Our Multigenerational Vacation 2014: Charleston and The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, S.C. Part II: Touring Charleston, S.C. with Children

Touring Charleston, S.C. with ChildrenCharleston, S.C. has it all – history, beauty, and great food.  The trick for this Grandma was to bring Charleston down to the level of a seven and ten year old and do a special walking and driving tour that interested them as well as the adults.

This Grandma did her research on the web and came up with a thirty three minute walking tour that takes in all of the major Charleston sites, with a stop for lunch.  The history mostly comes from the official websites of the official Charleston website and each Charleston attraction.

The parents of the grandchildren read the history (in italics on the itinerary below) to the children before we went.  On Amazon, I purchased a children’s book and map of Charleston so they could see the peninsula and follow along the route. 

 The “official” children’s book is Joseph’s Charleston Adventure, sold everywhere in the city.  It tours a child through Charleston and its history.

We chose not to go into any of the museums, other than the oldest reform synagogue in the world which had a free tour, with the children.  I had researched and found that most museums and house tours would not interest the children the ages we had.

 Here is the itinerary we followed in Charleston, before going on to the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island.  The descriptions and history is in italics.

Drive 16 minutes from Airport.


The city of Charleston was founded in 1670.    By the early 1800s, Charleston became the fourth largest city and the wealthiest city in the country. The Historic District In 1860, according to one Charlestonian, “South Carolina seceded from the Union, Charleston seceded from South Carolina, and south of Broad Street seceded from Charleston.” The city preserves its early years at its southernmost point: the conjunction of the Cooper and Ashley rivers. White Point Gardens, right in the elbow of the two rivers, provide a sort of gateway into this area, where virtually every home is of historic or architectural interest. Between Broad Street and Murray Boulevard (which runs along the south waterfront), you’ll find such sightseeing highlights as St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, the Edmondston-Alston House, the Heyward-Washington House, Catfish Row, and the Nathaniel Russell House.

Downtown Extending north from Broad Street to Marion Square at the intersection of Calhoun and Meeting streets, this area encloses noteworthy points of interest, good shopping, and a gaggle of historic churches. Just a few of its highlights are the Old City Market, the Dock Street Theatre, Market Hall, the Old Powder Magazine, the Thomas Elfe Workshop, Congregation Beth Elohim, the French Huguenot Church, and St. John’s Church.

Park corner of Hasell St. And Meeting St. (Charleston Square mall)  Walk to AM TOUR OF

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston is the birthplace of Reform Judaism in America in 1824 and the oldest surviving Reform congregation in the world. Its members have been eminent leaders in the city, state and nation. The present beautiful Greek Revival temple at 90 Hasell Street (pronounced Hazel) was built in 1840, after an earlier fire destroyed the original structure. The congregation began as a Sephardi group in 1749. George Washington wrote, “May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me rest upon your Congregation…” Guided tours of the synagogue and museum 10am-12pm Monday-Friday and 1:30pm-3:30 Monday-Thursday. Services Friday 8:00pm. Saturday 10:00am.

Walk from Hassell Street to Meeting Street to Market Street. 

188 Meeting Street.  Old Market Hall.  The City Market, or Centre Market, is a historic market complex in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Established in the 1790s, the market stretches for four city blocks from the architecturally-significant Market Hall, which faces Meeting Street, through a continuous series of one-story market sheds, the last of which terminates at East Bay Street. The Market Hall has been described as a building of the “highest architectural design quality.”[1] The entire complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Market Hall and Sheds and was further designated a National Historic Landmark. Initially known as the Centre Market, Charleston’s City Market was developed as a replacement for the city’s Beef Market building (on the site of Charleston’s City Hall, 100 Broad Street), which burned in 1796. Market Hall, designed by Charleston architect Edward B. White, was added in the early 1840s. Throughout the 19th century, the market provided a convenient place for area farms and plantations to sell beef and produce, and also acted as a place for locals to gather and socialize. Today, the City Market’s vendors sell souvenirs and other items ranging from jewelry to Gullah sweetgrass baskets. Market Hall stands facing Meeting Street as the main entrance to four blocks of open-air buildings. Strolling through the Market you will encounter a wide assortment of vendors selling high quality products including paintings, pottery, Charleston’s famous sweetgrass baskets, casual and fine dining & more!

Walk through entire Old Market straight through to E. Bay Street and turn right

MAGNOLIA’S FOR LUNCH 185 E. Bay StreetMagnolias opened in 1990, igniting a culinary renaissance in CharlestonS.C. Today, Magnolias continues as one of Charlestons most renowned restaurants.

After lunch, begin @ 30 minute walking tour of Charleston:

  1. A.   Walk down E. Bay Street (look at old homes) to Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. 122 East Bay Street. Exchange Building—see remnants of old city wall. Built by the British in 1771, American Patriots were held prisoner in the Provost during the War of Americas’ Independence. Pirates held there.  Customarily in Charleston, before the Civil War, slaves were sold on the north side of the Exchange Building (then the Custom House). An 1856 city ordinance prohibited this practice of public sales, resulting in a number of sales rooms, yards, or marts along Chalmers, State and Queen Streets. (Old Slave Mart on Chalmers later) One of the three most historically significant buildings of colonial America. Educational tours/evening events. Adults $8; 7-12 $4; 6 and under free. 
  2. B.     Rainbow Row.  83-107 E. Bay Street. Rainbow Row is the name for a series of thirteen colorful historic houses in Charleston, South Carolina. The houses are located north of Tradd St. and south of Elliot. The buildings along Rainbow Row originally fronted directly on the riverfront of the Cooper River, but that land was subsequently filled in. Merchants constructed commercial buildings with stores on the first floor and living quarters above. In 1778, a fire destroyed much of the neighborhood, and only 95 to 101 East Bay Street was spared. After the Civil War, this area of Charleston devolved into near slum conditions. In the 1920, Susan Pringle Frost, the founder of the Preservation Society of Charleston, bought six of the buildings, but she lacked the money to restore them immediately. In 1931, Dorothy Haskell Porcher Legge purchased a section of these houses numbering 99 through 101 East Bay and began to renovate them. She chose to paint these houses pink based on a colonial Caribbean color scheme. Other owners and future owners followed suit, creating the “rainbow” of pastel colors present today. The coloring of the houses helped keep the houses cool inside as well as give the area its name. By 1945, most of the houses had been restored. Common myths concerning Charleston include variants on the reasons for the paint colors. According to some tales, the houses were painted in the various colors such that the intoxicated sailors coming in from port could remember which houses they were to bunk in. In other versions, the colors of the buildings date from their use as stores; the colors were used so that owners could tell illiterate slaves which building to go to for shopping.

Turn right on Tradd Street.  Turn right on Church Street.

Heading past Broad Street toward the harbor, visitors will see streets lined with fine homes and old churches. Examples of the Charleston  “single-house” style can be found on Church Street, where the Heyward-Washington House and Museum (charlestonmuseum.org) is open to the public.

C.  Hayward-Washington House. 87 Church Street.  Charleston’s Revolutionary War House – Built in 1772, this Georgian-style double house was the town home of Thomas Heyward, Jr., one of four South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence. A patriot leader and artillery officer with the South Carolina militia during the American Revolution, Heyward was captured when the British took Charleston in 1780. He was exiled to St. Augustine, Florida, but was exchanged in 1781. The City rented this house for George Washington’s use during the President’s week-long Charleston stay, in May 1791, and it has traditionally been called the “Heyward-Washington House.” Heyward sold the house in 1794 to John F. Grimke, also a Revolutionary War officer and father of Sarah and Angeline Grimke, the famous abolitionists and suffragettes. It was acquired by the Museum in 1929, opened the following year as Charleston’s first historic house museum, and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1978. Here you will see a superb collection of historic Charleston-made furniture including the priceless Holmes Bookcase, considered one of the finest examples of American-made colonial furniture. The property also features the only 1740s kitchen building open to the public in Charleston as well as formal gardens featuring plants commonly used in the South Carolina Lowcountry in the late 18th century.

Go north on Church Street toward Elliott St.

89-91 Church Street.  Catfish Row and GEORGE GERSHWIN. Private homes and specialty shops now line the area.   A three-story house at 89-91 Church Street in Charleston was the model for Catfish Row (originally Cabbage Row), the centerpiece of Porgy and Bess. George Gershwin wrote the opera while living in Folly Beach. Cabbage Row is a structure from the Revolutionary War era. It is a well preserved example of this type of home, consisting of a pair of houses connected by a central arcade. The structure is three stories tall with commercial ground floors that have stood the test of time. The area is now lined with private homes and specialty shops but that wasn’t always the case.  At one time, Cabbage Row was home to up to ten families at a time and was mostly inhabited by the African American families of freed slaves. African American residents sold produce on window sills on this section of Church Street. This is also where the name, Cabbage Row, was born. African Americans living in these row houses would sell cabbage right from their window sills. The building continued to house a tenement into the early 1900s. If you stop by Cabbage Row you may be confused by a sign on the building which reads “Catfish Row.” This more recent name comes from a book written by Charleston and Church Street native, Dubose Heyward. Cabbage Row was the setting for his novel and in it, the name was changed to Catfish Row in order to reflect the fictional location by the sea. His 1925 novel,Porgy, was also the basis for George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy & Bess, a fictionalized glimpse of black life in Charleston during the 1920s. The character “Porgy” was based on an actual Charlestonian, Samuel Smalls. Porgy and Bess began as a novel, Porgy, published by DuBose Heyward in 1925. Heyward, a white Charleston writer and a descendent of Southern aristocracy, composed his book about a disabled man named Porgy after seeing a notice in the local newspaper about a beggar, Samuel Smalls, who had been arrested for attempting to shoot a woman. Heyward, who had witnessed Smalls begging on Charleston’s King Street with his goat and cart, wondered what passion could have driven a pitiable character like Smalls to such violence. The newspaper article sparked Heyward’s imagination and became the impetus for the novel Porgy.  Heyward’s novel takes place over one summer when Porgy begins his romance with Bess and defeats her man, the violent stevedore Crown, only to lose her at the end of the novel. The story is set mostly in Catfish Row, a run-down tenement building that was once a stately mansion;  Heyward based it on the real-life Cabbage Row, which he would pass every day on his way to and from work.

As a native of Charleston, Heyward was fascinated by the city’s poor African-American residents, stevedores, and field hands, an interest that he inherited from his mother, an amateur historian of Gullah culture. Gullah was the name given to Charleston’s African-American population; it is believed to be derived from the name “Angola,” the country from which most of the city’s former slaves were captured and enslaved. Heyward spent much of his early life observing Charleston’s Gullahs, and he filled his novel Porgy with accurate details about their dialect, their living conditions, and their culture. With these details, Heyward aimed to present a “psychologically true serious picture of contemporary Southern Negro life.” This commitment to realism was a novel approach in an era when most Southern literature still avoided the subject of African-Americans or resorted to stereotypes.  Though Heyward had not yet developed strong political views about African-American rights, his writing offered a realistic portrayal of black Southern life that was progressive for its time.Upon its publication in 1925, Porgy was an instant critical and commercial success. The New York Times called it a “sympathetic and convincing interpretation of Negro life by a member of an `outside’ race,” and the Virginia Quarterly Review stated that “No more beautiful or authentic novel has been published in America for a decade.” While not quite sparking the revolution in Southern literature that Heyward had hoped for, it did pave the way for later Southern writers like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor to wrote truthfully about their region’s legacy. Heyward himself never had a more successful novel than Porgy, which would prove to have sustained life as a Broadway play and then as the first major American opera.

George Gershwin was born Jacob Gershwine September 26, 1898 Brooklyn, New York, U.S.  Gershwin came from Russian Jewish heritage.  Gershwin’s most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess (1935). Gershwin called it a “folk opera”, and it is now widely regarded as one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century. “From the very beginning, it was considered another American classic. Based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward, the action takes place in the fictional all-black neighborhood of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. With the exception of several minor speaking roles, all of the characters are black. The music combines elements of popular music of the day, with a strong influence of Black music.

Turn left onto Saint Michaels Aly.  Turn left onto Meeting Street:

Single houses throughout historic Charleston were designed in several different architectural styles. Two good examples to view from the street are the Poyas House at 69 Meeting Street and the Andrew Hasell House at 64 Meeting Street. Both of these homes are privately owned homes are closed to the public.

Single house:  Unique to the downtown peninsula, the Charleston single house is the dominant residential building type in the Charleston Historic District. Built during the 18th and 19th centuries and adapted from the English row house plan, traditional single houses are detached, one room wide, two rooms deep and at least two stories tall; however, there are also many larger Charleston single houses that are more than two rooms deep and taller than two stories, but always only one room wide. Tiered piazzas, with doors and large windows opening onto them from the interior, run the length of the house along one of the long sides.

Single houses are sited asymmetrically on the building lot close to the corner lot line near the street and positioned sideways with the gabled one-room side of the house facing the street. Because most downtown Charleston lots are narrow and deep, this site plan provides as large a side yard as possible. The piazza is attached to one side of the house, almost always facing south or west for the prevailing sea breezes, which provide cooling and ventilation, much needed in Charleston when these houses were built, especially during the pre-electricity South Carolina summers.

The street-facing door of a single house is one of the most interesting features. Sometimes called a privacy door (see photo), the door from the street leads to the piazza, not into the house. The true front door to the house is located at the center of the lower level of the piazza. Also pertaining to privacy between these crowded city houses, the other long side of the house, which overlooks the next door neighbor’s yard and piazza, typically has fewer and smaller windows than the rest of the house.  In the Revolutionary War, soldiers would come to the street door, and the colonists would have time to flee out the back of the house, by the time they broke down the street door and then the back door.

Double house: Although not as unique as the Charleston single house, there are many outstanding and architecturally significant double houses in historic Charleston. Featuring four rooms on each floor with a center hallway, the traditional double house faces the street. Some double houses have side or front facing piazzas. A few good examples to add to your sightseeing itinerary include: The Branford-Horry House. 59 Meeting Street (At the corner of Tradd Street) This three-story stucco covered, brick double house (built between 1765 and 1767) in the Georgian style is considered one of Charleston’s finest architectural examples. The two-story Regency style piazzas built over the sidewalk were added between 1831 and 1834. The house, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, is privately owned and is not open to the public.

Go north on Meeting Street onto Broad Street: 83 Broad is on your left.

F.  Four Corners. 

Corner of Meeting and Broad Streets. City Hall, Federal Courthouse at 83 Broad, Courthouse and Post Office, and Charleston County Courthouse.

Go East on Broad Street.  Stop at Washington Square Park..

Continue East on Broad Street toward State St.  Turn left onto State Street.  Turn left onto Chalmers St.

H. 6 Chalmers Street.  Old Slave Mart.  The Old Slave Mart, located on one of Charleston’s few remaining cobblestone streets, is the only known actually existing building used as a slave auction gallery in South Carolina. Once part of a complex of buildings, the Slave Mart building is the only structure to remain. When it was first constructed in 1859, the open ended building was referred to as a shed, and used the walls of the German Fire Hall to its west to support the roof timbers. Slave auctions were held inside. The interior was one large room with a 20-foot ceiling, while the front facade was more impressive with its high arch, octagonal pillars and a large iron gate. 

Before the Civil War, Charleston served as a center of commercial activity for the South’s plantation economy, which depended heavily upon slaves as a source of labor. Customarily in Charleston, slaves were sold on the north side of the Exchange Building (then the Custom House). An 1856 city ordinance prohibited this practice of public sales, resulting in a number of sales rooms, yards, or marts along Chalmers, State and Queen Streets. One of these belonged to Thomas Ryan, an alderman and former sheriff. Ryan’s Mart, now the Old Slave Mart, occupied the land between Chalmers and Queen Street, and contained three additional buildings–a four-story brick tenement building with offices and “barracoon” (slave jail in Portuguese) where slaves were held before sales, a kitchen and a morgue. Before the construction of the shed, sales were held in the tenement building or in the yard. Another auction master, Z.B. Oakes, purchased the property in 1859 and applied for a permit to insert brick trusses for the roof of the shed into the adjacent Fire Hall. When sales were held in the shed, slaves stood on auction tables, three feet high and ten feet long, placed lengthwise so slave owners could pass by them during the auction. The building was used for this purpose only a short time before the defeat of the South in the Civil War led to the end of slavery.  Around 1878, the Slave Mart was renovated into a two-story tenement dwelling. In 1938, the property was purchased by Miriam B. Wilson, who turned the site into a museum of African American history, arts and crafts.

Walk west on Chalmers St. Toward Church St. To:

17 Chalmers St. Now an art gallery, the nearby Pink House Gallery on Chalmers Street is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Charleston.  Oldest stone building (1690s) in Charleston, SC. And one of the oldest buildings in South Carolina.  The house was built The house was built between 1694 and 1712 of pinkish Bermuda stone by John Breton in the city’s French Quarter of pinkish Bermuda stone by John Breton in the city’s French Quarter. The tile gambrel roof dates to the eighteenth century. The building was a tavern in the 1750s.

I.  135 Church St.  Dock Street Theatre.  The historic Dock Street Theatre (charlestonstage.com) is touted as America’s first theater. Dock Street Theatre is a theater in the historic French Quarter neighborhood of downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The structure, which was built as a hotel in 1809 and converted to a theater in 1935, occupies the site of the first building in the Thirteen Colonies designed for use as a theater.  It has been on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

136 Church St. French Huguenot Church, characterized by Gothic Revival spires and buttresses. is a Gothic Revival church located at 136 Church Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Built in 1844 and designed by architect Edward Brickell White, it is the oldest Gothic Revival church in South Carolina, and has been designated a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The congregation it serves traces its origins to the 1680s, and is the only independent Huguenot church in the United States. As Protestants in predominantly-Catholic France, Huguenots faced persecution throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. A group of 45 Huguenots arrived in Charleston in April 1680, having been sent to the colony by the English King Charles II to work as artisans, and began holding sporadic services the following year. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, many Huguenots fled France for various parts of the world, including Charleston. The early congregation of Charleston’s Huguenot Church included many of these refugees, and their descendants continued to play a role in the church’s affairs for many decades. The church was originally affiliated with the Calvinist Reformed Church of France, and its doctrine still retains elements of Calvinist doctrine. The church’s services still follow 18th century French liturgy, but are conducted in English. The church is located in the area of Charleston known as the French Quarter, which was given this name in 1973 as part of preservation efforts. It recognizes that the area had a historically high concentration of French merchants.

Located near the intersection of Church Street and Chalmers, the towering steeple of St. Philips Episcopal Church showcases ornate architecture and octagonal tiers.

Walk north on Church St. Toward Queen St.  Turn left onto Cumberland St.

J. 79 Cumberland St.  Old Powder Magazine. Completed in 1713, the Powder Magazine is one of the two surviving fortified structures of its kind in what were the Thirteen Original Colonies. It is the oldest public building in the Carolinas, if not in all the former British Colonies, and is one of the few remaining surviving military structures associated with the siege and capture of Charleston by the British in 1780. The Powder Magazine is a visible reminder of the era of the Lord Proprietors and their founding of the government of the Carolinas, and of the fortifications which protected the city and made Charleston one of the three fortified cities on the eastern seaboard of British Colonial America. The restored magazine is a National Historic Landmark with exhibits on the fascinating history of early Colonial Charleston.

Walk west on Cumberland St. Toward Meeting St.  Turn Right on Meeting Street.  Go Back to parking garage or shop at mall before getting car.

Get the car and drove to the Battery.  2 Murray Blvd.  Cannons at tip of peninsula. Head for the Battery (officially, the White Point Gardens) to get into the feel of this city. It’s right on the end of the peninsula, facing the Cooper River and the harbor. It has a landscaped park, shaded by palmettos and live oaks, with walkways lined with old monuments and other war relics. The view toward the harbor goes out to Fort Sumter. Walk along the seawall on East Battery and Murray Boulevard and slowly absorb the Charleston ambience.  Located in the heart of Charleston’s historic district, this prominent landmark provides a spectacular view of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor, where the Ashley and Cooper rivers empty into the Atlantic Ocean. It was first used as a public garden in 1837. With the outbreak of the Civil War, it became a fortification for the city. Visitors today also find an impressive display of historic mortars and cannons from the Civil War used to shell as well as defend the city. At the corner of Murray and East Bay there is a Confederate monument. In the early 1720s, the infamous “gentleman” pirate Stede Bonnet was hanged here with about 50 others like him. Townspeople filled the gallows area and jeered as the outlaw was brought to his rightful end. Bonnet was buried in the nearby marsh. His epitaph has been memorialized and stands today in the park.

Drive 30 minutes to Kiawah Island.

The drive to Kiawah Island is a mixture of honky tonk through Folly Beach and driving through miles of a single lane each way of trees heavy with Spanish Moss.  Stopping at Fresh Fields Village supermarket before turning onto Kiawah Island is a good idea, if only for a jar of peanut butter and crackers and other snacks to have on the island.

Now that the family has seen Charleston, it is on to three days of sun and fun on the island named for the local Indian tribe, now extinct.




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