Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Trip - Charleston

I can't hide the truth any longer: I've lived in California far too long. My experience of the last 26 years has taught me that when you live in the southern part of the country, winter is relatively warm. So when I packed for winter in The South, I didn't bring a lot of heavy clothes to keep me warm. That was a mistake.

The only thing that saved me as we rode through Charleston in a horse-drawn carriage with temperatures in the 40's (wind chill in the low 30's) was the long wool coat I bought several years ago for reasons that escape me now. And I only brought it with me, because I used it to cover my on-a-hanger clothes in the back seat of my car while I drove to my mom's house.

If the Caribbean is this cold, I'm going to be in big trouble.

OK. Back to the subject. Today we went to Charleston's historic district to be tourists.

They had cobblestone streets, but not a lot of them.

We walked along East Bay Street, near Waterfront Park, trying to find a reasonably priced lunch without success. At a flea market (on Market Street, of course), we asked a lady selling jewelry where she recommended that was good and inexpensive, and she sent us to the Wild Wing Cafe. We split an order of Chicken Feathers, half with Lemon Pepper marinade and the other half with Bubba's BBQ. Mmmm! But we had to take some of it to go, because we only had an hour where we parked, and time was short. We got back before we were ticketed.

From there we drove to a parking garage near the carriage ride we wanted to take (we had a discount coupon for Olde Towne Carriage Company). They use draft horses, while some of the other companies use mules to pull their carriages. Our horse's name was Jeff, and he was a happy former-Amish horse.

Our tour guide, David, told us that Jeff and a buddy came from Ohio Amish country, where the Amish farmers have discovered they can get more work out of a two-year-old horse than a nine-year-old. So with Jeff's advanced age, that's how he came to be available for carriage-pulling. David also said the carriage business is easy work for a draft horse like Jeff. He weighs about 2,000 lbs. and can pull 6,000 from a dead stop on ice (drag weight). The carriage, fully loaded, only weighs about 4,000 lbs., has wheels, is on good pavement with only the tiniest of incline at the end, so Jeff has it made. The hard part of a horse's work is stopping the carriage.

Jeff took us around town, first past a small residential area before we hit the business district.

In the first house on the left, the small black door (not the garage doors far left) is a privacy door. Back in pre-air-conditioning days, the summers were miserable (still are), and people would sleep out on the porch, hoping to catch whatever breeze was coming in off the water. So they installed doors to keep people from coming onto the porch when the homeowners were still in their unfit-for-public sleepwear. If the door was shut, people knew to stay out. If the door was open, people were welcome to come calling.

We soon turned into the business district, where one window looked like part of a scene from Project Runway.

It wasn't long before we were heading away from the businesses and learning about historical things and architecture and rich people of Charleston.

This window intrigued me, because I couldn't quite tell why there are shutters on the outside and another, smaller shutter inside.

In 1886, an earthquake hit Charleston, estimated at around 7.0 on the Richter scale, lasting about a minute--a very long time for an earthquake. It caused $6 million in damage. Part of the repair process was to shore up the brick buildings by installing bolts that were braced against the exterior walls with end-plates. The bolts were tightened to pull the walls back into proper vertical. David, our guide, told us that if another earthquake hit today, those bolted brick buildings would be the first ones destroyed, because they're too rigid.

Down near the waterfront, where the fabulously wealthy lived, is the Calhoun Mansion, Charleston's largest home. It was built by George W. Williams, a banker during the Civil War. He financed much of the Confederacy's blockade-running, but only accepted British sterling as payment. No Confederate dollars for him, so when the War ended, he remained rich. The house was named for Williams's son-in-law, I believe Patrick Calhoun, a relative of John C. Calhoun.

This is the front door of the Calhoun Mansion.

At one point when slavery was still going strong, Charleston had a scare for the slave owners. There were rumors of a slave uprising, and the owners feared for their safety. Out of their fear, they made their own version of barbed wire to top their wrought-iron fences and make it harder for the slaves to jump over the fences. The uprising didn't come, but the iron still remains.

And finally, a couple more of the houses along the way.

Tomorrow we leave for Savannah, where I'm sure there are plenty more houses that need their picture taken.


Bekah said...

beautiful pictures!! but about that weather....still thinking of Indiana? It was completely anti-california this weekend. I think even the cats were cold. And they have fur coats! ;) keep the coat handy just in case.

SkyePuppy said...


It's not the cold that was the problem. It's that I wasn't prepared for the cold.

And yes, I'm still thinking of Indiana.

janice said...

Great pics, I love Charleston.

Did you get a chance to see "rainbow row"?