Wed., March 26, 2014
We had ordered tickets for a Palmetto Carriage tour the night before, so we proceeded directly to the Old City Market, adjacent to the Red Barn, where the tour was to start. For booking in advance, once again we got free parking.
It was a clear, but chilly day, and in the barn it was even colder! A warmer room was adjacent to the barn, where people could buy tickets or snacks from a couple of vending machines; however, the barn was interesting – there were a lot of things to look at, such as old-fashioned horse-drawn carriages, horses and mules, and amusing signs.
Our tour wasn’t leaving until 11:15, so we had some time to look around the Market a little.
South Carolina is home to the palmetto tree, which is pictured on the state flag. Whole cottage industries arose with creations made from these trees. We saw beautifully-woven baskets made from palmetto fronds, a tradition of the African-American population here. I would have bought one but even the smallest were out of my price range! So I took pictures of them instead.
When it was time for our tour, the carriage pulled up to the platform where tour-goers were waiting. Our guide helped us in, and then fetched some blankets, because it was going to be cold in an open carriage today. The carriage was drawn by two mules, each of whom had a name and distinct personality traits, as our
young guide explained. The mule on the left was lazier than the other, so the right-hand mule would bump the lazy one’s rump to get her going again! The mule on the right also tended to lean into the left mule.
The guide was very knowledgeable about Charleston’s history and the story behind the mansions we saw, and he told many anecdotal tales to keep us entertained. There are many “haunted” tales associated with certain buildings – in fact, there are ghost tours, but we weren’t going to stay in town late enough to go on one.
I took a lot of pictures, but even if we had just returned from this trip yesterday, I wouldn’t remember the names of most of the places we saw! Charleston’s historical district is characterized by small, winding streets as well as cobblestone streets -although only a few of these have been preserved -and large manor homes, built for the elite of the 19th century. These elites had made their fortunes through business or trade, and certainly many of them owned slaves. Charleston is still proud of its Confederate heritage.
I loved the ironwork and many of the decorative facades. The homes are beautiful architecturally, and several of them offered tours, although we didn’t take any of them.
One can tour the Edmonston-Alston House, on High Battery, to experience early 19th century elegance (built 1825). It contains furnishingsof the Alston family. I zoomed in on one of the balconies because of the decorative ironwork. (I don’t know what the black and purple sashes are for.)
Look at the columns on this house, which are are slightly “crooked.” (Most noticeable if you look at the railing along the side of the balcony). This was done for a reason. Boats arriving into the port of Charleston could align themselves with the columns to guide them into the harbor.
Below, Charleston Hat Man. This little “man” (all made out of hats – look closely!) is a symbol of the city, and you find him here and there on buildings or signs. Personally I found him to be a bit sinister.
Back at the Market after the carriage tour, we once again encounter the Charleston Hat Man: