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Blogs and Such

Filtering by Category: David's History

All the (Good) News That’s Fit to Print

Brandon Joyner

(A Brief History of St. Michael’s Church)

As you drive through downtown Charleston, as a resident or visitor, you have to wonder—how did they find the space to build so many churches? It would be easy to conclude that all the original colonists must have been refuges from the Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution or the English Reformation of the Anglican Church!

Charleston's earliest settlers built a simple wooden church at the corner of King and Broad Streets. The St. Phillips’ congregation started their services there in the early 1680s. As the town grew with the arrival of others from all over Europe, the small church could no longer house the congregation, so they built a large brick church on Church Street just four blocks away. The other property was then available for the St. Michael’s congregation to build on the King and Broad site in 1752. This opened in 1761 for services as directed by the South Carolina General Assembly.

St. Michael’s Church has remained virtually the same from that day until now except for the addition of the sacristy in 1883. The interior design of St. Michael’s is set according to the Book of Common Prayer. This puts the church on a very short list of those holding to that standard presently.

From the beginning, St. Michael’s church was a formidable edifice. The steeple was originally 193 1/2 feet in height until the 1886 earthquake caused it to sink eight inches. Inside the church there are almost too many significant pieces of art and architecture to take in with just one visit. The original chandelier, imported from London in 1803, was fitted with candles and is now, for safety’s sake, electrified. The pulpit is original to Saint Michaels and is notable for its height and its structure. The central panel on the face of the pulpit with the religious insignia was looted after the Civil War, but luckily it was later voluntarily returned. There are scars in the woodwork from the wartime bombardment of 1865. The Victorian Alter (1882), the Chancel Chairs in the vestry (1887) and the wrought iron chain rail (1772) all represent remarkable historic enhancements to not only St. Michael’s but also to Charleston.

It's impossible to conclude a visit during a service or a guided tour without paying particular attention to the gorgeous stained-glass windows and door. “Easter Morning” and “The Annunciation” were gifted to the church in 1897 and 1908 respectively. The door was a gift in 1915. The long-term restoration and preservation of the windows was completed as part of St. Michael’s 250th Anniversary Celebration.

The sounds of St. Michael’s are significant because of the Snetzler Organ installed in 1768 and restored and refurbished in 1994 by Kenneth Jones of Bray, Ireland; add to that the clock and ring of eight bells imported in 1764. All of these instruments provide the congregation and Charleston’s citizens and visitors with its hourly peel and the beautiful choral music accompanied by the magnificent organ.

It would be so easy to continue the conversation about St. Michael’s church because its history is so deep. And just think, we haven't even talked religion or politics!

~ David Joyner

Pen Pineapple (Fountain) Apple Pen

Brandon Joyner

(A Brief History of The Pineapple Fountain)

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Charleston's history and charm are both very real on a stroll through its streets and alleyways. Its sights and sounds remind us of the “then and now.” The living history of Charleston is a large part of its charm—horses’ hooves clip-clopping on cobblestone streets, carriages used for sightseeing and the lapping of waves against the city shoreline. The smells of the salt air and the pluff mud of our marshes adds to that charm. The draw of all that pulls us to the waterfront where the current remnants of the maritime industry can be seen from many points along the battery and the side streets of East Bay.

At the Vendue Range end of Waterfront Park is the iconic Pineapple Fountain which represents -- for native and visitors alike -- the warm welcome and obvious hospitality of many a Charlestonian.

The Pineapple Fountain has stood tall on the waterfront since it was open to the public in May of 1990. It took a lot of planning, preparation, and prodding to launch and complete this elegant sign of Charleston’s hospitality.

Union Pier all the way down to the fancy house used to be just a bunch of burned out pilings of warehouse remains from the 1950’s. In the late 80's, Mayor Joe Riley created a rejuvenation plan. The Pineapple Fountain was part of this shoreline revamp for the areas of Charleston that would be on display and prominently seen by all.

But this wasn’t executed until almost a decade later.

The biggest question: Why a pineapple? Accepted legend has it that many of the captains of maritime day gone by would announce their return by the placement of a pineapple upon the front fence post. This signified not only their return but also their intent to share the stories of their adventures during the voyage. The use of such curious cargo was a reflection of where they had been and much of what they had experienced.

One of the most desired viewing spots is Charleston’s Waterfront Park. It allows our friends and visitors the opportunity to take leisurely strolls with their families through the quarter-mile length of the park. One can enjoy a quiet space on the greenway amidst the trees or a calming repose on the large sets of swings under the canopy next to the river. You might also wave to your friends taking one of the many river tours or out testing their skills in a sailboat.

Pineapples are a global sign of peace and hospitality and this is Charleston’s way of welcoming all!

~ David Joyner

(Photo Cred: Kristen Granet)

Taste the Rainbow (Row)

Brandon Joyner

(A Brief History of Rainbow Row)

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If you were to ask a native Charlestonian about Rainbow Row (i.e., What is it?, Where is it ?, Etc.) your answers would be pretty much the same from them all. We all know something about the pretty pastel houses lined up along East Bay Street, south of Broad Street. You might get some personal answers like – “they have been there as long as I remember” or “that their colors never change.” These bits and pieces are true as far as they go, but you would be missing what Paul Harvey would call – “the rest of the story.”

The houses of Rainbow Row were built between 1748 and 1845 along the riverfront as commercial units with living space on the second and third floors. Over the course of their existence, these houses from 79 to 107 East Bay Street have seen prosperity and recession; wind, rain and storm; and most notably massive damage from hurricanes, fires and earthquakes. Through all of these misfortunes, the “Row” has stood due in part to the resilience of their individual owners, but mostly due to the overall sense of community that pressed for their rebuilding, repair, or renovation.

These homes have been the property of many Charleston notables and their families as well as those who came to visit and never left. This collage of personalities saw the “Row” through the early years of new industry and growth as well as the years of war and sorrow. They also brought the row from economic success to the drab darkness of decay. Compounded by Charleston’s famous fires and earthquakes, Rainbow Row fell to its lowest point in the early 1900s when it was seen as the slum of the “east-side.”

Not wanting visitors or residents to take this visage as a lasting impression of Charleston, several of Charleston’s ablest citizens took it upon themselves to change the “Rows’” image. Starting with Susan Pringle Frost’s purchase of several of the houses beginning in 1920 and subsequent purchases by Lionel and Dorothy Legge in 1931 and John McGowan in 1938, the properties from 79 to 107 East Bay were restored, rebuilt or renovated to the “glory” that is theirs today. When Justice and Mrs. Legge purchased 99/101 East Bay for restoration, Mrs. Legge decided on the Caribbean Pink exterior to help cool the house during the Charleston summers, not necessarily so people could tell which one was theirs. The other owner followed suit with pastel colors of their own choosing thus giving us what today is referred to fondly as Charleston’s Rainbow Row.

The effect of their transformation resulted in the Charleston Society for Preservation of Old Homes, later to be known as Charleston’s Preservation Society. Along with the influence of the Charleston Historical Society, other parts of Charleston became targets for renewal and restoration followed by adaptation of local legal codes. These codes guided not only the restoration of Charleston’s neighborhoods, but also the building of new properties so that they would not detract from Charleston’s unique historical look and feel.

These thirteen homes on East Bay Street have stood the test of time to become the longest row of Georgian style architecture in the country. “Rainbow Row” is a beacon of its citizens’ strength when faced with adversity and as part of Charleston is reflective of the city's grace and style.

~ David Joyner