Friday, October 21, 2011

Charleston-Day Two

We only had but two days in Charleston and not two full days at that.
As usual on our whirlwind trips, we made the most of it.
Leaving our bags at the check out desk at the hotel Sunday morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at a very simple restaurant around the corner then we bought tickets for a mule drawn carriage tour of the city.
The carriage company was VERY communicative about how well their horses and mules were kept; a sign compared working standards and benefits for human employees verses the animals.

If one was smart, one would make sure they were hired on as a mule instead of a human.

And then the City of Charleston had very stringent rules about how many carriages could be on the city streets at any time.
The carriage driver had to pull up to a small building where the woman pictured above would record the number of carriage passengers on each tour for taxation purposes, and the route the carriage driver would be taking was determined via a ping pong ball lottery.
The whole process was as complex as the woman's hairstyle!

On the road at last...or at least this is what a similar carriage tour looked like.
We passed the round church that was built like a three leaf was named the Circular Congregational Church.

Here we are reflected in a window with me shooting a picture...

I got quite a kick out of seeing American flags flying with varying numbers of stars in the field of blue.
Whatever the date was that a house was built became the guideline for what flag style was flown.
If I had a better grasp of flag history and faster counting skills I could have known in what year many of the houses were built.
The tour guide really caught my attention when she shared about how Charleston was used for the location of the Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot".
Since so many of the city's houses were built during the same era that the movie portrayed, the production company just came into town, bought filming rights to various streets, then stripped the streets of any modern details (lamp posts, parking meters, telephone wires...) then back filled the street pavements with dirt and instantly the scene became authentic in every way.
The only "modern" detail that had to remain by law was the fire hydrants.
That was an easy fix.  Hoop skirted women stood over the hydrants to hide them when necessary, or they were covered with barrels or straw bales.
Isn't this a gorgeous front entryway?
In the 1800's a woman's ankles were NEVER to be seen.  To prevent a man inadvertently catching a glimpse of that delicate body part, women used one stairway to the front door and the men used another.

Keep in mind that Charleston is in the very warm women compensated for covering up their legs and arms by dropping their bodice levels down to what would be today considered scandalous levels. 

Even back then, according to our tour guide, men would still race to the top of the stairs in order to offer their hand to the ladies assending the staircases, with quite a rewarding view provided by the lovely lady lifting her hand.
Climbing steps in a hoop skirt was something that was taught in girls finishing schools.
Mid 1800's fear of slave uprising gave birth to this kind of iron work...sort of like barbed wire only much stronger and prettier.

A beautiful front door....
Beautiful windows seen through barely dappled autumn leaved crepe myrtle.

Boxwood garden features were pretty common.  I really like how they look and think they must look especially nice to look down on from balconies above.

Curved glass in an oriole window...I suspect if they were to be broken it would be quite expensive and difficult to replace.

How fun it must be for the home's owner to sit in the window drinking tea and watching what is going on down on the street below.

The guide said this double circular balcony originally belonged to a girls finishing school.  The girls had to learn how to glide on to the porch and glide back inside without their hoop skirts lifting at any time.

The basement of the building housed a school for wayward boys. 

Interesting combination of building usages. 

Have to wonder if the girls were good influence on the boys or were the boys bad influences on the the girls? 
Somewhere there must be a diary or two with some pretty interesting entries about clastine meetings...

This photo was taken around 11 am on a Sunday morning.  Check out the smocking on the little boys suit.  

The Gullah people that live in the area still practice basket weaving skills that are found in Africa.  The slaves used the weaving techniques and passed them down to their children.  The skills are used to create baskets that sell for a good price now and probably has sent more than one Gullah child to college over the years.

Nice autumn street is warm enough for shorts, but a colorful long dress works well too.

After the tour we stopped for coffee...I noted the lace and cowboy boots outfit on one customer.
Surprisingly to me, a lot of the local girls sported cowboy boots.

We meandered about windows shopping.
Don't you love the triple reflection: Me in the  window glass and the entire building behind me reflected in the glass cloche?

Many of the shops were closed, it being Sunday and all, but the shop with all the hats in the window was open.
Such a cute sinamay straw hat and dupioni silk trim!
Love the use of dotted veiling.

An entire shop was devoted to honey.

The honey shop's light fixtures were made from bee keeper bonnets and bee hive frames.
Taste testing honey was fun.
I did  mention how much I like bow ties didn't I?

Purple, ponchos and animal skin prints are big fashion items this fall.
This outfit kills three birds with one stone.

I always enjoy seeing vintage jewelry.
Can't quite figure out where I would wear such a piece, but it sure is pretty to look at.

Anyone know the name of this interesting flower?  I like the fuzzy pom pom center combined with the simple yellow petals.

I would love to be a member...where do I sign?

Dabs of fall color mixed with a touch of Spanish moss.
So romantic....

Ignore the lady taking the photo...Check out the shape of those lamp shades!
I'm guessing this is the Episcopal church based on the English styling.
Charleston, established in 1670.  A fact noted on the storm and sewer drains just in case you forget...

I would SO be willing to paint a house that coral and cream with black and grey accents...why do so few people do so?

So many houses sported their pedigrees.
I like that.
I suppose it would be presumptuous to place such a item on a house that is but 57 years old like mine though.

Can't go wrong with black shutters and lively window boxes if one wants to make one's old building look fantastic.

More is more when it comes to window boxes in my opinion.

Our tour guild explained that a long ago earthquake caused the church town to lean by 6 degrees. 
Once she pointed that fact out it became really obvious to me.

Spanish moss...autumn leaves...bliss!

We knew we would only have time to tour one house so we choose one with a koi pond.

The gardens surrounding the home...
which had multiple fountains had us facinated even before we were able to enter the home.
While we waited in the gift shop the sales clerk pointed out that the magnolias were in bloom out of season.  This was the first week in October and yes, we saw magnolias blooming all through the area.

Quite odd according to the clerk.
Facinating details were to be seen everywhere in the small garden.

The original owner of the house we were to tour was a very wealthy merchant and he build mansions all along his street for his children to live in after they married.

 Pictured above:  One such mansion.

The wife of the owner of this home with a very large balcony was unable to have children so she routinely indulged local orphans with ice cream socials and other events on her balcony.
Her husband indulged her by widening the balconies so more and more orphans could be invited. sweet is that?

The front porch of the mansion we were to tour.  The lead glass doors were amazing.

Porch celing...note the gorgeous wood work!

Haint blue ceiling of course!

The home's original owner was fascinated with rope motifs. Ropes were a symbol of ships and merchants involved with shipping and the bigger the rope the more wealth was suggested.

The history of the building was incredible. 

When the merchant's daughter was to marry, she awoke to find a check for something like $75,000 on her pillow from her daddy (back in the early 1800's) and a letter wishing her every happiness while she would go on her two year honeymoon in Europe.  When she returned, her daddy had built her a mansion a few doors down from his house.

Must have been nice....

Eventually the family's fortunes were lost during the Great Depression and so was ownership of the mansion we were to tour.  The house eventually became the property of the US Navy and given five coats of navy gray paint inside and out.

Eyes crossing at the thought...

The current owner is a Washington DC attorney who restored it to perfection and filled the inside to the brim with amazing antiques.  When our guide opened the front door our jaws just dropped.
No pictures allowed inside sadly...
I could have spent hours peppering our guide with questions about everything.
The home is lived in by the owner.
The family resides on the top floor and their guests use the side stair cases to go in and out during the day when tours are given.
Tours occur 365 days a year...
At the end of each touring day, the velvet ropes are tucked away and the family uses all the rooms...entertaining family and friends regularly.
I have to commend the owner for allowing the public to see all the fabulous antiques and may I just say if they ever need another person to fill up the dining table at one of their parties I would be available.


The front of mansion with Bernie....

In case you ever go to Charleston....the mansion we toured is called the Calhoun Mansion.
If you are afraid you will never get to Charleston to take the tour, the next best thing is to visit it (including inside!) via the slide show on the Calhoun Mansion website.

Another wealthy father built his three daughters homes.  The story goes that the girls were not quite attractive.  A story is told about each daughter's appearance and how the architectural design mimics their facial features and coloring.  Recently one of the houses was purchased and the new owners were contemplating paint their new residence a new color. 

Charleston told them that the colors had to stay as they were in keeping with the guide's gossipy story.

A gate that looks a delicate as fine lace...

Bernie was such a good sport to pack my camera bag around as we meandered the city.

Neither of us can remember what this bench is used for...we should know this...we have seen such a bench in several historic southern locations.
Awww...a heart!

This isn't actually leaning...

Another view of the girl's finishing school balcony.

 Love the tiled Mansard roof

It did start to rain a bit.

A bit more window shopping...
Wouldn't using this set of china make for a fun children's party?
Oh heck, fun for any age party.
I dibbs the yellow bird plate!

Fun the coral reds...especially as a side feature in the dress.
Bet it would make you look thinner.

We were getting hungry for lunch and without a moment of hesitation headed back to 82 Queen where we had had dinner the night before.
These two guys were walking just ahead of us for a couple of blocks; we whispered to each other our curiousity about where they were headed so dressed and carrying construction tools of hammers, levels and tape measures.
They disappeared into a building before we got up the nerve to ask them.
Are these chairs not the best?  Everyone seated in them look like they have sprouted fairy or butterfly wings.
I did try the chairs to see if they were comfortable.
They were!
The history of 82 Queen Restaurant.  Be sure to visit their website!  There are recipes!

I had a Charleston Breeze again.
This time they mixed it a lot stronger.
A whole lot stronger in fact.
Bernie had the Ultimate Bloody Mary.
Oh it really was!

As much as I wanted to try the Chicken and Waffles, Bernie went for the Low Country Crab Benedict; I went for the Charleston Benedict.

The lunch menu looked pretty awesome too...
Bloody Mary swizzle stick. The pickled okra was delicious when pulled off the hand tied stick.
Southern biscuits are all that they say they are.
Sorry everyone isn't the recipe that makes it happen, it is the fact that southern biscuits are made with a soft wheat instead of the the northern raised hard winter wheat.

This repast we took in the garden.
Bernie really liked that Bloody Mary...
We were watched and sung to by cute little birds who knew where to find fine food.

They showed up right after the waiter took our order and seemed to know that was the sign that good food was on the way.

And was is ever!
Cheesy grits, and shrimp cake in chived Hollandaise sauce.
Oh yum!
I could lick the screen right now!
We had finished breakfast when the rain picked up and chased us inside for our dessert.
Check out the bar treat on the menu: Fresh Pork Rines served daily.
I was so sad that we wouldn't be around to get a taste of them at 4pm.
But...the peach praline cobbler quickly made up for it.
Bernie and I both kept going "Oh my gosh...oh my gosh..."
So good and the recipe is on the restaurant's website!

Leaving the restaurant we headed back to the hotel to get our car and bags, stopping to admire small bits of scenery.


The hotel's rose was still in bud and I thought its lovely blush was a perfect emblem of Charleston's charms.
We drove by the seaside walkway, and got out to check out the choppy storm driven waves.  A storm was heading to the area up from Florida; if this is how a small storm affected the coast I can't imagine what it must look like during a hurricane.

Huge mansions were just across the street from the sea wall.
Lots of them were for sale.
Was it the current poor economy driving the sell off or had facing down hurricanes gotten the best of the owners?

Facing the water further on was the Battery Park (which is not how they say it in Charleston but I can't recall how to say it properly).
I know the cannon was real; I just can't imagine it being used in real life.
It must have been really something awful to see in use.

We drove away from Charleston in a steady rain, heading back to Greenville where the next day was to bring many changes to my world.
Were you wondering like I did about what was with the oddly placed moon on the South Carolina flag?

Answer:  It isn't a moon but more likely a gorget, the mark symbolizing a second son on a family crest.

Here's the story of the flag design:

The palmetto tree represents the palmetto logs used to construct the fort on Sullivan's Island. These logs are soft, so the cannonballs that the British fleet fired on the fort did not shatter them.

The top left corner bears a crescent shape. The symbolism of this has long been a matter of controversy - suggestions have included a crescent moon and a gorget,  a throat proctective piece of metal or leather in armor.

As for the crescent, it is known to have been worn on the caps of South Carolina's revolutionary soldiers, and it is likely according to many experts that it is a gorget, not a moon as is commonly thought.

However, its significance is based more on legend than on documented facts. One hypothesis is that it stems from the crescent as the cadence mark of a second son. It is true that many of the early colonists were second (and third, etc.) sons who had no inheritance in England and came to America to find their fortunes.

Their coats of arms would have crescents to distinguish themselves from the first sons; and thus, perhaps the crescent was adopted as a symbol for the colony.

It is fun to look HERE to see what cadence mark you would have had if your family had had a crest!

To be continued...