Monday, June 3, 2013

Charleston, SC

Crossing into Charleston when coming from the northeast on Highway 17 you’ll take the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge; also known as the New Cooper River Bridge, the eight-lane cable-stayed bridge opened in 2005. The 1,546 foot long span can supposedly withstand wind gusts in excess of 300 mph, earthquake to approximately 7.4 on the Richter scale, and protecting the bridge from ships are one-acre rock islands, ensuring any ship will run aground before it can collide with one of the two towers. The bridge cost around $700 million, and is named after the retired U.S. Congressman who ran for the SC Senate with a goal of solving the funding problem that had plagued the replacement of the previous bridge for over 20 years.

Once in Charleston we headed for the 5-acre Waterfront Park that stretches ½ mile along Cooper River. In 1980 the site was in bad shape after years of neglect and a fire at a steamship terminal, and mostly consisted of weedy parking lots. In 1975 the Mayor had began making plans to revitalize the harbor-front, but those were only realized at the end of the 80s, at which point even Hurricane Hugo could only delay the opening of the park by one week. We started barefoot in the fountain at the northern entrance to the park, beyond which Vendue Wharf extends into the Cooper River.

At the end of the pier past the many swings is a floating dock with views of the Ravenel Bridge, Charleston Harbor, Castle Pinckney, the U.S.S. Yorktown at Patriot's Point, and Fort Sumter. Supposedly charred pilings from the 1955 fire at Tidewater Terminals, Inc. are still visible too. After a stroll up the pier we continued south through the park, which is divided into two parts; a shaded urban portion to the right and a palmetto-lined esplanade to the left. Halfway down we shucked our shoes once again, this time for the Pineapple Fountain.

Continuing on, the esplanade curves in toward Concord Street, allowing for natural marsh habitat along the edge of the river. Finally, North Adger’s Wharf marks the southern edge of the park. We opted to go on and follow East Bay, passing “Rainbow Row,” built as merchant’s houses between 1740 and 1787.

Walking along the Battery we spotted a pair of dolphins in the bay. The mansions on this street all have a story, from the William Roper House that has a fragment of a Civil War cannon (not cannonball!) embedded in the roof rafters, to the William Ravenel House, which lost two stories of its portico in the earthquake of 1886. At the end where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet is the White Point Garden. The park got its name from the large mounds of white oyster shells that once covered the point, and the popular name “The Battery” comes from the fortifications that were placed along the seafront. The cannons placed around the park represent the wars in which Charleston has played a part.

From the Battery there is a wide view of Charleston harbor: of Fort Johnson from which the first shot of the Civil War was fired, Fort Sumter that was recipient of said shot, Fort Moultrie where Edgar Allen Poe was stationed when he wrote The Gold Bug, and Castle Pinckney, the 1809 fort that was used to house Union prisoners of war.

We crossed through the park and headed north on Meeting Street, passing historic homes left and right. Over the years we’ve played tourist and tour guide in Charleston, but I never tire of learning more about these beautiful houses. Thomas Heyward’s (signer of the Declaration of Independence) 18 Meeting Street has a secret wine closet, the Otis Mills House at 37 Meeting Street (which was headquarters for General Beauregard during the Civil War) is rumored to have pirate treasure buried in the backyard, and the bells at Charleston’s oldest church (St. Michael’s Episcopal) have crossed the ocean five times. My audience was only partially interested.

Our walk was put on hold while we ducked into Hyman’s Seafood. Possibly the best-known seafood restaurant in the historic district, we have always been happy with the food and this visit was no different. We started with scallops over fried grits with cheddar cheese and Cajun seasoning, a bacon and parmesan cheese sauce on top that I wanted to eat with a spoon. Roberts had the light Cajun stiffed grouper with crab & parmesan cream sauce, while I had a bowl of She-crab soup and the crab cakes. Absolutely delicious, every last bite. The icing on the cake - the oysters, although there is a reason the hush puppies have won awards. The property has been in the Hyman family for over 120 years, starting out as a wholesale dry goods business, but in more recent times has been featured (as a restaurant) in Southern Living to NY Times – it’s certainly no secret they have great seafood!

Hyman's Seafood on Urbanspoon
Just across the street is Market Hall. The first public market on this site opened shortly after the Revolutionary War, and the present Roman Revival structure dates from 1841. The sheep and bulls’ heads pictured in the frieze indicate meat was sold there, and during the 1800s the streets and rooftops were lined with buzzards who lived off the scraps thrown out by the butchers. The Confederate Museum is on the second floor, but the tourist attraction is below in the arcade, which houses the shops.

From a previous visit, Roberts with Edgars, Annelī and Andis
One hat purchase later we emerged from the market at the opposite end, crossing over to the parking garage to pack up and head towards home. We’ve really seen very little of the city, but it’s still one of our favorites, and I’m positive we’ll be back soon for more seafood, sunshine and history. Who can resist?

1 comment:

  1. None! I cannot stand by sunshine and seafood! And could imagine how boys loved this day out!:)Definitely you have to repeat it!:)


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