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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.”

Friday, 14 July 2017 18:41

The Edward Rutledge House

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My last post addressed the John Rutledge House; I return to the Rutledge family in this post, highlighting the house across the street which John’s younger brother, Edward Rutledge, owned and lived in.

117 Broad Street was built around 1760 by James Laurens. This land was once part of an orange grove (which is why the next street over is called “Orange Street”). Even though the house is pre-revolutionary, Edward Rutledge did not live there before or during the American Revolution.

Wednesday, 05 July 2017 19:00

The John Rutledge House

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The month of July is associated with the founding of our nation, and my next several diary posts will highlight the Charleston homes of some of our founding fathers. I start with John Rutledge and his home at 116 Broad Street. Built around 1763 for his bride, you have to imagine it without (1) the top floor and (2) all the cast ironwork, both of which were additions by later owners to the structure. In 1763 it would have been recognizable as a fine Georgian-style house, embodying the principles of balance and harmony as essential to that period.

116 Broad Street was built for John’s bride, Elizabeth Grimke, and it speaks of his love and high regard for her. They had ten children and were married for approximately 30 years until Elizabeth’s death in 1792.

Monday, 19 June 2017 17:40

US Custom House

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 The Custom House at 200 East Bay Street is, in my opinion, the premier landmark in historic downtown Charleston. One of our city’s most imposing public buildings, almost everyone is familiar with it, making the Custom House great to use as a reference point.  When meeting someone there, it’s wise not to stipulate “front” or “back,” which can be confusing since both entrances appear identical.  It’s much better to say the “Cooper River side” or the “East Bay side.”

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 13:20

The Dock Street Theatre

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A free and “not to be missed” Charleston offering is the historic Dock Street Theatre at 135 Church Street. Many locals simply call it “The Dock Street.” The Dock Street is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. unless an event is being hosted or it’s a holiday. It also provides the perfect respite for the hot and weary tourist, especially near the end of a two-hour walking tour, with its beauty, air conditioning and restrooms.

Early theatrical productions in America were brought to towns by traveling groups of actors and usually performed in taverns...

Monday, 08 May 2017 13:56

The Charleston Market

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The Charleston Market (or just the Market as locals call it) has been integral to Charleston since a public market was planned at this site around 1788. A beef market was originally located at the northeast corner of Broad and Meeting Streets, but later burned. In 1788, the Pinckney family deeded the land on which the Market now exists to the City of Charles Town specifically to be developed as a public market.  The Pinckneys were farsighted about the use and future of this property; the deed even had language that is known today as a reverter clause, i.e. if the City ever chose not to use the land as a market, the land would revert back to the Pinckney family and heirs.

Monday, 01 May 2017 13:21

Two Meeting Street

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My last Diary post centered on White Point Garden, and now I want to explore the immediate vicinity a bit more. In keeping with “White Point Garden Weddings” occurring across the street in the park, number two Meeting Street was essentially a wedding gift presented by George Williams to his daughter Martha. One of very few individuals in the impoverished South who was wealthy after the Civil War, George Williams built his home at 16 Meeting Street, a Victorian mansion of approximately 24,000 square feet, around 1876.

In 1890, Martha Williams married Waring Parker Carrington, a jeweler in his family's business on King Street, in an elaborate wedding at Trinity Methodist Church a little farther up on Meeting Street. The story goes that Mr. Williams gave his daughter a check...

Thursday, 23 March 2017 18:07

White Point Garden

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The first public park in Charleston, White Point Garden, existed long before my birth (the first part of the public park was created around 1837). Of course, growing up I never referred to the park as “White Point Garden”; to me, it was always “the Battery,” which included not just the park but also the raised seawall or “High Battery” and the connecting lower seawall on Murray Boulevard known as “Low Battery.”

In 1670, when the English ship “The Carolina” sailed into the harbor and up the Ashley River to what would become the first settlement of Charles Town, the tip of the peninsula was covered in white oyster shells and so ...

Thursday, 09 February 2017 04:28

The Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon

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Located at 122 East Bay Street and completed around 1771, the Old Exchange Building is one of the most historically important colonial buildings in the United States.

The site itself reeks of history, having hosted the half-moon battery which was part of the brick seawall built in Charles Town in the 1680’s (the city’s name was later changed to “Charleston” when the city was incorporated in 1783). This site housed the “Court of Guard” where the infamous Stede Bonnet and his fellow pirates, captured by Colonel William Rhett, were imprisoned during their trial and until their hanging in 1718.

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