My Mom and I spent the first day of her visit, a rainy Sunday (followed by a rainy Monday and Tuesday!), enjoying some of the local sites, highlighted below:
Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon
Completed in 1771, this building is recognized as South Carolina’s most historic building.
- 1776 – Declaration of Independence was read to South Carolinians from the steps of the Exchange
- British use the cellar of the Exchange to imprison patriots, criminals, and runaway slaves
- Over 14,000 pounds of gunpowder were hidden in the cellar of the Exchange, and remained concealed from the British until after Independence (many redcoats smoked right next to the gunpowder without knowing about the stash!)
- The Constitution was ratified in the Great Hall here in 1788
- George Washington was entertained with grand parties here in 1791 – he noted in his journal that he danced with many of the more than 200 ladies in attendance, not one mention of any interesting men he met that night. Who’d have thought?
- The cellar contains remains of the 1698 fortification wall (Half-Moon Battery) used to protect Charleston
While the building’s history is very interesting, there isn’t that much to see and the tour was just OK. You’re better off just reading about it!
This tour was by far one of the best I’ve had anywhere (other than the safari of course!) Arlena, our tour guide and a volunteer, was so passionate about the history of Charleston and this historic home! Her energy and style really brought the stories to life! I may have to write a Trip Advisor review! Historical highlights include:
- Built in 1825 by a Scottish shipping merchant Charles Edmonston, who then had to sell in an economic downturn to Charles Alston who made his fortune in Carolina ‘gold’ – rice!
- The Alstons acquired more than 700 Italian engravings from Giovanni Battista Piranesi on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe – a few hang in the 1st floor hallway.
- Unlike other historic homes in Charleston, this one retains most of the original furniture – the furniture by the way is meticulously maintained and looks brand new (a gorgeous piano in the 2nd floor drawing room stands out in particular.) Arlena told us how they have restoration experts from the College of Charleston in there regularly and they will use Q-tips as needed to get into all the nooks and crannies.
- The kitchen was kept in a separate building behind the main house to reduce the risk of fire and to reduce heat, noise, and odors, while the servants used warming areas right outside the dining room prior to serving. The dining table we saw could be expanded to accommodate 22 guests!
- The Girandole mirror, made of gilded gesso and wood, had wall-mounted candles and its convex shape radiated 10x the amount of light per candle – I’d like one of those!
- This house was one of the first to be piped for gas after it was made available to the city in 1846.
- The second floor library featured an incredible desk that had over 100 compartments built into it, tons of ways to organize, and best of all had doors to close it all up for a dust-free workspace!
- We learned about the possible origination of the phrase “costing an arm and a leg” – Prior to modern photography, the wealthy would have pictures painted of them. Having your arms or legs painted was much more expensive than a portrait (headshot) only. Therefore, something expensive would cost ‘an arm and a leg’. I like it!
- Photographs aren’t permitted inside of the house, but I snuck a few through the window of the 2nd floor Drawing Room!
More Charleston Dining
Some snapshots from our recent dining excursions, which continue to be tasty!
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!