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The Charleston Insider

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Diary of a Charleston Tour Guide

Diary of a Charleston Tour Guide

“Local history, occasional anecdotes, personal reflections of a Charleston tour guide.”

Monday, 13 May 2019 13:30

456 King Street - William Aiken House

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We return to town this week and visit 456 King Street, known as the William Aiken House. Its namesake, William Aiken, was an Irish immigrant born in 1788 who came to America at the age of 10. Aiken became prosperous in the cotton and rice business of South Carolina. His name lives on in the South Carolina town and county of Aiken. He was also the father of Governor William Aiken who lived several blocks away on Elizabeth Street in the museum house known as “The Aiken-Rhett House."

Monday, 29 April 2019 11:25

98 Broad Street

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Welcome to 98 Broad Street, a small building next door to the Charleston County Judicial Center. Notice the French flag in the photo; 98 Broad has been home to Gaulart & Maliclet Café, a small French restaurant, since 1984. G&M, known to locals as "Fast & French," is a favorite restaurant for many Charlestonians, especially during lunchtime to those employed near Broad Street.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019 09:37

101Bull Street

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On Bull Street traveling towards the Ashley River, several townhouses tend to capture people's attention. Sarah Smith built these Italianate-style row houses, starting with the one she lived in at 101 Bull Street, around 1853-1854. "Row houses" refer to a row of houses where each house shares a common wall with the next.

For purposes of this post, we will focus on 101 Bull Street. The façade can be misleading; 101 Bull has over 6,000 square feet. Look at the ornamentation above the door. If you're from Charleston or visit frequently, this heavy terra cotta ornamentation will look familiar because of its resemblance to the window cornices at the Mills House Hotel at 115 Meeting Street.

Monday, 15 April 2019 10:05

136 Church Street - French Huguenot Church

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The French Huguenot Church is on the southeast corner of Church and Queen Streets. Across the street is the Dock Street Theatre, and straight ahead is St. Philip's Episcopal Church as Church Street curves around it. A French Huguenot Church has stood on this site, in the midst of these historic buildings, since 1687.

Huguenots were French Protestants who followed the teachings of John Calvin. Under the 1598 Edict of Nantes, Huguenots were allowed to practice their religion in France, which was primarily Catholic at the time. In 1685, King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, and Huguenots began leaving France to escape persecution.

Monday, 08 April 2019 14:45

85-87 Broad Street | Josiah Smith Tenements

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Built as a double tenement by Josiah Smith, the grand old brick building with the arched passageway at 85-87 Broad Street dates from 1795. Smith gave one tenement to each of his two sons, William and Samuel. The Smiths descended from an old and distinguished family who had helped settle Carolina.

 

Monday, 01 April 2019 10:42

St. Philip’s Church

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St. Philip’s Church at 146 Church Street is the mother church of Anglicanism in Charleston. This English colony, founded in 1670, served as a beacon of religious tolerance, which was written into the governing document of Carolina. Anglicanism would have been the “state” religion since we were an English colony but other religions were welcomed here.

Monday, 25 March 2019 09:45

95 Broad Street - Peter Bocquet House

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What most people notice first about 95 Broad Street is its fabulous color -- that of a red-orange poppy. The paint seems to breathe instead of looking flat and uniform because the house has been "limewashed," an old European method of painting where lime is mixed with earth pigments for color. The paint works particularly well over absorbent surfaces such as stucco and brick. The effect particularly appeals to me as an artist.

 

Monday, 18 March 2019 09:30

125 Bull Street - The Avery Institute

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Returning to Bull Street, we stop at 125 Bull, an Italianate-style building built after the Civil War. Still an imposing building and topped by a cupola, 125 Bull Street was completed by 1868 as Avery Normal Institute, an institution integral to the much later Civil Rights movement in South Carolina and beyond.

At the end of the Civil War, the Union kept soldiers in Charleston until 1880, primarily to ensure that the free blacks received fair treatment; 1865 to 1880 is known as the “Reconstruction Era”. Unfortunately, when the Union soldiers left, many whites reverted to old mindsets and prejudices and, in many ways attempted to “enslave” the free blacks again, only this time by using segregation and closed doors of opportunity. 

 

Monday, 11 March 2019 09:48

2 Amherst Street

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This week, we travel to the other side of the Charleston peninsula as we visit 2 Amherst Street, located on the corner of East Bay and Amherst Streets, completed around 1808 and associated through the years with three old Charleston families. The house is a little different from other Charleston houses; 2 Amherst has a double piazza that crosses the front and then wraps part of the two sides of the house. Even from the exterior, this house exudes a charm of its own.

Monday, 04 March 2019 09:56

99 Bull Street

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As founder and owner of the newspaper, Captain Dawson was involved in civic affairs, kept abreast of national and international news and communicated the same to his readers. He was a leader in the community and uniquely positioned to have a clear picture of the issues of the day, of which there were many. After the Civil War and during the Reconstruction era, the entire South was in a major, and frequently volatile, transition. Dawson used the paper, his "voice," to bring clarity to the situations surrounding Charleston and the South. I would imagine that Dawson was aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly in Charleston; it appears he did not hesitate to confront what came his way. That boldness led to his premature death.

Monday, 25 February 2019 09:34

109 Broad Street

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This week we stay on Broad Street and travel west to visit 109 Broad. The lot was owned by Martin Campbell before the American Revolution, having been purchased in 1773. There is some confusion over the actual date of the house construction, probably pre-Revolutionary, perhaps 1776, or soon after the American Revolution around 1783. In any event, we know the house was standing by 1783.

This week we stay on Broad Street and travel west to visit 109 Broad. The lot was owned by Martin Campbell before the American Revolution, having been purchased in 1773. There is some confusion over the actual date of the house construction, probably pre-Revolutionary, perhaps 1776, or soon after the American Revolution around 1783. In any event, we know the house was standing by 1783.

Monday, 18 February 2019 08:42

50 Broad Street

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This week we visit another original bank building at 50 Broad Street. This two-story building atop a raised basement was built in 1798 to house the Bank of South Carolina. Presently 50 Broad Street is no longer a bank, but has housed different businesses through its illustrious life.

Brick and marble are the prominent exterior features of 50 Broad and would seem to symbolize the solidity of the bank. Since Charleston has no stone, the imported white marble also symbolized the costliness of the building. The local brick, probably from the Boone Hall area, is laid out in a pattern known as the Flemish bond, where each row or "course" alternates a header, stretcher, header, stretcher, etc. More time and labor are required for this style of brickwork and thus Flemish bond is more expensive. It is also considered the most attractive of brickwork patterns.

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