Monday, December 6, 2010

Remembering the Legacy of the Navy in Charleston

Tomorrow marks the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Obviously, I wasn't alive at the time, but I have heard so many stories through the years from my mother and her brothers and sisters that I have always had a great interest in the era. Three of my mother's brothers served in the military and two of her sisters married sailors. Charleston had a big navy base in those days and I've heard countless stories of life here during that period. My mother was 17 when the U.S. entered the war, so her memories were of USO dances, Big Band music, her brothers bringing servicemen home on leave with them, and war bond rallies. Her memories were full of fun and excitement - a great time for a young girl. But obviously, the war meant something far different for her brothers who participated in the war - and for their mother who worried for her sons and those of her friends. Being the center of a major military installation, Charleston was under threat of attack by German submarines who were at times spotted off shore. In fact, there was even a POW camp just outside the city limits where German soldiers were held. And many homes in the city served as naval offices and quarters, since the numbers of navy personnel exceeded the capacity of the navy base itself. Today, the navy base has become a ghost town, but there are some signs of new life for the facility - a prestigious high school, a film studio, a private shipyard, and a marina for recreational boats are some of the enterprises that are currently found there. But the beautiful old officers' quarters, homes built in the "Panama-style" of architecture, along with the lovely chapel are continuing to decay. My hope is that the city of North Charleston will do for the base what the city of Charleston has done for some of its long-neglected areas and give them a second chance. After all, the navy base was here when the citizens needed it. Let's hope the citizens will now be there for the base.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Plantations - Yesterday and Today

Sometime people (locals and visitors) think there were only a few plantations in the area - namely the ones that are now open for tours. That is just not so. Many former plantations have been developed into neighborhoods (including where my house is). For more info, this is a very cool website that lists all those in SC! Check it out:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

There is Nothing Like It

I had a delightful stroll through the city this morning with a gentleman from Switzerland. Although he'd been to "America" many times in the past, he had never been to Charleston. I love when I have the opportunity to take first-time visitors on a tour through the city, but when the visitor is from Europe, it is particularly pleasant for me. Europeans have a different, more objective, perspective on things and are generally excited to learn about all things American. The comment that this gentleman made that really struck me was that he'd been all over America but he'd never seen anything like Charleston. Yes, I told him. We have a city that is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind. The city has one foot in the past and one in the present. We enjoy all the modern conveniences of today set within the backdrop of an earlier time. Unlike in most American cities, the old wasn't thrown out with the new in Charleston. In fact, it was cherished. So thanks to our ancestors who built this city and more recent generations who held onto it for us, we have a very special place - "unlike any other."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lessons to Learn

According to a recent survey in a national travel magazine, Charleston was voted number one in a survey of the friendliest cities. This is not at all surprising. In Charleston, it is just common etiquette to speak to complete strangers when passing on the streets. It's also the norm for two strangers to engage in conversations at the drop of a hat. I think all this friendliness stems from the fact that people who live here are actually thrilled that they live here! Why wouldn't they be? It's a beautiful city with beautiful weather (except in August and January) and beautiful buildings and beautiful parks and beautiful vistas and - well, you get the idea. And speaking of beautiful, another survey by the same magazine ranked Charleston as #1 in having the best- looking people. Well, like they say, when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, - well, I guess you act good? There must be some correlation. Anyway, both recognitions are well-deserved. And the city placed first in being the most polite earlier in the year, so now it looks like folks from away who for years have been loving Charleston for her buildings, weather, history, and attractions can add her "people" as another reason they love Charleston.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall in Love with Charleston

Although I look forward every year to spring and to witnessing nature's rebirth through the azaleas, dogwoods, and exquisite colors everywhere, Fall is actually an even more wonderful time in Charleston. The sweet fragrance of tea olive trees on every street, the camellias budding (and soon to be blooming) and the quirky bluish-purple flower-spikes of the chaste trees certainly give plenty of interest to the nature lover. And the low humidity during the months of October and November beckon us all outdoors so that we can enjoy these delights! For the first time in months, you'll find bicyclists and pedestrians who look like they are enjoying their surroundings rather than simply "enduring" the conditions (as is obvious in July in August). So get on out there and take a look around - it's about time!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dodging Bullets

After almost 5 days of all-day rain, I have certainly had enough. But I am not complaining because the rain was caused from a tropical storm rather than a hurricane! We have been dodging these bullets (hurricanes) quite a bit over the past few years (although Charleston has seen at least 90 over the last three centuries). It seems like the really evil ones have stayed out at sea (this year, anyway) and some other nasty ones have brushed our coast and continued farther north. This tropical storm (Nicole) could just as easily have grown up and become a hurricane, so we'll consider ourselves lucky once again. But it's too soon to breathe a sigh of relief, as we still have another two months of "hurricane season." The month of October is rather risky. But in the meantime, we'll enjoy the beautiful weather that this month brings - and the beautiful resurrection fern that has enjoyed the rain and given its final appearance on the live oak trees before dying back for the winter. Thanks, Nicole!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Walk a Mile in Your Shoes

It's really not so far - a mile, that is. That's how far it is to walk down Meeting Street to cover 13 museums. Even though the special $20 rate for visiting those museums during the special Museum Mile Weekend won't roll around again til next year, you can still have a great time when you visit some of them on the Heritage Passport, on sale at the Charleston Area Visitors Center. You can visit 2 museums and 5 house museums along the Museum Mile for almost half off the regular admission fees. Plus they throw in two plantations at the same discount! Check it out at - then come take my Charleston 101 walking tour with me and you've covered the best of what makes Charleston the best!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tour of Homes

This is an anxiously-awaited time for visitors (and locals) to tour private homes in downtown Charleston! The Preservation Society of Charleston sponsors the event, allowing folks to purchase a one-day pass for $45 and tour several homes in a specific neighborhood of the city. To quote the Society's website: "These are self-paced, self-guided walking tours with volunteer guides stationed in each house or garden; on average, eight to ten properties are included in each tour, which vary in architectural styles and periods. All tours are in historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places. " Why not check it out and see the interiors of homes and gardens that are usually off-limits to touring? You can get tickets at the Preservation Society's shop on the corner of King and Queen or through their website, . Remember, this organization uses proceeds from this event to continue to make Charleston a wonderful place to live and visit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Time to Remember That We'd Like to Forget

It's 10:11 as I write this blog, the first I've done in a long time. (I have been derelict in my duties as a blogger.) Anyway, this is an anniversary that should be recognized, even though it's not one to celebrate. Twenty-one years ago tonight, at an hour very close to this, Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds, hit our area. Since I'd experienced many hurricanes in the past, I didn't pay too much attention to the hoopla directed at this one. Most hurricanes in my lifetime had been nothing worse than a big storm - usually heavy rains and some wind that knocked down limbs. Maybe a power outage for a day. My mother came over to my house and we filled the bathtub with water to flush toilets for the next several days. We filled some pots and jugs with drinking water - enough for a few days. My husband was in the U.S. Navy and all ships homeported in Charleston were put out to sea to evade the storm - just in case it was a big one. So he was gone, and she had come to stay with me, since she lived downtown in an apartment building that would be inconvenient in the event of a power outage. The day before the storm hit Charleston, I went to K-mart - to buy a bedspread for my daughter. People were lined up buying sterno and batteries, and I giggled at them for their preoccupation and exaggeration of what I knew was overzealous precaution. I bought my bedspread and came home and turned on the television. The mayor was telling people that this storm was quite serious. It had wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico and was heading our way - a bulls-eye was painted on Charleston, he said. Maybe I should've bought some batteries. Maybe staying in my ranch house, surrounded by many large pine trees was not such a good idea. Maybe my two babies (age 4 and 1) were being put in harm's way. My mother and I decided we'd head for the country - Walterboro - where my aunt had a farm, about 50 miles from the coast. I threw diapers, bottles, formula, and photo albums in the car and within the hour, we were on the road. The deserted road. Everyone who was leaving Charleston had already gone. The road was ours alone. The rain began to pick up and there was some wind. But the storm was predicted to make landfall in about 8 hours so I felt we still had time. We did, but if we'd waited much longer, it would've been foolish to drive. We arrived at the farm safely. Throughout the night, I could hear the wind whipping through the wide-open spaces - I told my mother I thought I heard the train-sounds that accompany tornadoes. We lost power about 10 p.m. and went to bed. The next morning, the evidence all around the farm validated my assessment of the presence of tornadoes. The farm was littered with debris and heavy limbs. We turned on a battery-operated radio and got pretty dismal stories of the conditions in Charleston. But most of the roads had been cleared and I wanted to see if my house was still there. We hit the road about noon and crept back toward Charleston. The roads may have been cleared but only somewhat. What had been a 4 lane highway (Hwy 17) was narrowed to a one lane road where oncoming cars took turns with us weaving our way around trees stretched over the road. The normally 45 minute trip took twice as long. And there were of course no traffic lights. A very intimidating scenario. Upon arriving home, I found my house intact, although others nearby were sliced in two by fallen pine trees - just like the ones that used to stand in my yard. My trees were down but miraculously had missed the house! Why was mine spared? Who knows. Now the clean up would begin - and the stress that comes with a town filled with people who had just been through an event that would haunt them for decades.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Breach at the Beach

Whoa - I am really falling down on my duties as a blogger! Will try to do better. Went today to a lecture about the often overlooked battle - or non-battle - at Breach Inlet during the Revolutionary War. Locals know all about the battle at the palmetto fort on Sullivan's Island on June 28, 1776. However, around the same time, on the other side of the island, the British were trying to wade across Breach Inlet - HA! That's a good one! No way was that possible, as anyone will tell you who has seen the water swirling in and out of there today and the signs posted for no swimming due to the dangerous currents there. So here are the Brits - their ships are getting stuck on sandbars near the fort on one side of the island, and they are misjudging the depth and current at the inlet on the other side. Look for a marker and small park near this spot in the months to come commemorating this huge victory for the Americans. By the way, the bridge there has been known for years as Thomson's Bridge because "Danger" Thomson was the American leader there. Who knew?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Too Hot to Handle?

It's a little early, but the dog days of summer have already arrived! This is weather usually reserved for August - temps at 95 and humidity levels about the same -which makes it feel like 103. (The term "heat index" is a term we are all too familiar with. ) So if you haven't visited Charleston in August, be prepared for a preview of it now in June. Make sure you carry a bottle of water with you at all times when outdoors. Fortunately, lots of kids these days are on street corners in the historic district ready to sell you a bottle for $1. Even if you have a bottle with you, it doesn't hurt to pick up an extra from them so you can keep pouring it in and keep hydrated, so bring a little money with you as you stroll the streets. It's amazing to think about when I was growing up here and having no air conditioning in our houses, schools and churches. The temperatures (and humidity) weren't much different then than they are today - give or take a degree or two to account for global warming! But I don't remember complaining about it back then. Of course, we are so accustomed to air conditioning these days that it makes it even more uncomfortable when we aren't inside. But I still don't like a/c much - I run it all day, of course, and like it when I'm sleeping, but I'd prefer to be outside - even in the heat. Not working, of course. Just sitting on my porch or dock and enjoying a glass of iced tea! Enjoy yourself when you come to town - but don't complain about the heat. It's hot and it's supposed to be hot. We wouldn't have it any other way!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tis the Season

It's that Spoleto time of year again! For 10 days in late May/early June, the city is abuzz with all that the arts world has to offer - art shows in the park, dance performances at the Cistern (College of Charleston), concerts on the steps of the U.S. Custom House, chamber music in the churches and theater at the Dock Street Theater. These are but a few of the venues - there are dozens more. I remember when the festival began 35 years ago. Our mayor (still in office to this day) had hit upon a brilliant idea, borrowing from the European festival of the arts in Spoleto, Italy (outside of Rome). However, locals here were a bit skeptical. But after the first two years of operating in the red, the festival took off and has been a booming success every year since - bringing hundreds of performers and followers of the arts to the city. Piccolo (or little) Spoleto offers the chance for artists and performers on a less renowned scale to show off their stuff - and at a smaller ticket price (and sometimes for free). The "Charleston Renaissance," back in the 1920s and 30s, was a great time for artists in Charleston - with not only painters but performers, writers, and musicians bursting forth at a rather unlikely time, since the city was not yet the shining star that it is today. But out of that Renaissance came Porgy (and Bess), the dance the Charleston, the jazz of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, and painters such as Alice Smith, Anna Heyward Taylor and Edwin Harleston (to name but a few). So today's Spoleto USA could have found no better home than Charleston, and the arts remain alive and well here not only during early summer but all year long! Spoleto just gives us a reason to celebrate the art heritage of this city!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where to Go When You Gotta Go

The latest topic of interest in the Holy City is where and how to find a public restroom. City officials insist that there are enough bathrooms to go around, but visitors complain that they can't find them. I agree with both sides. There are facilities in most parking garages and city buildings (City Hall, the Dock Street Theater, City Market, City Gallery at Waterfront Park) and also at Moultrie Playground (near Colonial Lake) and Hazel Parker Playground (near High Battery). We locals know where to look. But what about the visitors? I don't know the best way to alert the public about the whereabouts of the restrooms, but perhaps the tour guides, carriage drivers, street vendors and rickshaw drivers can help. As a tour guide, I have often been asked by passersby as well as folks on my tours where to find a bathroom. I think that anyone in the tourism industry who comes in contact with visitors on the street can be helpful with sharing this much-needed information. So let's not add any bathrooms at the parks, as they will undoubtedly become eyesores and detract from the beauty of our city. But let's make sure we know where the facilities are and send people in the right direction. I also was pleased to see that the city has a website with a map showing the bathrooms. I, for one, will keep a copy or two of the map from the city's website handy for my patrons. Being the most polite city in the country, this is yet another way that we can make our visitors feel welcome.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Memorial Day

Today, cannons were heard booming at the Battery. Nothing to fear - the city wasn't under attack. The shots were fired by Civil War re-enactors commemorating Confederate Memorial Day. Some state offices were closed for the holiday. The War Between the States was a difficult time for our country. The reasons for the conflict are often discussed and often are sources of disagreement. However, the men on both sides who fought were brave men. Many on both sides gave their lives not for a single political issue but simply because their country called them. This was true for men in both the Union and the Confederate armies and is true for men (and women) who have died in battle throughout history. Sometimes the reason for the conflict becomes lost over the course of the war. In several weeks, the country will commemorate another Memorial Day which will honor members of the military who have given their lives in far too many wars our country has waged. May they all rest in peace.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Palmetto Roses

The other day, a young man about 17 years old approached me and offered to sell me a rose made from the palms of the Palmetto tree. There are usually several kids selling them at the Battery, but this guy was on Anson Street, a block from the City Market. I told him no thanks, and he then said, "Well here. You can have one anyway." I have a feeling that he figured I'd give him some money anyway, but instead I thanked him and asked him where he usually sells them. He said at Waterfront Park. I told him I'd send some business his way. So if you are in the park, look for the kid with the cornrows. Although this is a great venture for kids to earn a little extra money and let visitors take a unique hand-made memento home with them, the kids are supposed to be wearing a badge, much like those that the tour guides wear. A few years ago, kids were climbing trees that were on private property in order to get the palms. The mayor said that, although they were trespassing, he thought something positive could come out of this. Since then, the rose weavers have been given permission to sell the roses (although they must get the palms from other sources). Those who wear the badges have gone through an "enterpreneur-in-training" course sponsored by the city. So support them as they get a healthy dose of operating a small business. However, please buy only from those kids who can show you a badge. As of late, I've noticed quite a few vendors who don't have the badges, and when I've asked them to show their badge, they claim they've either lost it or left it home. Chances are their excuses are bogus, and they often try to sell their flowers for an inflated price. Most card-carrying vendors sell the flowers for $2 or $3 a piece. Our city prides itself on the way it balances tourism and livabilty, so support those who follow the city guidelines. Otherwise, it's not fair to the vendors who do so and only encourages those who don't to continue to outsmart the system that's in place for the good of all of us.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Time to Remember

I just got exciting news that the marker commemorating the 230th anniversary of the siege of Charles Town (the longest of any city during the Revolutionary War) will be erected on Wednesday, May 12. The city fell to the British after 42 days of fighting, and the Royal Army occupied the city for the remaining two years of the war. However, the war continued in the backcountry (other parts of the state) under the direction of heroes like Francis Marion (aka the Swamp Fox). Thanks and kudos go out to a young 26-year old man from Virginia, Mark Maloy, a history buff and re-enactor, for orchestrating this much overdo recognition of the men and women who so valiantly and fervently displayed their belief in the independence movement. Come to the Green (Marion Square) and see history unfold again as Charleston recognizes its rightful place in this chapter of the Revolutionary War.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Great Time for a Walk

This is the best time of year for a leisurely stroll through the streets of the Holy City. Every street is bursting with color, thanks to all the conscientous homeowners whose perfect choice of shrub, tree or vine has added just the right touch to an already beautiful city. The cool mornings and evenings are the best times for your walk, since the midday brings a proliferation of tourists either on their own or with guided tours. You may want to invest in a walking tour guide book. "Charleston, From a Kid's-Eye View" is a great guide book for people with children (or anyone really) to stop and search for details, thereby appreciating the sense of place moreso than when having your nose in a manual filled with lots of information. So stop and smell the "Lady Banks" roses. And you better do it quick, since before you know it, the heat of the summer will be upon us and you will have missed your chance for a delightful walk.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Just Another Day in Paradise

All anyone wants to talk about right now is how gorgeous things are around here, thanks to the sudden burst of color. My favorite flowering tree is the beautiful peppermint peach tree that's in Washington Park. Branches on one side of it have flowers that look like peppermints - white with a pink line going through them. The other side has branches with darker pink flowers. Gorgeous all the way around! Also, the wisteria just blossomed overnight and is beautiful on Meeting Street near First Baptist Church High School. Azaleas popping out in different places and will likely be in full bloom in Hampton Park by next week. If only we could hang on to these flowering delights all year! But then again, we probably wouldn't appreciate them if that were the case. Plus, their burst gives us something to look forward to each year. There is nothing like Charleston in the spring!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tea Rooms

Since I started writing about food a few posts ago (and digressed somewhat to other things), I will now return to that topic. I had been musing over the fact that our "traditional" foods have been reinvented and are served in fine restaurants the city over. But this time of year, several area churches hold annual "tea rooms" where folks have an opportunity to have a taste of the homemade versions of some of these recipes. I went to one yesterday at Old St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (which is on the road that leads to the plantations). The church itself sits in a lovely setting of moss-draped oaks and centuries-old tombstones. The food, made by parishioners, was delightful, with choices such as she-crab soup, okra soup, shrimp pate, and Huguenot tort, to name a few. There is also a boutique in the church hall where hand-made items which the "church ladies" have created are for sale. You can even buy cookbooks with the traditional recipes for the foods you've just enjoyed. The tea rooms, accompanied by the beautiful white Bradford pear trees in bloom, are the first signs of springtime, the most glorious season in the Lowcountry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Name That City!

So here we are enjoying our wonderful reputation as the number 2 tourist destination city in the country - not to mention a wonderful place to live. Movie and TV crews visit our city often, showing off its beautiful architecture, great restaurants, and gorgeous natural landscape. So it was no surprise to hear that the Today Show would be filming here this week. What did come as a surprise was that, when the show actually aired showing footage of our Holy City, the narrator was talking about Charleston, West Virginia! No kidding! Apparently, the story was about cities which had maintained a steady housing market in these tough economic times. True, our own Charleston has weathered the storm better than many, but certainly not to the degree the "other" Charleston has. Apparently, that gives the capital of West Virginia a leg up on our town. The mystery remains why footage from our Charleston was shown while telling about the other city - I guess the reporters and producers of the show must've been wishing they were here instead!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's in a Name?

I was planning to continue writing about food, but I decided to take a side trip to talk about the names of certain places. Recently there was an article in the Post and Courier (our hometown newspaper) about the renovations at the bandstand at the Battery. It prompted me to write a letter to the editor crediting the newspaper for using the correct nickname for the structure - a "bandstand." It seems that everyone who sees it these days calls it a "gazebo." I also mused in my letter about how the paper could be helpful in reminding (or informing) folks of the names of other locales which seem to have had their monikers changes inadvertantly as of late. Call me a typical Charlestonian - I'd like to hang on to some of the past when it comes to certain things. After all, that is what makes this city stand out from the rest.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

You Eat What????

In my previous blog, I mentioned food and that "Lowcountry cuisine" has become a big tourist draw. Some visitors actually come to Charleston for the restaurants themselves! Chefs these days are taking some of our old staple recipes and creating dishes for the 21st century palate. That's all fine and good for an evening out. But at home (or at an oyster roast), give me the old-fashioned Frogmore Stew rather than "Lowcountry Boil." And I'll reserve my heapin' helpin' of Hoppin' John for New Year's Day!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Moving On to Other Subjects

So the rest is history, as they say. So now in your Charleston 101 course, we'll move on to another topic: food! These days, one of the main draws to the area is the proliferation of wonderful restaurants. Back in the old days, when I was young, eating out was rare. There were about three good places to eat in the downtown area. And they would never dream of serving up some of the Lowcountry cuisine that today has become renown in restaurants. Dishes like shrimp and grits, red rice, Frogmore stew (aka lowcountry boil) and hoppin' john were the meals for the common man - which you got away from if you went out to eat. It's amusing - and amazing - to see that folks from away are discovering these foods and finding them to be special enough to get dressed up and go out for!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Try, Try Again

The British had to rethink this whole "taking Charles Town" plan. They had tried twice over three years and had failed both times - once by sea and once by land. For their third act, they ended up landing troops west of the city and having them hop over to the "neck" of the peninsula (just north of the city). From there, the Brits shelled the American troops as well as the citizens of Charles Town over a 42-day period - making this the longest siege of any city during the war. With the civilians and military deprived of food and needed supplies, the city surrendered. By taking the South's largest city and seaport, the British had won their biggest victory of the war.

Friday, February 19, 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Three years after the British had tried unsuccessfully to enter Charles Town by sea, they returned to try again - but this time by land. They marched to the city's gates in May 1779. At the urging of wealthy citizens who feared economic losses from a lengthy military altercation, the "president" of South Carolina (now a sovereign entity) proposed a surrender of all of South Carolina if the British troops would refrain from attacking Charles Town. But General William Moultrie, the American military commander in Charles Town, opposed the plan and insisted that his men were ready to defend the city. The British officers explained they did not have the authority to make such a pact and withdrew without firing even a shot. Moultrie had called their bluff with his threat of a lengthy engagement, and the city once again had turned back the British.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Swamp Fox and the Gamecock

No, this is not the name of a tale from Aesop's Fables. These are two men who became heroes in the Revolutionary War as it played out in South Carolina. Francis Marion supposedly got his nickname from British officer, Lt. Col. Banastre (Bloody) Tarleton, who became disgusted after pursuing Marion for eight hours on a thirty-five mile chase through the swamps of the Lowcountry. Tarleton called off the hunt for "this damned old fox." Thomas Sumter was nicknamed "the fighting gamecock" by Tarleton because of his fierce fighting tactics.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Remembering Another Tree

Things had not been going well for the colonists up in New England. In Boston, there had been a massacre by the British. And shots had been heard 'round the world in Lexington and Concord. But in June 1776, a small flotilla of British warships arrived just outside Charles Town's harbor. Given that there were a good many folks here that were loyal to the crown, the Royal Navy had been given orders to enter the city and set up a headquarters here. However, it was low tide, and the ships ran aground on a sandbar that was at the entrance to the harbor. To make things worse for the British, there was a contingent of state militia encamped in a small fort on Sullivan's Island, a stone's throw (actually a cannonball's throw) away from where the ships sat. Their fort was made of logs from palmetto trees (a smaller version of the palm). Firing commenced from the ships into the fort, and vice versa. The fort proved to be indestructable, since the logs were a soft and spongy wood that was able to absorb the impact from the shelling rather than breaking apart the way other wooden forts might. When the tide turned (literally and figuratively), the ships left the area and the Patriots celebrated the first decisive victory in the war against the British. And the palmetto became the state tree of South Carolina!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Liberty Tree

Many cities in colonial America had a liberty tree, a place where men would come together in the 1770s to discuss independence from England. Charles Town was no exception. The liberty tree was in a pasture in what is now the Mazyck-Wraggborough area of the city (just north of Calhoun Street, around the corner from the main Charleston County Public Library). The British cut down the tree, but there is a plaque on the gatepost at 80 Alexander Street denoting the property as the site of the Liberty Tree.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Up the Creek

By 1775, things were getting really hot (politically) in the city of Charles Town. A new "royal" governor (appointed by the king) arrived, although the previous year, the colony of South Carolina had set up its own "provincial" government with a president and vice-president, refusing to yield to the authority of the Mother Country. Fearing that things were getting too complicated, the royal governor supposedly snuck out the window of his house under cover of darkness, got into a rowboat on a small creek that ran where Water Street is today, and rowed out to the harbor to meet British ships that were anchored there. He did not return to Charles Town.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sign or Die

During the turbulent 1770s, there was much contention between those citizens who were in favor of independence from England and those who remained loyal to the crown. Ministers at St. Michael's Church who were Loyalists were ejected from the church, and citizens were forced to sign a commitment to the independence movement. Anyone who refused to sign was sequestered in town and many were tarred and feathered. In one instance, as an angry mob was carrying one poor soul to his torturous punishment, the crowd allegedly threw a bag of feathers on the porch of another Loyalist and yelled for him to take care of it until they returned for him.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Drinking Problem

Although affluent citizens enjoyed entertainment and lively political conversation in taverns, a law was passed in 1762 prohibiting laborers and servants from gambling at any place that sold liquor in Charles Town. Many citizens of the upper class believed such activities were contributing to the growing numbers of poor people, forcing the Anglican Church to request more tax money to help the growing indigent population. This tax increase didn't set well with many wealthy citizens, thereby prompting the ban on gambling for the working class.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bottoms Up

Taverns were important places during the Revolutionary Era. In Charles Town, it is estimated that there was one tavern for every five white males by 1776. Besides discussing politics over a pint (or perhaps rum), patrons would often be treated to concerts, plays and operas in the longroom upstairs in the larger taverns. In fact, the first opera to be performed in North America was performed in the longroom of Shepheard's Tavern on the corner of Church and Broad Streets. Coincidentally, that same opera, Flora, will also be performed at this year's Spoleto Festival in Charleston in May.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Don't Tread on Me

In Charles Town, the Sons of Liberty called for action against the British crown and met at the Liberty Tree or in taverns to discuss politics. Christopher Gadsden was a leader in the independence movement and designed a flag to promote the cause. Borrowing Benjamin Franklin's analogy that the colonies were like a snake, coiled but ready to strike when provoked, Gadsden's yellow flag shows the snake with the words, "Don't Tread on Me," underneath. On your Charleston 101 Walking Tour, you will notice this unmistakable flag adorning many porches.