South Of Broad Tour

The area at the tip of the Charleston Peninsula south of Broad Street is one of the finest residential showcases in the U.S. Here you’ll find a treasure chest collection of architecture spanning the range of American history.

A good place to begin your walking tour is at Washington Square. This small park offers a quiet respite in the busy downtown area, convenient to both Meeting and Broad Streets. If you proceed out of the park onto Broad Street and make a right, you will find yourself at the Four Corners of Law, with facilities representing federal, state, municipal and canon law.

 White Point Gardens

If you make a left on Meeting Street, crossing Broad Street and heading toward the harbor, you will find yourself on the main thoroughfare heading through the old historic residential district. Notice along this street fine homes, monumental public structures, as well as majestic churches, side-by-side, creating a grand parade of historic architecture. Just a walk down Meeting Street straight down to White Point Gardens illustrates the rich architectural history of the city.

However, if you turn to the left at St. Michael’s Alley, you’ll find yourself on one of the many small alleys that dissect the historic district. Follow the alley to Church Street and make a right.

 Church Street

Church Street is one of the prettiest residential streets in all of Charleston. While the Battery is lined with impressive, stately mansions, this quiet little tree-canopied street is lined with some more modest, yet beautiful homes, including some fine examples of the Charleston single-house. If you continue to the south along Church Street, you’ll find the Heyward-Washington House located at Number 87. This house is owned and opened for tours by the Charleston Museum. Built before the Revolution, it is a beautiful example of colonial Georgian architecture.

 Tradd Street

Once you come to Tradd Street, make a left and you will find yourself on perhaps the most picturesque avenue in the residential district. If you stand in the middle of Tradd Street, you will see to one end of the street the Cooper River, and the other the Ashley River. This is the only street on the peninsula from which you can see both rivers at the same time. Tradd Street offers some fine examples of row houses. Many of these blocks were saved from demolition in the early twentieth century by the efforts of Susan Pringle Frost, founder of the Preservation Society of Charleston. Tradd Street had a reputation as a low-income, and run-down urban slum before it was saved from further deterioration.

 East Bay Street

Once you come to the end of Tradd Street, you will find yourself on East Bay Street, which is lined with stately homes. Just to the left up East Bay you will find the colorful and historic Rainbow Row, however if you continue to the right down East Bay from Tradd, you will find yourself on the Battery with a breathtaking view of the Harbor.

Notice as you pass the homes on your right that there are many beautifully manicured private gardens, featuring water fountains and statuary. I suggest crossing over East Bay to the walk that runs alongside the seawall on the harbor. From here you will have excellent views of both the harbor and the homes of the Battery.

Stately homes line East Bay Street, keeping watch over Charleston Harbor. You can see how modern conveniences have altered some of these homes, such as at number 29, where you will find the Porcher-Simonds House. Notice that the piazzas on the east side of the house have been enclosed with tinted windows, no doubt air-conditioned now. However for many of the homes here along East Bay, time has changed them little. The Edmondston-Alston House (number 21), the pink Drayton family house (number 25), and others appear today little changed from their original construction .

 Battery Street

Once you come to the last home on the Battery, cross back over East Bay (East Battery here) to South Battery. To your left, you can catch a glimpse of White Point Gardens, which features canons and statues dating to the Civil War. This area was utilized to help defend the city from Union attack. Make the right onto South Meeting Street and you will see the Two Meeting Street Inn on the corner. This unique castle-like Victorian house is home to an original Tiffany glass window, and you can just make it out inside the first floor parlor, from the right angle. This home features some bold and notable architectural features. Locals call it the “Wedding Cake House.” Notice the chimney on the north side of the house, which is etched like the Arche di Triomphe.

 Calhoun Mansion

Further up Meeting Street on the right, you will find the Calhoun Mansion at Number 16. This is the largest residential home in the city, built by a rich merchant in the late nineteenth century. The impressive Italianate home is open for tours daily. Notice the thick rope molding around the doors and windows, which is also even set into the glass of the front door. Rope molding was a flourish afforded to the richest Charlestonians, and this architectural element was featured to display your wealth. Continuing along Meeting Street, take note of the handsome eighteenth century Georgian home located at number 34. The stately façade features a curiosity that is, to my knowledge, unique to Charleston. You will notice round iron fixtures on the front of the building between the second and third floor windows. These are not decorative elements: these once served a very functional use as earthquake bolts.

Four Corners Of The Law

As you walk up Meeting Street, notice the wealth of architectural detail and styles, appearing both in homes and, as you draw nearer to the Four Corners of law, in public buildings. To your left, at the corner of Price’s Alley, you will find the Nathaniel-Russell House at number 51, which is also open daily for tours. This is a grand and impressive Federal-style home, featuring a large garden. Just past the house, you will notice the First Scots Presbyterian Church, located at number 53 Meeting Street. This is the fifth oldest congregation in Charleston. The current building was constructed in the early nineteenth century. Notice its beautiful symmetrical towers and columned portico.

To your right, take note of the beautiful architecture of the modified single-house at number 68. If you venture just down Ropemaker’s Lane a few steps, you will get a nice view of the layout of the dependencies that were part of a historic Charleston home. These separate buildings, which would have served as kitchens and servants’ quarters in the past, have been connected to the main house today. Just past the house, at number 72 Meeting Street, you will find the South Carolina Society Hall, another of the impressive public buildings along South Meeting, which features a bold portico that extends out into the street and striking symmetrical staircases.

If you continue up Meeting Street you will find yourself again at the Four Corners of Law and Washington Square, the starting point of your walk.

 Points Of Interest

Look for these along your tour

Urban Alleyways

Many alleys lead down ancient paths that predate the invention of the automobile. These are public property and you may explore them. The best way to determine if an alleyway is open for you to explore is to look for a street sign. Also, check to see if there are any private gates that lock off parts of the pathway. Some examples are Stoll’s Alley, Zigzag Alley, Ropemaker’s Lane, Price’s Alley and Longitude Lane. There are many such alleys to explore South of Broad.

Private Gardens

On the peninsula, land is such a valuable commodity because of the large concentration of homes that every square inch of it is used creatively. Notice as you walk along the streets south of Broad that you will catch many glances of small courtyards and gardens in the small alleyways and paths that lie between homes. Driveways lead past piazzas on single houses and you will see glimpses of the immaculately manicured lawns and gardens to the rear of the properties.

Earthquake Bolts

In 1886, Charleston was hit by a severe earthquake which was estimated to have had a magnitude of 7.3 on today’s Richter scale. This is the most significant earthquake ever to have occurred in the southeastern U.S. The quake left many of the city’s buildings in ruins, and caused significant damage to the majority of structures. Since the city did not have enough money to rebuild everything, buildings were stabilized by running iron bars from one end of the structure to the other, with iron bolts fixing them in place to the façade of the structure. These are visible throughout the district.

Charleston Single-House

Throughout the city, you will notice examples of the Charleston single-house architectural style. This takes advantage of cool breezes blowing in over the harbor. Houses are designed only one room wide, so that all rooms in the house can take advantage of the sea breeze. Wide porticoes and piazzas are built on the side of the house facing the prevailing winds. For example, along the Battery piazzas were built primarily on the south side of the house in order to catch the breezes blowing up the Cooper River from the harbor.

French Quarter

Part One

 Market Hall

The French Quarter is roughly bordered by Market Street to the north, Broad Street to the south, Meeting Street to the west and the Cooper River to the east. Most of the area designated the French Quarter is located within the area that composed the original colonial walled city. The original walled city extended from present day Cumberland Street south to Water Street, bordered by Meeting and East Bay Streets. Throughout the area, you will find that there are remnants of the old city walls. For example, the Powder Magazine was one of the original fortified structures along the wall, and you can also see a portion of the wall if you tour the dungeon of the Old Exchange building. These structures date back to the pre-Revolutionary era.

Located at the corner of Meeting and Market Street, the Market Hall is a good place to start your walk. This great Greek Revival building has an arcaded lower level which is home to market stalls, and has a museum on the upper level. As you depart from Market Hall, head to the south along Meeting Street.

If you walk just beyond the intersection of Cumberland and Meeting Streets, take note of the Circular Congregational Church to your left. It is a striking Romanesque structure, featuring a red brick exterior with deep, dark windows. The cemetery is usually open for exploration.

Cumberland & Meeting

If you walk just beyond the intersection of Cumberland and Meeting Streets, take note of the Circular Congregational Church to your left. It is a striking Romanesque structure, featuring a red brick exterior with deep, dark windows. The cemetery is usually open for exploration.

However, take the turn onto Cumberland Street heading east. On your right down Cumberland Street you will find the Powder Magazine, which is now operated as a museum and is open daily for tours. Notice the simple, yet unique exterior architecture and tiled roof of this early colonial structure. It is the oldest surviving structure in Charleston.

 Cumberland & Church

At the intersection with Church Street, make the right and you will find yourself at one of the most photographed spots in the city. In front of you is the imposing steeple of the St. Philips Episcopal Church. St. Philips is home of the oldest congregation in the state of South Carolina. Notice the stepped, octagonal tiers that compose the steeple. Some of these tiers are richly adorned with columned friezes. Notice that the Church foundation is in the middle of Church Street, which curves around the steeple. Locals have told us that the church was built this way so that even if you were not a believer, when you rode your carriage down Church Street you had to acknowledge the presence of God. Notice the picturesque cemetery both on the grounds of and across Church Street from the church.

 Church & Queen

Walk past St. Philips Church down Church Street to the intersection with Queen Street and you will have an excellent view of the French Huguenot Church. Today, it is the only such congregation in the U.S. Notice the striking Gothic Revival spires and buttresses. This is another popular spot for photographs.

 Dock Street Theater

Just across Church Street from the Huguenot Church, to your right, you will see the historic Dock Street Theatre. This building is billed as America’s first theatre. It has had many uses in its history, including a hotel, but is a theater once again today, home to the Charleston Stage Theater Company.  It is home to major performances, as well as a small public art museum.

Queen Street

Art Gallery District

Make the right onto Queen Street from Church (walking to the west back toward Meeting Street) and you will have an idea of what residential life in the old walled city must have been like. Queen Street is lined with eighteenth and nineteenth century tenement and row houses that today serve as private residences and as art galleries and businesses. This area is in the heart of the art gallery district.

 Meeting Street

Once you reach Meeting Street, make a turn to your left. Follow Meeting Street down one block to the corner of Chalmers Street. On your left you will find the Historic Charleston Foundation Store. The store has a small, but enlightening exhibit on preservation efforts in the city, as well as some interesting items for purchase in their shop. Just across Meeting Street from this intersection you will see the impressive Greek Revival-style Hibernian Hall. The hall was originally built for, and continues to be the social hall for, the Irish benevolent society.

 Chalmers Street

Making the left onto Chalmers Street, you will see the rear of the Fireproof Building, another beautiful and monumental Greek Revival-style structure. At the time of its construction, it was the first building in the city that was built to be fireproof. Today, it holds the library and archives of the South Carolina Historical Society. The entrance is inside Washington Park.
Finding yourself on Chalmers Street, you will see stretched before you perhaps the most lovely and historic site that Charleston has to offer. Chalmers Street is one of the few remaining original cobblestone streets in the city. Along Chalmers Street, hardly anything has changed for a century or more. This is yet another prime spot for photographs. Just imagine the traffic of horse-drawn carriages that have trodden up and down this street in Charleston’s over three century history on the peninsula. Located at number 29 Meeting Street, you will find the meeting house of the German Friendly Society, another one of Charleston’s benevolent organizations.

From this intersection, you may either continue on ahead to part two of the French Quarter walk, or you may make a left back up Church Street past the steeple of St. Philips Church to our starting point.

Points Of Interest

Cemeteries

Charleston is often referred to as “The Holy City” in reference to its large concentration of houses of worship. Throughout the Historic District of Charleston, especially in the French Quarter, you will find many large and ancient church cemeteries, many of which are resting places of famous historical figures from both U.S. and Carolina history. Walk among the tombstones of these grave sites and you will see names of ancestral Charleston families. There is also usually something in bloom to make this a striking setting.

Art Galleries

There may be as many as a hundred art galleries in the city of Charleston (I don’t know for sure), but walking down these blocks of Queen Street, Chalmers Street, State Street and Church Street you will find the highest concentration of art galleries in the city. There are plenty of galleries with great displays offering opportunities to window-shop, or perhaps if your purse strings are a little loose, there are some great Lowcountry scenes captured by talented artists in a variety of mediums available for purchase. A great way to check out these works, as well as meet some of the artists, is to join other patrons at the Art Walks hosted by the French Quarter Gallery Association. Walks are held on the first Friday of March, May, October and December each year and are free and open to the public.

Benevolent Societies

Benevolent societies were organized throughout Charleston in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as social and community support organizations for immigrants and Charlestonians who were of certain ancestry. You can think of them almost like a fraternal organization such as the Masons. Membership is by invitation only, and we have been told by locals that the only way for someone to get in is for another member to die. Members have deep Charleston roots.

Cobblestones

The rocks and brick that you will find in many Charleston buildings were not native to the peninsula. The peninsula is a sandy, marshy land and no stones are native to this environment. As you walk through the Historic District, you are walking on streets that have a foundation simply of sand, bone and seashell. Most of the cobblestone that was used in streets in the colonial period, such as you see today on Chalmers Street, actually came from foreign shores. We have learned from locals that the cobblestone used in Chalmers Street, for example, was actually the discarded ballast used on foreign ships that came to the walled city for trade.

The French Quarter

Part Two

 Church & Chalmers

The complete distance of the French Quarter walking tours is just under 1 and a half miles.  A complete circuit of Part II is a distance of 1 mile.

From the corner intersection of Chalmers Street and Church Street, proceed to the east along Chalmers Street toward the harbor. You are now in one of the most historic locations in America. Cobblestone street and gas lantern are the norm on this beautiful avenue, as they have been for centuries.

Proceeding down Chalmers Street, take note of the historic structures and architecture. There are beautiful private homes and shops along this street today. To your right at number 17, take note of the Pink House Gallery. This early colonial structure is one of the oldest surviving structures in Charleston, dating from the early eighteenth century.  Originally constructed as a tavern, today it is home to a pleasant little art gallery that offers Charleston prints from some talented artists. You can explore the building to the top floor, as well as view the back garden. The prints are very reasonably priced.

 German Fire Hall & Old Slave Mart

Opposite and just down Chalmers Street from the Pink House you will see the old German Fire Hall and the Old Slave Mart. The German Fire Hall is an impressive hybrid of architectural styles. It was home to the German volunteer fire brigade in the early nineteenth century. Its neighbor is the Old Slave Mart, which has recently been renovated by the city in order to house a museum of early African-American life. Notice how dark and imposing these two structures are compared to the lively and quaint styles featured in other building along Chalmers

Chalmers & State Street

At the end of Chalmers Street, take the right down State Street. This street is lined with many small art galleries.

At the end of State Street you will find yourself on Broad Street, near the middle of the old walled city. Broad Street was, and still remains one of, the city’s main commercial thoroughfares. Today, as it would have been in centuries past, it is lined with merchants and banks. It is one of the broadest thoroughfares in the Historic District, hence its name Broad Street: it was constructed to be wide enough to allow passage for the many carriages that would have been marching along this busy commercial district.

The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon

Turn to your left down Broad Street and you will see yet another of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings. The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, located at the end of the street, is one of America’s most historic Revolutionary-era buildings. Today, it is open daily for tours. Its symmetrical and stately Georgian architecture makes a grand image at the end of the wide avenue

East Bay & Broad Street

Make a left on East Bay when you come to the end of Broad Street. From this intersection, you have a great photographic perspective of the Exchange. Walk up East Bay Street away from the Exchange building and you’ll find one of the city’s busiest modern nightlife scenes. East Bay is packed with bars and restaurants that stay busy late into the night. On your left at number 141, take note of the elaborate Moorish-style architecture of the old Farmers and Exchange Bank. Take note of the beautiful brownstone exterior, and the extravagant cut-glass windows. Just up the street at number 161, you will find the South End Brewery, a very popular bar that is supposedly haunted.

You are now at the intersection of East Bay and Queen Street. Cross East Bay Street to the right, where Queen Street becomes Vendue Range. This block is home to several bars, gift shops and tourist information agencies. The area is very busy in the late evening and night.

 Water Front Park

Walk to the end of Vendue Range and you will find the Charleston Waterfront Park. Waterfront Park is an ideal place to relax for a few minutes as you explore the Historic District. It offers shaded bench seating, excellent views of the harbor, and swings on the pier that extends out into the harbor. The swings are a great place to sit back and relax your feet while you feel the harbor breezes.

Vendue & Concord Street

At the end of Vendue, follow the curve in the street in front of Waterfront Park and walk down Concord Street to the U.S. Custom House. This majestic Corinthian public building overlooks the Charleston harbor like a guard on constant watch. It may remind you of the grand national buildings that you can see in the nation’s capitol.

 Market & Concord Street

At the intersection of Market Street and Concord, make a left past the Custom House and you will find yourself on Market Street. This stretch of Market Street, all the way to Meeting Street, is home to the city’s historic public market, which still operates today, providing vendors a space to display local arts, crafts, and foods. The sides of North and South Market Street are lined with various gift shops, tourist information sites, and restaurants. Several carriage and walking tours depart from this area.

From Market Street, you may either turn to your left down Church Street, walking past St. Philip’s to the starting point of part two of the walk, or you may walk straight down Market Street to Market Hall where you will find your departure point from the first half of the French Quarter walk.

Walking Tour Credits to www.explorecharleston.net