Yesterday, we took a two hour walking tour of the city with John, from Charleston Strolls. We learned quite a bit:
Charleston (Charles Towne) was named after King Charles of England. He gave all of the land south of Virginia, north of Florida, and west to the Pacific to his eight best friends. Pretty great of him, considering he didn’t own the land! The friends originally settled up the Ashley River, which borders Charleston to the west. The mosquitoes wreaked havoc on them, with yellow fever and such, so they moved down river to Charleston city.
The city was originally walled, for protection from Indians, pirates and the Spanish. It was one of three walled cities in the region at the time: Charleston was the British walled city, Quebec was the French walled city and St. Augustine was the Spanish walled city.
People of any and all religions were free to live and practice in Charleston, as long as they paid their taxes. The money went to fund King Charles’s church, St. Phillip’s Episcopal. In the 1700s, the church was badly damaged by a hurricane, and a second St. Phillip’s was built just a short distance away. Less than fifty years after it’s opening, the congregation at St. Phillip’s grew so much, that St. Michael’s episcopal was built at Meeting and Broad streets, the original location of St. Phillip’s.
Charleston was the nation’s capital of the slave trade, the place where many of those enslaved people first landed in the New World. About 40 percent of enslaved Africans brought into the country passed through Charleston Harbor. The city was built on slave labor and, for nearly 200 years, thrived under a slave economy.
Considered the grandfather of long grain rices in the Americas, Carolina Gold rice became a commercial staple in the coastal areas of Charleston. Originally seeded in Madagascar, it’s a delicate, non-aromatic rice with “chameleon” starch properties that allow it to mimic creamy risotto or sticky Asian-style rice, depending on how it is cooked. It brought fortunes to those who produced it. Most of the big houses in Charleston’s Battery were built by those owning rice plantations.
There are nine or so cobblestone streets left in the city. One of which was once called “Labor Lane.” Women would be driven up and down it in a horse drawn cart, in hopes if inducing labor. Not sure of the success rate.
Traditionally, houses in Charleston were only one room wide, and extended back several rooms. This allowed you to open up the windows on each side of the house, and get breezes from the water moving more easily through the house. People spent a lot of time on their porches, or piazzas as they are called here. They were used for eating dinner, entertaining or sleeping in the hot summer evenings.
Kitchens were separate from the main house, and built of brick, to help prevent the house from catching fire. As servants brought food to the main house, dogs would bark and jump up, trying and get to it. The servants would toss the dogs little balls of fried cornmeal to keep them quite….hush puppies! (we have heard of this in more than one southern town)
Elliott Street was the red light district in old Charleston. In the 1700’s, the women who worked the area were made to wear red shoes to distinguish them from the “proper” women of Charleston.
Baskets made of sweetgrass have been part of the Charleston area for more than 300 years. Brought to the area by slaves who came from West Africa, this basket making is an art form which has been passed on from generation to generation. Today, it is one of the oldest art forms of African origin in the United States. Charleston, and some areas around it are the only places where this particular type of basketry is done outside of Africa.
Functional baskets for everyday living were made by women. They were used for bread, fruits, sewing, clothes, storage, etc., and made from the softer, pliable sweetgrass because of its pleasant fragrance, similar to the smell of fresh hay. The baskets are very labor-intensive to make, and therefore very pricey. They were beautiful, but out of our budget.
After the tour, we rode our bikes to Harris Teeter, and parked them there for a grocery run. But first, we called an Uber cab to take us to TACO BOY! Scott found out that they have a Charleston location, and he had to have more tacos, so off we went.
We enjoyed the same great food and atmosphere, and then headed back to Harris Teeter for a small food run. Several evenings before, we met our favorite Uber driver, Corbin, who spent many years in Baltimore! We used his club card number, so he could get the gas points that Harris Teeter offers in Charleston. From there, we biked with our groceries back across the peninsula to our boat, where we unloaded and prepared for our am departure south.
Here are a few photos from our stay in Charleston.
“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”