Where the Past is Always Present ~ Charleston, SC

As we left Savannah heading for Charleston, my thought was that it might be a bit overwhelming to visit these two cities back-to-back, given their historical significance.  I did not have long to worry as the weather forecast made most of our plans for us.  A strong storm system was moving our way, bringing lots of rain and the potential for thunderstorms and a tornado watch.  And if that was not enough, we learned upon arrival that the Cooper River Bridge Run, one of the best attended 10k races in the country, bringing 40,000 runners plus family and friends to the city, was to take place the weekend we would be in Charleston.  This race shuts down part of the city, so decision made.   We would have a short window of time to explore so as soon as we finished setting up at the Oak Plantation Campground, we headed to historic downtown.

One of our first stops in many big cities, Charleston being no exception, is the Visitor Center to get the lay of the land and pick up a map.  We headed out on foot, our typical mode of travel, hitting some of the high points but in general just inhaling the city’s ambiance.  Known for its rich history, well-maintained architecture, and gracious residents (having received ‘America’s Most Friendly City’ award twice in the past three years), I felt the city still maintained its antebellum air.  I would not have been surprised if I rounded the corner to find men and women in period dress, ready to greet us.

Charleston, South Carolina’s oldest city, founded in 1670, is a much larger and sprawling city than Savannah so traversing her streets takes time, more time than we had.  It was evident this was to be a cursory review of a city that deserved much more attention.

With Charleston’s 100+ churches and the nickname of “Holy City”, what could we do but visit a few?

St. Philip’s Church, housing the oldest congregation in all of South Carolina, dates back to 1680.  Her stately steeple stands as a testament to her storied history and her interior stunning, most notably the Trompette en Chamade (Shouting Trumpets) that we were told take your breath away no matter how many times you hear them.  Old cemeteries on many of the church grounds have stories to tell, and St. Philip’s has a most prestigious tale, with this being the final resting place of Edward Rutledge, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Charles Pinckney, signer of the Constitution.  This is only one of many magnificent places to worship in the city.

Wile visiting Sullivan’s Island, across the bridge from Charleston, I was taking a few photos of what I thought was an interesting old church, when a young man walked up and asked if I would care to see the inside of what was once a church turned private residence.  After offering my apologies for intruding, I gestured to Terry to get out of the truck and follow me inside.  The inside was gorgeous and had a Gothic castle feel and the kitchen, oh my!  You can read the interesting story of this property here.

Is it a church?  Is it a castle?  Nope, just a very pricey private residence.
Is it a church? Is it a castle? Nope, just a very pricey private residence.

Churches, universities, and cemeteries seem to be our “thing” when visiting cities, so a trip to the Citadel, rain or shine, had to be one of our stops.  The ceremonial parade ground comes into view as you cross the gates, with impressive stark-white buildings lining it.  With their core values of “Honor, Duty, Respect”, there is an intimacy felt walking these hushed grounds, a special way to round out our Charleston experience.

Citadel graduates have fought in every American war since the Mexican-American War of 1846.  Alumni and author Pat Conroy wrote The Lords of Discipline, based on his time at the Citadel.

Sightseeing makes one ravenous and with so many fabulous-sounding restaurants to choose from, we settled on the Bull Street Gourmet and Market for lunch.  The smoked duck salad was soo yummy! 🙂  And on a rainy day, while watching Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, to see just what he might put into his mouth masquerading as something edible, he featured a funky little soul food eatery in Charleston, Martha Lou’s Kitchen.  About as much time as it took us to say “let’s go”, we were out the door.  You will not find any low-cal food here, but you will find two women with a lot of spunk who are passionate about their southern comfort food.  The fried chicken and the pork chop were both so tasty and once again I ate my collard greens – delish!  The women who work here will sing and dance their way into your heart, and if you come during the week you will be graced with Martha Lou’s presence, still a force at age 84.

Here is just a sampling of the lovely sights you can see when visiting historic Charleston, a city where the past is always present:

We now look forward to some downtime, “beach-style” as we head to Murrell’s Inlet, SC.

51 thoughts on “Where the Past is Always Present ~ Charleston, SC

  • Great post! Charleston is every bit as beautiful and rich with history as Savannah but the vibe is very different. Sounds like you’re headed for Huntington Beach SP; that’s one of our favorites. We’ve enjoyed the Brookgreen Garden, Atalaya and Pawleys Island. Love that the beaches there are dog-friendly.

  • Love these pictures — and I hadn’t seen most of those churches. The last picture of the weathered wall speaks to me — just looks like these old Southern towns. As you head to Murrell’s Inlet, see if you have time to go a bit further and dip into Pawleys Island. It’s where we stay the last week of every summer — or at least the past 30 or so years! I love the South!

    • Thanks Z! I must admit that I have consciously been spending less time in front of the computer, feeling like it was beginning to take over my life. It is a difficult balance with so many great blogs out there. Hope you are well. I will be by to visit soon. 🙂

      • i understand totally. the timeout for art keeps me disciplined – in fact i worked on the painting til about five in the morning.. then wrote the post, put it in queue (sometimes they don’t publish) and went to sleep at 7:30 this morning.. i’ve just awakened, peered out to see a river full of debris from last night’s rain! rain gauge ‘caught’ three inches!


  • Charlston is diffinently a walk-around city. We love the way they have kept history alive. I love looking at the homes and imaging what might have taken place in them.

    Wow…what a treat to be invited into the “castle.”

    • Just to look at the homes and churches would be enough for me. We are finding much beauty in this part of the country.

      I think you would have loved the castle Marsha and Paul would have gotten some great remodeling ideas. 😉

  • We haven’t visited Charleston with the MH but did visit on the motorcycle. That was a huge mistake! Charleston in July is not pretty! It is VERY hot and humid. It was 99 the day we arrived on a hot motorcycle. We did drive and see some of sights and beautiful pastel homes. We also made a stop at the aircraft carrier and took a tour. Someday we will try again in cooler weather.

    Boy, LuAnn, you certainly have all the luck…another chance meeting with an invite!! Very cool!!

    I love the giant ring on the Citadel campus.

    Again, what luck with the TV show and restaurant visit. Neat:)

    Enjoy Murrell’s Inlet! People from Myrtle Beach go there for seafood and dinner quite often.

    • I would not like Savannah or Charleston in the summer. It was quite warm enough for us. We went over to Patriot’s Point with the thought of touring the aircraft carrier but the crowds were overwhelming, probably because of the Bridge Run the previous day. While touring the downtown area, there were many streets where four different walking tours were taking place on the same road.

      The Citadel visit was one of the highlights for us.

      As for visiting the castle, I must look rather harmless. Once the man realized I wasn’t a stalker, as I was walking all over the property, he then invited me in. Up until then I thought I was photographing a public building – yikes! 🙂

  • Wow! You guys are great! I love to take road trips, but now I know where I don’t have to go visit. Through your eyes, and that of your very talented camera, it frees me up to go on roads less traveled. I am very interested in history, and I appreciate your research and sharing with us, everyplace you go.

    • Although we have loved both Savannah and Charleston, we are looking forward to a bit of downtime, just walking along the beach. 🙂

  • I would have thought that was a church….very cool that he invited you in. I love all the unique architecture. A little beach time sounds wonderful….enjoy 🙂

    • Thanks! I hope you both are getting some downtime given the stress you have recently experienced. I’m not sure how I would handle what you went through.

      • Between my poor health and this….it’s been a challenge. No hike to Delicate Arch for me 😦 Hopefully 2 months in Grand Junction will have me and the rig repaired 😉

  • My legs are worn out following around after you Lu Ann !
    Fantastic show round all the sights in your photos 🙂

  • I’m sure feet are saying thank you to rest and relaxing time! Enjoy the beach…

    Your post on Charleston has me drooling…I so love the history and all the beauty preserved there. I am sorry the weather didn’t cooperate. What a great invite you had!

    • After two back-to-back historical cities, I think decompressing a little is in order. I was a bit mortified when I realized I had been walking around a private residence and not a church property. The man who invited me in was very gracious, thank goodness. 🙂

  • Always a great post from you LuAnn. Its great to see another aspect of a city that we just passed. How cool that you got an invite to a pricey home. I don’t recall seeing that house.
    I watched that episode about Martha Lou’s Kitchen. Im drooling with the thought of those pork chop and fried chicken. But on the other hand Im sure you walk off what you took in as Charleston is a walking town.

    • I’m not sure you can totally walk off all the calories consumed in a meal like that, which is why we seldom eat like that. The girls were great fun. 🙂

  • Oh good, I’m finally able to read your post — for some reason I wasn’t able to open it until this afternoon. But I knew I was in for a wonderful tour of Charleston through your eyes (yet another place on our itinerary for next spring). We also very much enjoy absorbing the atmosphere of a city or town by wandering the streets; what a treat that you’ve been meeting up with locals who invite you into their beautiful and unique homes! Love the photo of you at Martha Lou’s. 🙂

    • Thanks Laurel. Charleston is a beautiful city, but I think we may have overdone it a bit in Savannah and I was a bit worn out on history when we arrived in Charleston. I am thankful that the young man didn’t want to arrest me for trespassing, but instead invited me in. I suspect that he has had strangers traipsing through his yard a time or two before. 🙂

  • So really you were doing the Charleston, haha! Yes pity me and my punnery. I love the architecture that they have down that part of the country, there is something fascinating about churches…I just Googled Murrell’s Inlet..Bovines just sounds like a great place to eat…tell themi sent you, you may get a discount!

    • Well, now you tell me! We left before getting a chance to experience Bovines and with a discount no less.

      You don’t want to see me do the Charleston or any other dance step for that matter. 🙂

  • Have you read any of Dorothea Benton Franks books? She writes about these towns for which you just visited in the last 3 posts. I have always wanted to visit these southern charms after reading her work…but now you have just made the craving stronger. Great job.

    • No I haven’t but I will check out some of her writings. I believe you would love visiting any of these cities Laurie. They are a photographer’s dream. Hope you are all settled into your new home and loving Texas. 🙂

  • Awesome pics of the church. Really nice. The clouds add to the wow factor. 😀 I love the sound of Martha’s Kitchen. Safe travel, Lu.

  • That church-style house is so beautiful. I suppose you didn’t like to ask to take photos inside though. Did it feel like a church when you walked in? I’ve been to Palm Island, spent a day in the city, but didn’t get to see as much as you did, as we were visiting realtors to see what price houses were there. The Confederate Defenders monument is really lovely.

    • I did not have the courage to ask to take photos inside the home as I was just found traipsing through a private property. The home felt more like a small castle when you walked in. It was so unique, so lovely. 🙂

  • Thank you for the grand tour of this historic town, LuAnn! Hope to visit there in the near future. The private residence looks unique 🙂 Love these photos, especially the clouds.

  • Wish we had known you were coming this way. We live in Pawleys Island and would have loved to see you and Terry again for maybe dinner, drinks, or to just talk over old times (that are not that old after all.)

    • Obviously I am getting old as I seem to have forgotten that the two of you now live on Pawley’s Island. Sorry we missed you this time.

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