Charleston and Fort Sumter


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Published: May 11th 2022
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St. Philip's ChurchSt. Philip's ChurchSt. Philip's Church

St. Philip's Church, Charleston, SC. Constructed: ca. 1836 and the spire added in 1848. 142 Church Street Charleston Historic District. National Register of Historic Places 73001695. IMG_4916
Charleston, South Carolina, could easily become a favorite city. The historic houses, gardens, the Market, Fort Sumter and the sense of history at every corner all contribute to a most agreeable ambiance. Susa and I had visited Charleston in 1989. Now our son and daughter were along with us. After Charleston, we would be taking our son for a look at the University of South Carolina.

To reach Charleston, we drove from Northern Virginia in one day. A long day to be sure, but traffic was not bad along the Interstate 95 corridor. We reached the I-26 turnoff for Charleston at dusk, had dinner at a Chick-Fil-A and reached the city after rush hour had subsided. We checked into the Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel, just across the Ashley River from historic downtown Charleston. The location was very convenient for driving. US Highway 17 in one direction from the hotel, or US Highway 30 in the other, both led across the Ashley River directly into downtown Charleston. We spent some time in the evening driving about and checking routes and destinations for the following day and made a preliminary stop at the Charleston Visitor Reception Center.

A day of exploring
Charleston Visitor CenterCharleston Visitor CenterCharleston Visitor Center

Charleston Visitor Reception and Transportation Center. Originally built in 1856 as Deans Warehouse. Adaptive reuse in 1991. 375 Meeting Street. William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures. National Register of Historic Places 66000698. IMG_4859
Charleston on Sunday began at the Visitor Center. We again drove across the Ashley River and parked all day in the Visitor Center parking lot. Ample parking is offered here and the visitor can use it as a base for exploration. The Visitor Center is the former railway warehouse dating from 1856. The long shed now houses a series of informative displays on the history of Charleston, local amenities, tours, and a gift shop. Across the street is the Charleston Museum. On display in front of the museum is a replica of the CSS Hunley, one of the first successful submarines. (It sank a Federal warship in Charleston harbor in 1864, but later itself sank with all hands.) Behind the Museum is the historic Aiken-Rhett House (1818/1858), open to the public and operated by the Historic Charleston Foundation.

Motorized trolleys operated by CARTA, the local transit authority, form the core of public transportation around the old town. They depart from the Visitor Center and follow convenient schedules along King and and Meeting Streets, passing Marion Square Park (with a statue of John C. Calhoun), the College of Charleston, popular boutiques and trendy stores in the King Street shopping district,
Hunley ReplicaHunley ReplicaHunley Replica

Replica of the CSS Hunley Civil War submarine at the Charleston Museum. The Hunley had a crew of 21, a captain and crew who manually propelled the vessel. IMG_4866
Charleston Market, and on to the tip of the Battery. That was our destination as we boarded.

The Battery is a beautiful assembly of pastel colored historic houses and parkland on the very tip of Charleston at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Most of the houses are residences, a few are museums, and some are operated as Bed and Breakfasts. The area is subject to strict preservation ordinances. A house more than fifty years old must have special permission to be altered or painted differently from the original design. South Battery Street fronts on White Point Garden park and its palmetto trees.

A walk along the seawall promenade facing East Battery Street and known as the High Battery, enables one to enjoy the breeze and look out over the harbor and the Cooper River to Fort Sumter in the distance. Along East Battery Street is the Edmonston-Alston House, built in 1825 and one of the first residences along the High Battery. The house is open to the public and is one of the must-see historic house museums in the city. Nearby is the pink Palmer Home (1848), now a B&B. The pink color has earned
Robert Martin HouseRobert Martin HouseRobert Martin House

Charleston mansion dating from 1835, now used as offices. 16 Charlotte Street. Charleston Historic District. National Register of Historic Places 78002497. IMG_4865
it the nickname Pink Palace. A distinctive Charleston Piazza (a multi-storied enclosed porch running the length of a house, facing the side yard) is a very visible feature of the Palmer Home.

After strolling about the old city and the High Battery, we proceeded to the Fort Sumter Visitor Center for an afternoon tour. Fort Sumter is a National Monument and is located on an island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter, of course, is where the American Civil War began. Following the announced succession of South Carolina from the Union in December, 1860, US Army troops in the Charleston area had consolidated in Fort Sumter. Its position on an island at the entrance to the harbor made it more defensible than the land based forts with guns facing seaward. After President Lincoln announced his intention in April 1861 to resupply Fort Sumter 1861 and maintain a US presence in Charleston, the Confederate government decided to capture the fort before it could be reinforced. Confederate forces began bombarding the fort on April 12, 1861 and demanded the surrender of the US garrison. The fort held out a day and a half until, low on ammunition and supplies
Marion SquareMarion SquareMarion Square

Fountain at Marion Square park, Charleston, SC. IMG_4869
and the fort walls battered, the US forces surrendered. The action served to rally support for Lincoln's call for volunteers to suppress the rebellion. The American Civil War had begun.

The only access to Fort Sumter is by tour boat. (The visitor center exhibits are free, but there is a charge to take the boat tour to the fort.) Tour boats leave from the visitor center at the port every two hours.There are interpretive displays at the visitor center for those not wishing to venture out to the fort itself. I had long wanted to see Fort Sumter, so of course, we were going out. The boat takes about 40 minutes to travel to the harbor entrance and the island. Upon approach, the island and fort give a singularly flattened appearance. When built, the walls of this coastal defense fortification were 50 feet high with two levels of casemates. One realizes that, indeed, the fort was leveled during the 1861 bombardment and subsequent Civil War action. Visitors have an hour to explore the fort. There is a guided tour lasting about 20 minutes and then visitors may look around on their own. There are casemates to explore and interpretive
College of CharlestonCollege of CharlestonCollege of Charleston

View from the entry towards Randolph Hall at the College of Charleston. National Historic Landmark. National Register of Historic Places 71000748. IMG_4871
exhibits, (One can also stay on the island and wait for the next boat if desired.).

Later in the afternoon, returning from Fort Sumter, we focused on the Charleston Market area. The Market is officially known as the Market Hall and Sheds.The Hall is a beautiful Greek Revival structure locally designed and built in 1840. We had lunch and and then walked through the vendor stalls. While the rest of the family continued to shop in the trading rows extending behind the main market building, I struck out on my own to take photos. I wanted to capture the classic Charleston view: Church Street and St. Philip's steeple. I also took in the Dock Street Theatre. I wanted to seek out the old Customs House, promoted locally as the third most important colonial building in America. (What are the other two that are more important I wondered? Independence Hall in Philadelphia for certain must be the first. Old North Church the other perhaps? Later I was to find out the second is Faneuil Hall in Boston.) To make long story short, I did not locate the old Customs House. But, I had a very enjoyable time walking the narrow
East BatteryEast BatteryEast Battery

Colorful homes along Battery Row, Charleston, SC. The pink house is the John Ravenal House. Constructed ca. 1848. This house was built by the Ravenel family on one of the reclaimed marshland lots sold by the city in 1838. It was later owned by Dr. Joe Sam Palmer and known as the Palmer Home. The Palmer Home later operated as a bed-and-breakfast from 1977 until 2016. A typical multi-story piazza (enclosed porch or verandah) runs the length of the house. Its pink color gives it the local nickname Pink Palace. 5 East Battery Street. Charleston Historic District. National Register of Historic Places 66000964. IMG_4875
cobblestone back streets of old Charleston. I came upon the "new" US Customs House (itself a 19th century Roman Corinthian style structure), and so photographed it.

In the evening, we enjoyed a seafood dinner, Lowcountry style, at the Charleston Crab House.


Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


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Louis DeSaussure HouseLouis DeSaussure House
Louis DeSaussure House

Louis DeSaussure House. Built in 1858-1861. In typical Charleston fashion, the narrow side facing South Battery is the front while the long is the side of the house. 1 East Battery Street. Along The Battery, Charleston, SC. IMG_4878
Confederate Defenders of CharlestonConfederate Defenders of Charleston
Confederate Defenders of Charleston

The Confederate Defenders of Charleston Memorial commemorates Confederate soldiers from Charleston, notably those who participated in the attack on Fort Sumter. Installed in 1932. Located in White Point Garden park along The Battery in Charleston. IMG_4876
USS Maine MemorialUSS Maine Memorial
USS Maine Memorial

A capstan from the battleship USS Maine commemorates its sinking in Havana in 1898. The memorial is located in White Point Garden park along The Battery in Charleston. IMG_4877
USS Maine MemorialUSS Maine Memorial
USS Maine Memorial

A capstan from the battleship USS Maine commemorates its sinking in Havana in 1898. The memorial is located in White Point Garden park along The Battery in Charleston. IMG_4879
Columbiad CannonColumbiad Cannon
Columbiad Cannon

A 10-inch Confederate columbiad cannon faces toward East Battery. White Point Garden park. 100_0071
Fort Sumter Sally PortFort Sumter Sally Port
Fort Sumter Sally Port

Sally Port at Fort Sumter. This sally port, built after the Civil War, replaced a gun embrasure. Fort Sumter National Monument National Register of Historic Places 66000101. IMG_4903
Fort SumterFort Sumter
Fort Sumter

Gorge wall and officer's quarters. Fort Sumter National Monument. National Register of Historic Places 66000101. IMG_4898
Fort SumterFort Sumter
Fort Sumter

Left flank casemates. Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston Harbor. "Construction began in 1829 on a shoal near the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The base foundation of rock and granite material supported a massive five-sided, three story fort of 2.4 acres. The sides totaled 1,188 feet and the walls were fifty feet high. Four of the walls consisted of two tiers of enclosed gunrooms and a third tier of open gun platforms". National Register of Historic Places 66000101. IMG_4897
Fort SumterFort Sumter
Fort Sumter

Left face casemates. Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston Harbor, SC. The Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Effects of the bombardment can still be seen. "Construction began in 1829 on a shoal near the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The base foundation of rock and granite material supported a massive five-sided, three story fort of 2.4 acres. The sides totaled 1,188 feet and the walls were fifty feet high. Four of the walls consisted of two tiers of enclosed gunrooms and a third tier of open gun platforms". National Register of Historic Places 66000101. IMG_4896
Fort Sumter CasematesFort Sumter Casemates
Fort Sumter Casemates

Fort Sumter National Monument. National Register of Historic Places 66000101. 100_0084
Fort Sumter CasematesFort Sumter Casemates
Fort Sumter Casemates

Fort Sumter National Monument. National Register of Historic Places 66000101. 100_0085
Fort Sumter National MonumentFort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter National Monument

The Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Entrance to Fort Sumter National Monument. National Register of Historic Places 66000101. IMG_4900
South Carolina Rail Road Freight HouseSouth Carolina Rail Road Freight House
South Carolina Rail Road Freight House

Former South Carolina Rail Road (Southern Railway) Freight House, dating from 1857. 32 Ann Street. William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures. National Register of Historic Places 66000698. IMG_4908
Charleston City MarketCharleston City Market
Charleston City Market

The Market Hall and Sheds were built in 1840-41 and designed by Edward Brickell White in the Greek Revival style. Today, a variety vendors sell their arts and crafts at the market. 188 Meeting Street. National Register of Historic Places 73001689. IMG_4909
Market Hall and ShedsMarket Hall and Sheds
Market Hall and Sheds

The Market Hall and Sheds were built in 1840-41 and designed by Edward Brickell White in the Greek Revival style. Today, a variety vendors sell their arts and crafts at the market. 188 Meeting Street. National Register of Historic Places 73001689. IMG_4910
Dock Street TheatreDock Street Theatre
Dock Street Theatre

Originally built as the Planter's Hotel in 1809. The structure was restored and converted into a theatre in the 1930s. The Dock Street Theatre is home to the Charleston Stage Company and is a venue for the Spoleto Festival USA. 135 Church Street, National Register of Historic Places 73001684. IMG_4911
Charleston Customs HouseCharleston Customs House
Charleston Customs House

United States Custom House in Charleston, SC. Designed in the Roman Corinthian style and completed in 1879. The "new" Customs House. 200 East Bay Street. National Register of Historic Places 74001834. IMG_4917
Marriott SpringHill SuitesMarriott SpringHill Suites
Marriott SpringHill Suites

Marriott SpringHill Suites Charleston Downtown/Riverview. 98 Ripley Point Drive. IMG_4919


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