Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sights and Sounds of Charleston South Carolina

The east coast time zone is a mystery to both me and Alex, and every chance we get we try to strike out to see places in this region of the country. We have really explored Florida so now we venture further and further away from home. Our latest adventure was Charleston, South Carolina. Click each photo for an enlarged view and be sure to play the videos near the end. It is a special treat.

I just liked this street scene with the trolley and the driver at twilight. The hustle and bustle of tourists is over and there is a calmness that has overtaken the street.

Lately I find myself drawn to churches. Generally the huge old structures with loads of stain glass that is ornate and ever so beautiful. The church below has none of that but it's construction caught my eye. It resembles something out of medieval times in an odd sort of way and is very prominent in downtown Charleston.

The most striking feature of this church is it's dome, which is really not a dome at all. But, for my purposes I will call it a dome.

A side view illustrates just how massive the dome structure is in relation to the whole of the church.

If you enlarge the photo you will get a close up view of what appeared to be small metal plates that cover the structure of the dome. But closer inspection revealed not metal but cedar chips or plates that cover just the dome in a very intricate design.

After churches I am increasingly, in this region, drawn to cemetaries. The South seems to have made an art of creating interesting cemetaries. Impermanent, permanent structures that tell stories about the dead. The headstone above has survived over two hundred years of story telling and despite some damage intends to keep right on talking. It and the tombs below sit in the front of the domed church. A spooky place indeed.
And below, a view from the rear of the domed church. Several guides offer ghost tours at night but I prefer my cemetary viewing during the day, thank you very much!

One of the highlights of our visit was talking with and viewing some of the amazing baskets made by local weavers. Below is a very creative weaver by the name of Loretta that we ran into in the market near downtown. To watch them work is like viewing magic...

Each weaver has their own style and that fact is reflected in the baskets above and below.

Horse drawn multiple tourist carriages are everywhere in Charleston (unlike St. Augustine and Savannah) and few of them are very interesting or pleasing to the eye. This one was one of the few that really had character.

These red brick homes are also a fixture throughout the historic district. The red bricks and the shuttered windows instantly signal you are near the tropics while also taking you back in time.

And, while there is not that continual splash of pastel coloring you find in St. Augustine, Charleston is definitely not color challenged.

South Carolina's role in the Civil War is always highlighted during history lessons, but I was also amazed to learn that delegates from South Carolina played a major role in writing the United States Constitution and the forming of the nation. The Pinckney Museum is a wonderful history lesson that is also free.

No visit to a location in the old South would be complete without visiting one of the working plantations in the area. Boone Hall Plantation gives a splendid view of the wealth and culture of rice plantation owners of the era while also highlighting the lives of slaves who provided the backbone of that culture.

I don't know about you but I had never seen cotton up close and personal. I don't know what I expected but it felt just like the cotton ball you buy at the drug store only hanging from a twig.

The slave quarters stand in marked contrast to the "house" that is Boone Plantation. The company that owns the plantation has allowed in archaeologists who are excavating possessions to learn about the day to day lives of the slaves who worked the land.
The highlight of the plantation tour is a show that explains the culture and language of the Gullah people who worked the land during slavery and still reside in the area. We were particularly taken by the Gulla historian named Frank who gave a vivid history of slavery and the Gullah language. I've provided a video clip below that cannot begin to do justice to his entire presentation, complete with audience participation. But, if you are in the area it is well worth the drive and the cost of admission. Just a tip, go to the Pinckney Museum first. It is down the road from Boone Hall plantation and they provide discount coupons.

The Gullah culture and language are fascinating to say the least and I have included these small videos to illustrate just how enchanting the local historian Frank was.


  1. I have read some of your posts/photos. I like the same and would like to revisit.

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  2. It is a nice story. Creative. I got lot of details.