By Bridget Jackson
As with many of my travels, I have a limited amount of time to visit a city. Therefore I always try to maximize my time to get the most out of my trips. After realizing I had only one day to spend in Charleston, South Carolina, I knew it was important for me to create an itinerary where I could see the best features of Charleston all in one day. When I arrived in Charleston, I was in awe of its southern charm, wrought iron fences, courtyard gardens, pillar porches, horse drawn carriage rides and a variety of beautiful cathedrals and churches.
Charleston is full of history, it is the oldest city in South Carolina. A portion of Charleston was known as the walled city from 1690-1720. During this time, Charleston was enclosed to protect it from invaders. Most of the cobblestone streets and narrow alleys are near or located in the original walled city. The original walled city was comprised of Cumberland Street south to Water Street and Meeting Street to East Bay. This area is known as the historic district. Here you will find the oldest neighborhoods, gardens and diverse architecture styles; Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne. When walking through these neighborhoods you might notice large bolts on the side of the houses – these are earthquake protection bolts!
The historic district is best seen by walking. There are several tour guide trips offered, but I created my own walking tour which may work for you too! My day started early in the morning at The Battery, 1E Battery Street. Parking at The Battery is free and I advise parking there if you plan on taking a walking tour of the area. Battery Point overlooks the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor, where you can see the USS Yorktown docked at Patriots Point, just across the bay.
I began my walking tour of the historic district at White Point Gardens. Here you will find many monuments and also the canons that were part of Ft. Sumter’s “three gun battery”. At the corner of 1 East Battery and South Battery is the Louis DeSaussure House, built in 1859. This house was used in World II to house naval officers. Head toward 9th E. Battery Street and you will see the William Roper House, a lovely brick Greek revival house which was built in 1838. On 21 E Battery is Edmondston-Alston House, built in 1825. This house has spectacular views of the harbor and the roof displays the family coat of arms. Next, I made my way to Church Street which is filled with beautiful antebellum houses. The George Eveleigh House on 39 Church was built in 1743. A short distance away on 61 Church St. you will find the First Baptist Church, another Greek revival architecture style building, which is also the oldest congregation in South Carolina dedicated in 1822. A few steps further on 69 Church St. is the Georgian style Capers-Motte House, that was built by Richard Capers around 1745. Continue to 71 Church St. and you will find the Robert Brewton House, built in 1721. It’s the oldest single house style building in the city and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Nearby on 89-91 Church St. is Cabbage Row, this is a 3 story dwelling where tenants used to display their vegetables for sale, hence the name. Look for a red Catfish Row sign, this neighborhood was the setting of the novel “Porgy”. A short distance away on 87 Church Street is the Heyward Washington house, a Georgian style house built in 1772. Heyward was one of four from South Carolina that signed the Declaration of Independence and George Washington stayed at his house during a visit to Charleston; thus the name Heyward Washington House. Tours are available of this historic home.
Also on Church St is the Gothic Revival French Huguenot Church built in 1845 (136 Church St.) and across the street is the Dock St. Theatre. As you continue walking on Church St you will see a famous landmark, the steeple of St. Philips Episcopal Church, built in 1836 (146 Church St.)
I then journeyed toward Elliot St. and made my way to Broad St. The intersection of Broad St. and Meeting St. are referred to as the Four Corners of Law. Here you will see the City Hall (2nd oldest in the country), Charleston Courthouse, U.S. Post Office, Federal Court, and St. Michaels Church. St. Michael’s church is worth stopping by and taking in its beauty. George Washington actually worshipped in the church (look for pew 43). If you take a left on Broad Street, you will see the spectacular steeple of Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, (120 Broad St.) This cathedral is breathtaking; it’s worth a visit inside to look at all the stunning stained glass windows. Two streets north of Broad Street is the Powder Magazine (79 Cumberland) this former gunpowder store is now a museum. It was built on 1713 and is the oldest building in South Carolina, It is also a National Historic Landmark (there are so many of them in Charleston, what a treasure).
I headed back to Meeting St. where you will find Branford Hory House that was built in 1750, and the First Scots Presbyterian Church. On 51 Meeting St. you will notice The Nathaniel Russell House, which was built in 1808 and is considered to be one of America’s most important neoclassical houses in the country. The home has amazing gardens and tours are available too. Also on 16 Meeting St. you will find the Calhoun Mansion. It was constructed in 1876. This home has been featured in several films including “The Notebook” and TV series such as “North & South”. A tour of the mansion is available where you will be intrigued with a variety of exquisite antiques. The Calhoun Mansion is 1 block north of the Battery which was my starting point of my walking tour of the historic district. Near Battery Point is East Bay Street where a series of 13 colorful historic houses known as Rainbow Row is located. They are worth taking a walk or a drive by to see.
When I finished my walking tour of the historic district I headed across the bridge to Patriots Point, which is just a 12 minute drive south of the Battery. Patriots Point is home to the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and the Destroyer USS Laffey. The Yorktown earned 11 battle stars for service during World War II. As you approach the USS Yorktown you cannot help but feel pride and respect for the men and woman who served on this vessel. I strongly recommend taking a tour of Yorktown; it’s an eye opening experience on how the naval crew lived daily on a carrier. My father was stationed on an aircraft carrier during his naval career, so walking the corridors of the Yorktown helped me understand what his life was like while he was aboard his carrier. While on the USS Yorktown you can walk the ship at your leisure, you could easily spend an entire day walking throughout the carrier, watching military videos, looking at models of other aircraft carriers, or viewing a variety of airplanes in the hangar and flight deck. Rumor has it that the USS Yorktown is haunted! The carrier is open for nightly tours for those inclined for a scary adventure. Yikes!
After I was filled with patriotic pride, I chose to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by absorbing nature’s beauty at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (off Hwy 61). The plantation and gardens win the award for southern paradise, with its lush gardens, acres of oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, numerous ponds with enchanting bridges, and flowers of all kinds everywhere. Make sure you have plenty of back up batteries on hand because you will take a ton of pictures. When you enter the gardens you will be greeted by several peacocks who add character to the plantation. The gardens are filled with a multitude of paths; each path is unique with its own landscaping. My favorite area was a small pond that had a white wooden bridge that was absolutely breathtaking. I was fortunate to walk the gardens in the springtime when all the azaleas were in bloom everywhere as far as the eye could see. It was a spectacular floral display of exquisiteness.
After I left the Gardens I headed back toward the historic district. A visit to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a carriage ride; so I dashed to Classic Carriage Works on 10 Guignard Street. Their staff and tour guides are very friendly and well informed on providing historical information on the history of Charleston houses, gardens, churches, and building architectures. After my carriage ride I walked over to the City Market (188 Meeting St) and did some shopping for arts and crafts from local vendors. At this point in my journey it was evening time and I was hungry. Luckily the area near the City Market also has plenty of good restaurants to choose from.
Although my time was short in Charleston (only 1 day), with an agenda in hand and my walking shoes on, I felt I enjoyed many of the historical sites of Charleston. The city has a lot of history, character and southern charm. I highly encourage this trip for adults who want an enchanting vacation. If you have any questions about this trip feel free to ask Bridget. Safe travels!!