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Monday, 04 March 2019 09:56

99 Bull Street

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This week we'll travel to 99 Bull Street, built in 1854 and owned by a Charleston merchant, Frederick Richards. Francis Warrington Dawson, the founder of Charleston's Post and Courier newspaper, purchased the property in the 1870s, and he was living at 99 Bull when the earthquake of 1886 hit Charleston on August 31. The quake demolished the front portico; fortunately, Dawson was not at home but was working late at the newspaper's office, then on Broad Street.

Dawson had restoration and perhaps some style updates completed after the earthquake; the portico with fluted columns topped by the balustrade above together with the huge wooden doors provides a grand and imposing entrance. There are bays on either side of the house. Today, instead of a single family residence, 99 Bull consists of several apartments.

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.

In 1899, the murder of Captain Dawson laid bare a scandal of historic proportions in Charleston. Captain Dawson's wife employed a young Swiss woman to help with their children, and it appears that she was being stalked by Dawson's neighbor, Dr. Thomas McDow. When Dawson went to McDow's house to confront him, McDow picked up a gun and killed Dawson with one shot. McDow tried to bury the body, then unburied him before turning himself in to the police. The murder and later the trial shocked the city. By all accounts, McDow seems to have been a rather shady and unsavory character, much of which was not allowed in the court record and remained unknown to the jurors at the murder trial. The scandal was not only the murder, but the sordid details surrounding it. The greater scandal was the acquittal of McDow on all charges.

Next week, we will continue to explore Charleston history through her places and people.


Amelia Whaley

Amelia ("Mimi") Whaley

Mimi was born in Charleston and grew up on nearby Edisto Island, one of several sea islands settled by planters due to their close proximity to Charleston. In addition to the Whaleys, Seabrooks, Mikells and Baynards, Mimi is also a direct descendant of Paul Grimball, the recipient of an English land grant of over 1,000 acres on Edisto in 1683; he and his family were the first documented white settlers on Edisto. In Charleston and the Lowcountry, it’s common to hear, "Everyone around here is related; it's just whether or not you claim each other…"

Mimi enjoys sharing the history of Charleston and the Lowcountry. A licensed tour guide, she leads historic Charleston walking tours Wednesdays through Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., leaving from Washington Park in the heart of the old city. Reservations are required for these Charleston walking tours which last approximately 2 hours and end in the vicinity of the Charleston Market. Private tours are also available.

Mimi is also an award-winning Charleston artist working in watercolor, oil, acrylic and mixed media. “I’m so fortunate to live in this area and share this special city through touring, writing, talking and painting – all the things I love to do!”

More in this category: « 109 Broad Street 2 Amherst Street »

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