We’re starting to get to know Charleston. Our house is very traditional and located in the historic district. We hear the horse drawn tours clip-clop past the front door a few times a day. Passengers wave if we’re out on the porch. It’s like living in a diorama. We walked to Broad St., and down a few blocks to the Four Corners of Law, where the courthouse, Post Office, and City Hall face one another. The Post Office looks like a Victorian men’s club, full of dark colors and polished brass.
Continuing down Broad St. beyond the historic corner is Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery, where there are excellent croissants and other pastries. When we got to East Bay St. we turned south toward the waterfront, passing Rainbow Row, a series of houses dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries that are each painted a different pastel color. The area is so large that it’s difficult to capture in a photo, though many local artists have painted the scene. I like this aerial view (internet photo).
Beyond Rainbow Row you can look out over the water to Ft. Sumter, and walk along the Battery, a long wall around the toe of the city. Elegant houses line much of this southernmost part of the city, and visitors stroll along admiring the views, taking a break in White Point Garden at the southern end of the city. Walking west along the Battery we turn right on Lenwood Blvd. In a few blocks it becomes Logan Street and shortly after that we are home again.
Our walk would have taken even longer if we had stopped to read all the historic markers along the route. About every third house has a plaque from the historical society. Others have information about the distinguished builders or owners. Yet others mention the role of the occupants during the Civil War. Charleston is an historian’s delight.
Even if historical details aren’t your thing, the architecture is quirky and charming. Many houses were first built in the late 1700s, which is very old for the US. Some have since burned down and been rebuilt, but in our neighborhood most houses look old even if they are not. There are interesting doorways, boot scrapers, door knobs and knockers.
The intensely humid weather combined with summer heat, winter rain, and occasional flooding is all very tough on frame houses. Contractors have projects underway on every block, from hurricane repairs to wholesale rebuilding of an entire three story house. One house nearby is being elevated, lifted on jacks while construction of a new lower level is carried out. Construction and maintenance of these lovely structures seems to require lots of very loud devices that sometimes spoil the charm. I don’t mind the hammering, but the trimming and blowing fill part of every day. This is not hurricane repair. It’s daily routine here.
Without constant maintenance, the houses of Charleston slip into disrepair. Even in the center of the historic district, I notice a few places that need work. Fortunately for these old houses, in Charleston they are more likely to be rebuilt than demolished and replaced by a parking garage.
This is just a corner of Charleston but took us three hours to make the circuit. We did make a detour to the Oyster House on S. Market St. for a refueling stop of raw oysters and shrimp & grits. (Delicious.)