take a left.
49 Broad St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
127 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
6 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Here we are at the Old Slave Mart Museum. It would be impossible to provide a good tour of Charleston without addressing the fact that (before the international slave trade was banned) this city was once the largest point of entry for enslaved persons in the United States. At one point, nearly half the enslaved persons in the country would have travelled through the port of Charleston. Prior to the Civil War, half of the city’s population was enslaved and in the state of South Carolina, there were more enslaved persons than there were free people. Needless to say, although a beautiful city, Charleston’s history has its ugly chapters. Though the United States abolished the international slave trade in 1808, the domestic slave trade was alive and well up until the Civil War. Charleston was also a “hub” for the domestic trade - this building is proof of that. It is possibly the only known building used as a slave auction gallery that remains in South Carolina. It was built in 1859 and purchased by Mr. Thomas Ryan. It was once part of a complex of buildings known as Ryan’s Mart and contained three additional buildings: a kitchen, a morgue, a four-story brick tenement with offices and a "barracoon," or slave jail where enslaved people were held prior to being sold. Before 1856, enslaved persons in Charleston were sold at an open air market in front of the Old Exchange Building. However, an ordinance was passed that prohibited the sale of slaves on this busy street - since the well attended sales caused traffic congestion. Slave auctions were then relocated inside buildings or in private yards. Ryan’s Mart became one of these sites - a popular destination for those interested in purchasing enslaved persons. In 1859, a special shed was constructed which allowed slaves to be sold indoors. Inside, enslaved men, women, and children were forced to stand on auction tables (often naked) so that prospective buyers might inspect them. The buyers would look for anything that gave them a clue as to the health and obedience of the slaves - including scars from past whippings. Slaves were sold here until 1863. The city’s remaining slave auction houses were closed just two years later with the end of the Civil War. The building would go on to become a tenement for African Americans and later an auto repair shop until it was purchased by a woman named Miriam Wilson who converted it into a museum of African American art and culture. The City of Charleston later acquired the property in 1988 and repurposed the museum into its current role - sharing the history of slavery with visitors. To head to our next stop, continue down Chalmers Street. When you get to the end of the block, turn left onto State Street and look to the other side of the road. You should see a sign for Unity Alley.
21 State St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Being mindful of traffic, crossover State Street and enter Unity Alley. Keep straight throughout and continue onto Cordes Street. Basically, from here, just walk straight until you hit the water. Charleston is full of these little alleys and cut-throughs, stealthily shifting you between buildings and streets. This one is special because of the name it bears: Unity Alley. As we have discussed already, Charleston has been through its fair share of trials - it’s suffered fires and hurricanes, came under attack during the American Revolution, served as a major port for enslaved persons in both the transatlantic and domestic slave trade, was the starting point of the Civil War (the nation’s bloodiest conflict), and has experienced recent acts of violence and injustice, such as the 2015 hate crime shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. This small alleyway bears the name “Unity”, however, as a demonstration of the continued resilience of this city - despite all it has endured. In fact, resilience is what I want to talk about at our next stop. When you get through the alley and onto Cordes Street, keep heading straight until you make it to the Pineapple Fountain. I’ll meet you there!
1 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
One Charleston vista we’ve yet to experience is the waterfront. Charleston’s location as a port city has dramatically influenced its history and contributes to the city’s beauty. After spending some time bouncing around different streets and buildings, I thought it might be nice to take a few minutes to relax here by the water. Hopefully it’s a quiet day with a gentle breeze and you can enjoy the subtle smell of the ocean while you listen to the sound of cascading water at our next stop - The pineapple fountain. This fountain (and the park that it sits in) opened the spring after Hurricane Hugo - an incredibly destructive storm that struck Charleston as a Category 4 on September 21, 1989. With winds of up to 140 mph, homes and businesses were destroyed and two dozen South Carolinians lost their lives. What happened during and after the disaster, however, defines what Southern hospitality is all about - two hospital workers hand-cranked an emergency generator outside Roper Hospital to keep electricity flowing to the ICU as people from across the landscape banded together to help their neighbors, gather resources, and rebuild their beloved city. Charleston saw tragedy strike again on June 17, 2015 when a self-proclaimed white supremacist walked into Mother Emanuel AME Church, sat through a Bible study with a group of church members, and then shot and killed nine of them. This devastating act of violence and hatred challenged both the city of Charleston and the nation to think about the ways that racism has plagued our history. However, amid such hatred and destruction, people of all different races and creeds gathered to remember those who died and vow that this act would not divide their community. Once again, the city came together. So, why is the fountain a pineapple? It’s a traditional symbol of hospitality and I hope that if you have experienced nothing else during your time in Charleston, you were shown some of that famous Southern hospitality. Also, try the sweet tea. To get to our next stop, walk beyond the fountain and turn right at the water’s edge. When you hear my voice again, find a seat and look out at Charleston Harbor
Unnamed Road, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you take a seat, look to your left across the water and off in the distance you will see a cable-stayed bridge. That bridge is the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and, at the time that it was built, 2005, it was the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America. Each year, on the first Saturday of April (unless that Saturday falls during Holy Week) the Cooper River Bridge Run takes place on Ravenel Bridge. This run is the only competition in South Carolina sanctioned by USA Track & Field as an elite event and it is the third largest 10K in the United States. To commemorate Charleston’s Civil War and Revolutionary War heritage, the race begins with the firing of a cannon. This race has been run by Olympic medalists, NASCAR drivers, governors, and even Oprah. The fastest time recorded for this 6.2 mile race is 27:40 by James Kimutai Kosgei. That’s a pace of less than 4.5 minutes per mile! Now, if you look straight ahead, you’ll see an island. This is Shute’s Folly, named after a Quaker from Charleston, Joseph Shute, who purchased the island in 1746. Shute ultimately sold part of the island to Jonathan Lucas who was a rice planter and the developer of the rice mill. Another part was sold to Mr. Henry Laurens, a founding father who succeeded John Hancock as president of the Second Continental Congress. If you look all the way to the right hand side of that island, you may (just barely) be able to make out the remains of Castle Pinckney, a small fort built by the US government in 1810. Although the fort has never fired a shot in anger, it has an interesting story. When South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, Castle Pinckney was surrendered to the South Carolina state militia, making it the first federal military installation to be seized by a Southern state government. During the ensuing Civil War, the fort would be used to house Union prisoners, most of whom were captured during the First Battle of Manassas. However, the Castle would prove to be too small to function as a permanent prison and those unfortunate men were ultimately relocated to the Charleston City Jail. Though the fort would be prepared for use again during the Spanish-American War, it was never activated. Feel free to stay seated and take in the view for as long as you like. When you’re ready to head to our next stop, walk to your right along the waterfront. At the end of the path you’ll see a circular flower bed. I’ll see you there.
122 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
At the end of the waterfront walk, turn right and take Exchange street back into town, a street so named because it leads to our next stop which is (you guessed it) the Old Exchange! The Old Exchange is one of Charleston’s most storied buildings and it played an important role in the city’s revolutionary war saga. Now a question for you - do you what dance people loved to do in 1776? Indepen-dance! Let me give you an image as you walk. You’ve been magically transported to 1776. You’ve heard it whispered among the local patriots that independence is in the wind and you've watched as your fellow colonists have become more and more hostile towards a tyrannical British government. You hear the sounds of drums marching through the city and the noise gets louder as you head toward the Old Exhange. A few blocks ahead of you a crowd has gathered around the balcony of the Exchange and Provost Building. A man, perhaps the provost marshall, climbs the steps and begins reading: South Carolina has just declared independence from the British Empire!
111 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you approach the intersection of Exchange & East Bay Street, position yourself so that you can best see the frontside of the large, tan-colored building with a white cupola on top. You might also spy people dressed in period clothing standing out front and you’ll likely see flags adorning the front porch. This building is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon and out front is the staircase from which American independence was announced to the people of Charleston in 1776. The Old Exchange and Provost Building was completed in 1771 by South Carolina’s provincial government - just prior to the American Revolution. It actually sits upon an old cannon emplacement named Half-Moon Battery where pirates were once imprisoned during the age of sail. The building was really a jack of all trades, designed to act as a custom house, public market, public meeting place, and jail. Most importantly, the Old Exchange was an active participant in the birth of the country. Here, colonists stored tea they had confiscated after the passage of the Tea Act in 1773 - yes, the same hated act that sparked the Boston Tea Party! They also held revolutionary leadership councils inside. Unfortunately for the colonists, the British took control of the city (and the Exchange) in 1780 - I guess they really wanted their tea back! The redcoats would then convert the building into a military barracks and a prison for those who resisted their rule. All was made well again, because (as you may have heard) the colonists eventually won the Revolution and those pesky British were kicked out. In 1788, South Carolina became the 8th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution and the actual vote on ratification happened right here inside the Exchange - the same spot from which the state had declared independence twelve years earlier! When George Washington visited Charleston during his presidency, he was greeted from the front steps. However, the ideals of equality and freedom upon which the young republic was built went unrealized by enslaved persons - Prior to 1856, right outside of the Exchange was one of Charleston’s most popular spots to buy and sell slaves (which changed when the Old Slave Mart was constructed, as you’ll remember from our earlier stop). Take a minute to imagine the 250 years of history this building has witnessed - the changes, the challenges, the growth it has seen. It’s kind of like the door frame in your house where you mark the height of your children - except the exchange marks the progression of the country. As you walk to your next destination, imagine the history it might witness over the next 250 years. As you face the front of the Exchange, turn right and walk down the left hand side of East Bay Street. I’ll meet you as we get closer to our next stop.
107 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As you continue down East Bay Street and passover Elliott Street, you will notice the buildings to your right are painted in bright pastel colors. This beautiful block is one of Charleston’s most iconic sites - Rainbow Row! Pause when you reach the houses and I’ll tell you a few facts. Rainbow Row comprises thirteen painted pastel houses stretching from Elliott Street to Tradd Street just a little further down. This block is Charleston’s most photographed and you are guaranteed to see paintings, coasters, mugs, ornaments, puzzles, and any other number of souvenirs plastered with the imagery of these iconic homes while you’re in the city. The homes are not only beautiful but they have a rich history. With the exception of 79-81 East Bay Street, the homes were all constructed in the 18th century, beginning in the 1740s. At the time they were built, these babies were waterfront property though today much of their view is obstructed. The houses weren’t always so vibrantly colored. In fact, they once looked like any other house you might see in the old city and they originally belonged to merchants who would use the ground floor as their business space while maintaining their home on the upper floors. By the time of the Civil War, this area had become pretty run down. It wasn’t until the 1920s when the transformation began. First came Susan Pringle who purchased six of the homes with the aim of restoring them. However, she didn’t have the funds and it wasn’t until 1931 (when Dorothy Porcher Legge and her husband Judge Lionel Legge purchased 99-101 East Bay Street) that things really started to change. Dorothy decided to paint her home pastel pink in an effort to spruce up the area. It wasn’t long before the neighbors followed suit, painting their own homes in various pastel colors. Thus, Rainbow Row was born! Keep walking along and I’ll finish the tale. Now, you may hear any number of legends explaining why the houses are so brightly colored. Some believe it was so drunk sailors could find their way home more easily. Others say that the different colors symbolized the different goods that were sold in each home. Some even argue that the lighter colors were added to keep the homes cooler in the summer. All we really know for sure is that Dorothy Legge was a trendsetter and we have her to thank for this pretty picture stop! And we can also be thankful there wasn’t an overbearing Homeowners Associations to stand in her way. If you keep walking down East Bay Street, you’ll be able to see each of the homes in turn. Keep walking and the street will eventually open up so you will again be able to see Charleston Harbor on your left. This road will take you all the way to the end of the tour.
79 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
When you see the sign for Tradd Street on the right hand side of the road - pause a moment and I’ll tell you a story. Back in 1740, this street became something of a hero. At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Tuesday, November 18,1740, a fire broke out north of where you stand, nearby the 4 corners of law. If you recall from earlier in our tour, fires were not uncommon in that day and buildings were certainly not fireproof, which meant that - once begun - the burning could become uncontrollable. This is exactly what occurred on that fateful afternoon. The city hadn’t seen rain in weeks. The wind, particularly heavy that day, carried flames even quicker than they would normally travel. Homeowners and shopkeepers hurried to try to salvage as much as possible from the flames. One story tells of a Tradd Street man named Robert Pringle and his wife who ran between their downstairs store and upstairs living quarters in an attempt to save their belongings, stopping only when Mrs. Pringle’s dress caught fire. The blaze was spreading fast and the only thing the firefighters knew to do was create a fire break so it could spread no further. Unfortunately, the best way to create a break was to preemptively demolish buildings before they could be set ablaze. After the fire had burned through 334 homes and businesses, a group of British sailors were able to tear down enough buildings on Tradd Street to stop the spread of the fire. Of course, the residents of Tradd Street suffered greatly but the rest of the town had them to thank. Now, on the opposite side of the road from Tradd Street, you can see a historical marker that tells of the “Walled City of Charles Town” along with a 300 year old segment of brick wall. Let me tell you a bit about this as you continue, now, walking down East Bay. If you remember way back at the Powder Magazine, I told you that Charleston was once a walled city (one of only a handful in the history of North America) and the Powder Magazine was built right beside the northernmost wall. Well, now you’re standing by where the seawall, or the eastern wall, once stood. All three European powers that had North American colonies - Britain, Spain, and France - used walls to protect some of their cities. Here in Charleston, the British colonists were primarily concerned about attacks from Native Americans and an invasion from Spanish Florida. The seawall would have worked to protect them against waterborne threats and would have run a similar course to the street you are walking now. It was constructed using handmade bricks and would have been six feet wide and stood fifteen feet above the low tide line. However, by the 1730s, the walls were being slowly demolished in order to accommodate the growing city and memory of the wall faded. It wasn’t until recently that archaeologists started to once again uncover this part of Charleston’s past.
39 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
You are almost to our next stop! As you walk, I want to draw your attention to the last large brick building on your left. This is the Historic Charleston Foundation. This foundation works to preserve some of the most historic buildings in the city, including historic homes. One of their homes, the Aiken-Rhett House is featured on another one of our tours, entitled Charleston’s Fight for Freedom. It’s an audio journey that tells the tale of the fight for Civil Rights in the city of Charleston. If that interests you, be sure to join us! Anyway, speaking of old houses, we are taking you to one right now so keep walking just a bit further.
21 E Battery, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
You should once again be taking in sea views and smelling the salt (and the occasional smelly fish) of Charleston Harbor. I hate to tell you to do this but turn your back on the water in order to take a look at our next stop: the Edmondston-Alston House. A black sign on the sidewalk will help you identify it. This house was built just over eighty years after the first house on Rainbow Row and was one of the first houses built on the Charleston Battery. In 1825, Scottish merchant Charles Edmonston built this home to escape the noise of the city (which hadn’t yet reached this point). Just twelve years later, Edmonston fell victim to the financial Panic of 1837 and was forced to sell the home. Charles Alston, who came from a long line of rice planters, bought it. The home has remained in the Alston family ever since. After purchasing the home, the Alston family made some significant updates to the house including the addition of a third-story piazza. You might also notice that this home, like so many others in the city, is built sideways. Why is this? When streets of Charleston were initially laid out, residential lots were long and deep with barely any street frontage. So a home built sideways made the best use of available space and it also allowed the home to take full advantage of the southern breeze which could enter through the side windows and cool the length of an entire floor. Pretty ingenious huh? Now, I want you to look back to the harbor and see (more or less) what would have been visible from a few floors up on April 12, 1861 when Fort Sumter was attacked - the event which began the Civil War. General P.G.T. Beauregard, the Confederate general who ordered the bombardment of Fort Sumter, watched the fort’s shelling from the balcony of the Edmondston-Alston House house. Later in the war, General Robert E. Lee would also stay here. Speaking of which, let’s head to our next-to-last-stop where you will learn even more about Charleston’s role in America’s bloodiest war. As you continue down East Battery Street, cross over to the waterside and mount the seawall to get the best view of the harbor. You’ll notice the regularly occurring staircases along the seawall which give you access.
1 E Battery, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
As we near the end of our tour, I must show you one beginning: the beginning of the Civil War. We have encountered the war several times throughout this walk pbut now, from this spot, you can actually look out into the distance and see Fort Sumter, the place where it all began. Turn and face the harbor - far in the distance at the mouth of the harbor, you should see a lone island. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina delegates voted unanimously to secede from the Union. Soon after, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas would follow and form the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy began building an army and preparing for the war that was expected to come. At the time, Fort Sumter was a three story bastion, controlled by still loyal federal forces whose duty was to guard Charleston Harbor. The new American President, Abraham Lincoln believed that secession was illegal and refused to abandon the fort to the Confederates. A months-long standoff ensued and when the Lincoln administration attempted to provision the beleaguered garrison with a resupply shipment, the Confederates took action. Early on the morning of April 12, 1861, the rebel shore batteries which surrounded Sumter broke the uneasy peace and fired upon the fort. Sumter surrendered the following day and the Confederates occupied it for the next four years. The Civil War, which would become the bloodiest conflict in American history, wherein 2% of the population died, had begun. To reach our final stop leave the seawall and enter the park behind you. Find the statue of the man pointing with one hand, and holding a flag with the other.
2 Murray Blvd, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
No more walking - I promise. You’ve reached the end of the tour! We have covered so much history in our time together and seen some of the most famous parts of this city. I hope you have had as much fun as I have. Now, if it’s a famously hot Charleston day, this stop is your chance to catch a little shade. We have made it to White Point Garden - which I like to think of as Charleston’s attic. For over a century, this garden has collected a treasure trove of Charleston monuments and memorials, many centered on the city’s military history (the fellow holding the flag commemorates Charleston’s defense against the British during the revolution). It wasn’t always a park, however, and used to be known as Oyster Point because of the collection of white oyster shells that covered the ground. The color of these shells prompted its later renaming as White Point. The city actually purchased this land in 1837 with the intention of turning it into a park. Since then, this park has been collecting memorable items - much like a family attic. You will see many markers dedicated to soldiers from both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. However, there is one marker that may seem a bit out of place - the one belonging to Stede Bonnet. Bonnet was a pirate and an ally of Blackbeard - together the two once laid siege to Charleston. After the siege, both Blackbeard and Bonnet decided they would accept a pardon. So, they set sail for North Carolina to meet with the governor and repent of their pirating ways. Blackbeard promised Bonnet he could have control of his ship - the Revenge - when they returned. However, after leaving North Carolina, Blackbeard took his ship and skedaddled, prompting Bonnet to swear revenge (pun intended). However, before he could find Blackbeard (and despite his recent pardon) Bonnet returned to his pirating ways and was eventually captured after a bloody battle with South Carolina authorities. Thirty-four pirates, including Bonnet, were put on trial. Thirty of them were hanged (including Bonnet) and the spot was right here on White Point. And on that note, I too will bid you farewell (hey - not every stop can be a pastel house). If you loved this tour and are itching for more, make sure you check out some of our other Charleston tours and look for us in other cities! In this great country, there are plenty of historical journeys to take and we would love to be your guide! Remember to visit our website at www.historicamerica.org and use the #historicamericatours with reckless abandon. We look forward to seeing you again soon!