As mentioned in our last post, we left the Historic City Tour at City Market so we could spend some time walking the streets. We took a leisurely stroll through the market ogling the variety of beautiful wares for sale, everything from jewelry, home decor items, specialty food items, sweetgrass baskets and lots more.
I never was much of a shopper anyway and now with the limited space we have on the coach, browsing is the name of my game. Although, I did consider buying a sweetgrass basket, however, when I turned over one of the smaller ones (probably about 9 inches in diameter) at one of the booths and saw a price tag of $225, my urge to own one quickly faded. With so many people selling them not only in the market but on the city sidewalks and along the roadways, there seems to be a lot of competition – perhaps the prices are cheaper somewhere else. I wonder how lucrative it is but I guess at that price if they just sell one or two, it’s probably a good day. Paulette had told us not to balk at the prices, they were after all “an art form”! While they are quite nice, I guess I won’t be bringing any new sweetgrass “art” back to the coach any time soon!
One interesting fact I neglected to mention in our City Tour post is that many of the historic buildings in Charleston have earthquake bolts and rods. Did you know Charleston sits on a major fault? On August 31, 1886, Charleston was struck by one of the largest earthquakes (the epicenter was in Summerville about 25 miles from the city) ever recorded on the East Coast. The damage was extensive with hundreds of buildings in and around the city badly damaged or destroyed and lives lost.
Afterwards builders started to install earthquake bolts which were iron rods that run through walls and are anchored with a washer-type device, known as a gib plate, and a large iron nut. The plate is located outside against the brick and the rod passes thru the building and bolts to the timber frame of the interior, in essence fastening the masonry walls securely to the timber framing. The plates are visible on the outside of the building and while many are just plain round designs, others are decorative shapes such as crosses, stars, “S” shaped scrolls and lion heads.
Anyway, back to our walking tour, after leaving the market, we continued our stroll down the street, passing by the Custom House. According to Wikipedia, “construction began in 1853, but was interrupted in 1859 due to costs and the possibility of South Carolina’s secession from the Union. After the Civil War, construction was restarted in 1870 and completed in 1879. The building was placed on the National Register of Historical Places on October 9, 1974.” With it’s tall Corinthian columns, it is a pretty impressive building.
It had been a long time since breakfast so we were pretty hungry. Gary and Nancy had eaten at a restaurant called Magnolia’s and were quite pleased with their meal. Another couple we talked to at the campground suggested the Charleston Crab House and the Rooftop Grill at the Hotel Vendue. Hmmm, decisions, decisions!
But it ended up being an easy choice. As we walked down East Bay Street, Magnolia’s was the first place we came to – the menu looked interesting so we decided to have lunch there. A little more expensive than what we would normally spend for lunch but this is a tourist area after all so we didn’t think we would find anything less expensive unless it was a McDonalds (yuck)!
What a lovely place! Our waiter started us off with a basket of hot artisan bread served with herb butter. Then based on the recommendation of our waiter and the gentleman seated at the table next to us who was there on a combined business and pleasure trip, I ordered the Parmesan Crusted Flounder served with jasmine rice & creek shrimp pirloo (haven’t been able to figure out what that is but it sure tasted good), sweet corn, tomato & asparagus salad, lump crab and citrus beurre blanc. Absolutely delicious!
Rob had the Shellfish Over Grits which was sautéed shrimp, sea scallops & lobster over creamy white grits with a lobster butter sauce and topped with fried spinach. Doesn’t look particularly appealing in the photo but it also was excellent. And then how could we resist a piece of Southern pecan pie for dessert. I’m not a big fan of pecan pie – it’s usually way too sweet for my taste but this wasn’t. No supper for us tonight! Good thing we were leaving the next day otherwise I might want to go back there. Highly recommend it – wonderful ambiance, excellent service and delicious food!
After lunch, we continued walking (good thing – we needed the exercise after that yummy meal), passing by the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon. Apparently they have tours (which we didn’t take), but in researching I discovered that in addition to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Faneuil Hall in Boston, it is considered to be one of the three most historically significant Colonial buildings in the United States. In 1718, the Provost Dungeon was home to the pirate, Stede Bonnet, a collaborator with Blackbeard. Maybe next visit we’ll take the tour.
Continuing on, just for fun, Rob had to take a picture of the Normandy Farms Artisan Bakery (remember that’s the name of the campground we stay at in Foxboro).
A short distance from there, at the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets which we had seen on the tour, was Courthouse Square or the “Four Corners of Law” which is a term commonly used to refer to the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets. Paulette had explained to us that the name was coined in the 1930’s by Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! So named because, according to Wikipedia “on the southeast corner is St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (canon law) where the graves of John Rutledge and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, signers of the United States Constitution can be found. On the northeast corner is the Charleston City Hall (municipal law), constructed between 1800 and 1804. On the northwest corner, stands the Charleston County Courthouse (state law), originally constructed in 1753 as South Carolina’s provincial capital, the building was rebuilt in 1792 for use as a courthouse. On the southwest corner is the United States Post Office and Federal Courthouse (federal law), built in 1896. The term “Four Corners of Law” represents the presence of institutions representing federal, state, local and ecclesiastical law on each corner of the intersection.”
Paulette recited an interesting and somewhat humorous story about a painting of George Washington by artist John Trumball that is on display on the third floor of City Hall. We happened to be passing by so we decided to go in and see it for ourselves. After going through security at the entrance door, we made our way to the 3rd floor to the General Council Room and there it was!
After a visit by George Washington, the Charleston city fathers asked John Trumball to paint a picture of Washington but they didn’t want just a portrait of his face, they wanted him with his horse and the city of Charleston in the background. Trumball didn’t really know how to paint animals but he said he would do it anyway.
Four months later the 8 foot tall painting arrived by messenger (suspiciously, not accompanied by the artist), wrapped in paper and was revealed during a big celebration (no one looked at it first). Well, Washington looked great but apparently the horse was all out of proportion and looked terrible, plus there was no scene of Charleston. This caused quite a scandal and the painting was sent back by messenger with a note requesting that Trumball redo it.
Many months later the second painting arrived, again by messenger (uh oh!) and this time was just quietly presented to the city fathers. In the second painting, the horse was turned around with his hindquarters prominently displayed and looking as though he was about to answer the call of nature. And the Charleston skyline was painted between the horse’s thighs. Guess the city father’s weren’t too pleased with this painting either but they accepted it anyway.
There is a portrait of James Monroe hanging nearby as well. Even if you are not interested in the paintings, just seeing this beautiful room is well worth a visit!
After our visit to City Hall we continued walking back to the Visitors Center, passing by Aaron’s Deli and Hyman’s Seafood which is quite well known and has an interesting history. We’ll have to give it a try next time we visit Charleston.
Although it was just a little over a mile, the walk back seemed a lot longer. Although we needed the exercise after that piece of pecan pie, next time I think we would take advantage of the free trolley. By the time we arrived at the car, it was almost 3 p.m. – we were tired from the walk and our minds were exhausted from so many historical facts. It was definitely time to head back to the coach for what we thought would be a little relaxation.
Our day wasn’t over yet though! Stay tuned to learn about our activities after we got back!