Historic Charleston

Charleston Travel Blog

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Charleston Visitor Center

A day of exploring Charleston 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 South Carolina Rail Road station. The long train 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 musem 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.

CSS Hunley replica
) 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 Steets, 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, Charleston Market, and on to the tip of the Battery. That was our destination.

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.

College of Charleston
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 Gardens 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 Ft. 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.

Market Hall and Sheds
Nearby is the pink Palmer Home (1848), now a B&B. The pink color has earned it the nickname Pink Palace. A distinctive Charleston Piazza (a multi-storied enclosed porch running the legth of a house) is a very visible feature of the Palmer Home.  

After looking about the old city, we proceeded to the Fort Sumter Visitor Center. Fort Sumter is a National Monument and is located on an island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The only access to it is by boat. Fort Sumter, of course, is where the American Civil War began. Confederate forces began bombarding the fort on April 12, 1861 and demanded the surrender of the US garrison. The garrison held out until the fort was nearly destroyed. 

Tours to Fort Sumter leave from the visitor center at the port every two hours.

Charleston Market Hall
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. One realizes that, indeed, the fort was leveled during the bombardment. Visitors have an hour to explore the fort. (You can also stay on the island and wait for the next boat if desired.) There is a guided tour lasting about 20 minutes and then visitors may look around on their own.

In the afternoon, back from Fort Sumter, we focused on the Charleston Market area. The Market is officially known as the Market Hall and Sheds.

South Battery
The Hall is a beautiful Greek Revival structure locally desigend 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 pic: Church Street and St. Philip's steeple. I also shot 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 cobblestone back streets of old Charleston.  I came upon the "new" US Customs House (itself a 19th century Roman Corinthian style structure), and so photograhed it. 

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

bkretzer says:
Cool blog! A must see when I get to SC!
Posted on: Jan 18, 2010
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Charleston Visitor Center
Charleston Visitor Center
CSS Hunley replica
CSS Hunley replica
College of Charleston
College of Charleston
Market Hall and Sheds
Market Hall and Sheds
Charleston Market Hall
Charleston Market Hall
South Battery
South Battery
Promenade along the High Battery
Promenade along the High Battery
The pink Palmer Home has a typical…
The pink Palmer Home has a typica…
East Battery Street and Palmer Home
East Battery Street and Palmer Home
View from Edmonston-Alston House
View from Edmonston-Alston House
Marion Square Park
Marion Square Park
White Point Gardens Park
White Point Gardens Park
Church Street
Church Street
Church Street, Charleston
Church Street, Charleston
Dock Street Theatre
Dock Street Theatre
US Customs House
US Customs House
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter Sally Port
Fort Sumter Sally Port
Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House
In back of the Aiken-Rhett House
In back of the Aiken-Rhett House
In back of the Aiken-Rhett House
In back of the Aiken-Rhett House
Charleston General Tips & Advice review
CARTA is the public transportation authority for Charleston. CARTA operates a convenient service called DASH to provide transportation around the hist… read entire review
Charleston Sights & Attractions review
Visiting historic Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter, constructed as a coastal defense fort in Charleston Harbor, is famous as the location where the Civil War began. Following the announ… read entire review
Charleston
photo by: denisx