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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Exploring Charleston

Google Earth, Charleston

I had been looking forward to visiting Charleston since I presented "Slaves in Revolutionary America: Plantation Slaves in Virginia and the Charleston Slave Trade" in my American Revolution class. It was not quite what I expected. I expected a city. With a lot of history. History yes, city no. Charleston is the most non-city city I have ever visited. There was no business section and no sky scrapers. I would say it is quaint, but that doesn't quite capture it either, it was a little run down to be quaint. I did love the historic feel to it and  that it was small and crowded. It was a small historic port town. I missed out on the actual museums and exhibits because we were there on a Sunday, but I enjoyed some lovely walks.

One of our walks was along the waterfront. The walk was well maintained. I thought it was very interesting that the waterfront did not have a specific shipping area or terminal area. It seemed slightly random, with shipping containers, a cruise ship and yachts, all within a few hundred meters of shoreline. This got me to thinking about port organization and regulations in other cities and may well be the subject of a future post.

Yachts, shipping containers, and cruise ships.

The Spirit of South Carolina was beautiful. I can see how one would be drawn to sail this gorgeous ship and hang from the ropes while rolling sail!

I'm not sure if we just caught the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge on a bad day-but it was not the most aesthetically pleasing bridge I've seen. Stout and dark gray, it just seemed brooding, kind of like the Cooper River itself. 

Next along the shoreline walk was the Ft. Sumter Memorial. I wasn't able to actually visit Ft. Sumter (missed the ferry) but the memorial building was interesting and the grounds were beautiful.

I wandered around for quite a while looking for the Charleston City Market and the Gateway Garden Walk. I had just about given up, when I finally saw the Unitarian Church where the Gateway Garden Walk begins. It was the most beautiful UU church I have ever seen and may be my favorite church in America so far. The church was built in 1772 by the Society of Dissenters. The German painted glass behind the altar depicts the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Beneath that are Aaron the Priest, the movable ark, the Torah and Moses the lawgiver. The stained glass along the side has the Hebrew Old Testament phrase "God is One" and the Greek New Testament phrase "God is Spirit". I loved the synthesis of the Judaic tradition and the Christian tradition. I also thought that the Gothic Fan Tracery on the ceiling and the pipe organ were wonderful!

And I loved the Gateway Garden Walk! The gardens and cemeteries were beautiful. The UU cemetery in particular was the most lovely garden, flowers growing wild and greenery overflowing everywhere along the brick paths.

The path wound through downtown Charleston, through a small shopping district and ended a few blocks from Charleston City Market, a low open brick building that is a permanent street vendor market. 

The most unique aspect of Charleston were the two story buildings, one room wide, with porches running the length of one side, all in very close proximity to the next house (a la San Francisco). These are known as Charleston Single Houses. They were everywhere in the city. Some were well-kept and some were dilapidated. Loved seeing this architectural style first hand. 

An interesting port town all around!

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Maritime Culture by Whitney Rose Petrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License