Inger and Jeff Latreille
Full of Charm
~Thursday, March 11, 2021~
What? Charleston, South Carolina, the oldest city in the U.S. is also known as a “holy city”? Have never heard it described quite like that. After a must-do carriage ride excursion through the historical section of Charleston, we came to learn a great deal about this charming city. Charleston, once known as Charles Town, was founded in 1670 by King Charles II and declared the capital city of Carolina, known for its tolerance for all religions and numerous historic churches. By a recommendation of an Instagram friend, we went with their suggestion of using Palmetto Carriage Tours in downtown Charleston, to help us further understand how this amazing city came to be.
Little did we know there were 4 other carriage tours to choose from, all within a block of each other. Parking was a breeze with it being included in the 1-hour tour. The draft horses used in this tour outfit are some of the strongest breeds called Percheron. There are over 40 horses and mules at the downtown barn, and on occasion, are brought to their farm on John’s Island for rest and leisure. The reason we chose this outfit was due to their impeccable care record for their animals.
Once we were loaded and cleared for departure, the tour guide, like all tour companies, must check in with city park officials at a gate prior to departure. For tax reasons and traffic flow, the city is in charge of randomly doling out one of four routes that each carriage will receive through the historic district of Charleston. This is determined by a spin of a bingo ball machine. The color that comes up determines the route or “zone” that particular carriage is allowed to tour. Our tour guide had a great sense of humor, allowing for a fun, informative history lesson. Very knowledgeable and open to questions too. What an experience as we rode about 30 blocks of the downtown district with the many multi-million dollar renovated homes (one of the homes just sold for a record 10 million dollars on about 2 acres-location, location, location), gardens, mansions, churches and parks. One of the impressions that will stay with me are those welcoming, dancing copper lanterns that enhance the already welcoming statement of the homes. Most of them burn 24/7 using very little energy. A light bulb uses more. Anyone with gas to their home can have these dancing flamed lanterns added at a very low cost. The expensive part is the lantern itself...anywhere from $400 to $1,000 a pop. Would love to incorporate these into our next home. Love, love, love them!
Another aspect of the homes we learned is how they got their name….”Single Houses”. They were typically built a single room depth, oriented with the short access toward the street (not the front entrance to the street).
This was well-suited to the long, narrow lot layout on the small peninsula that Charleston is. It is thought too, that the air flow is better with the homes oriented in this fashion. Many are built of brick, wood or stucco with some recently retrofitted for earthquake safety, clearly visible by steel medallions on the exterior that hold steel bars in place. Didn’t know South Carolina was known also for its earthquakes. Such fascinating history and of course sad to have our tour come to an end. Now to see the rest on foot.
We also had time to check out another recommended section…..The Historic Charleston City Market. This sprawling 4-block retail venue, has been in operation since 1807, open nearly 365 days a year where vendors set up shop, daily, with their handmade/homemade goods such as sweetgrass baskets (used for winnowing rice on plantations years ago), handbags, wallets, linens, salsas, jams, coffee, etc. Everything sold at the market is 100% certified local. Each vendor (honoree) receives a ceramic tile with the City Market seal to display in their booth, alerting shoppers that they sell certified local products. The goal is to recognize and support local artisans and bring awareness to their unique craft.
Right around the corner from our carriage ride, we spotted a happening restaurant/bar called Henry’s on the Market. Henry’s is the oldest, continuous bar in downtown Charleston and in South Carolina, complete with live music, rooftop bar (where we ended up), beautiful southern porch and dance lounge. Once you’re in, you don’t want to leave. It may not be the best place for food (we didn’t try) or drink in Charleston, but it’s full of character and fun.
But, we weren’t done yet. Jeff cannot make up his mind as there are hundreds of breweries in Charleston that get 4.7 stars out of 5. So we stopped by one of them…..Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. on the outskirts of Charleston.