This market is the talk of the town, every one know about it even if you just got into town. This is a market that goes for blocks, from Meeting St down to East Bay St., 4 building stretch the whole length and have around 100 merchants selling their goods here. Save a whole day to shop here, you won't regret it. You will find just about any thing here and at a good price, Sweet-grass baskets are the #1 item, wood carvings, jewelry, t-shirt, candy, many souvenirs take to home to family members and much more. These photos will give you an idea of the area. Starting with the Market Hall on Meeting St. which was built in 1841, designed after a Greek Temple. Inside you will find the Daughters of the Confederacy Museum. This land was donated by a local wealthy family in the early 1800's to be used for a market which originally sold food like meat and fresh veggies locally grown. Now it's a free for all!
If you love a good cigar then make sure you stop by here and visit The Smoking Lamp located at 189 East Bay Street, phone # (843) 577-7339 We went in and the owner Lola Marley was right there to help, she was very nice and very helpful, she really know her stuff and took me right to what I was looking for. You are able to smoke them big cigars right in the store. This is a great shop in an old build along Bay Street, they have cigars of all type and sizes, cutter, lighters, walking sticks and so much more. They also have one of the largest walk-in humidor room lined with Spanish cedar. Very cool place!
Now we heard about the sweet-grass baskets that were made here, but until you feel the quality and see them make by the poeple that create them we didn't under stand why they cost so much. These sweet-grass baskets are all hand made a take some time to create, they say this trade has been past down for gereration since times of slavery and that the craft itself originated in West African slaves. These baskets are incredible, you can feel the quality and know that they will last for generations in your family.
The historical district of Charleston is beautiful in May, and made that way that take great pride in their houses and gardens.
My traveling friend Marilyn was so impressed with the beauty and variety of the window boxes for flowers that bloomed everywhere, that she took many photos of them with the idea of creating a calendar.
Though she never did the calendar and later wished that maybe she had taken more photos of other subjects, her window box photos tell their own story of lovely Charleston.
If I get her permission, I will feature more of her window boxes in a Charleston travelogue.
Foods that are a MUST try when visiting Charleston are:
shrimp and grits
hoppin john (rice and black eyed peas)
macaroni and cheese (trust me the southern version is very different from your traditional mac & cheese)
bar-b-q sandwhiches at Bessingers
apple or peach cobbler
sweet potato pie
red velvet cake
Grits is a common staple in Charleston at breakfast time. You have it with eggs and bacon, or with salmon, or with shrimp, or even by itself with butter and salt. It's a lot like cream of wheat, but it's made from corn, and it's just more gritty. (Hence the name, grits.) A lot of people that aren't from this place hate it, and a lot of people have never even heard of it. (All the waitresses looked at me funny out west when I asked them if they had it!!! ) But if you have breakfast here, expect to see it somewhere!!!
Elizabeth O'Neil Verner, whom I admit I'd barely heard that I can remember before my trip to Charleston, is a beloved and famous American artist from Charleston, noted especially for her etchings. There was one hanging in our B & B.
Permanent collections of her work can be found in such places as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Boston Art Museum.
She wrote a book that I picked up in Charleston titled "Mellowed by Time: A Charleston Notebook", illustrated with her pencil drawings, that is absolutely charming and probably the favorite "souvenir" from my trip.
So if you're going to visit Charleston, learn a little about her. And the book is highly recommended (see Shopping Tip).
From the jacket cover: "Mellowed by Time" is the confession of faith of a Charlestonian. Others have often wondered what makes Charlestonians so fiercely loyal to their city: Mrs. Verner has the answer. ...."
Call it what you please, whether it's sweet tea, iced tea, or unsweetened tea, it's a big thing here, and in the rest of the south. If you want tea at a restaurant, you will get cold tea, not hot tea. I never even tried hot tea until my first visit up north!!!
Charleston sweetgrass baskets date back over 300 years. The tradition was brought here by slaves from Africa and are an important craft and artform to the Gullah people of Charleston. The baskets are made of local sweetgrass by Gullah women. You can find women selling these downtown in the Market. Some of the designs are really amazing. The Gullah are descendants of African slaves many who came from Angola. The baskets were used to harvest rice and the tradition is handed down to each generation.The Gullah are comparable to the Creoles of Louisianna, but different of course. The Gullah are mainly in South Carolina...being a unique culture they have their own food, stories, music and (my favorite) language. The Gullah language is english mixed with over 4,000 African words from tribes all over Africa. Up until the 1940's alot of Gullah people still lived downtown, but now most of them are just on the islands. My grandfather can speak some Gullah just from growing up downtown and being around it. You can see some nice examples of the baskets on this website http://charlestonsweetgrass.com
Sweetgrass basket making is an art that has been handed down from generation to generation (mostly women), and is part of the uniquely low country Gullah culture.
The art was brought to the coastal islands of South Carolina and Georgia by slaves from West Africa. The materials have been modified but the techniques are centuries old.
They are coiled baskets made of sweetgrass harvested in the spring and summer on the edge of the dunes near the ocean, often decorated with longleaf pine needles and woven together with strips of palmetto leaves.
Sweetgrass baskets have been exhibited at such places as the Smithsonian. They are beautiful and not inexpensive -- I can't remember the price tag of baskets I saw in Charleston, but I just looked on-line and there were some selling from $130-$275, which actually isn't prohibitive if looked at as a work of art rather than just a souvenir.
They sold by artisans in a number of places, including the Old City Market in downtown Charleston.
When we go to Charleston Harbor Marina (which is in Mt. Pleasant) we get a 'goodie bag' from them which often has some Benne Wafers in it. The Benne Wafer is a thin cookie, made with tasty toasted sesame. Benne (the Bantu-word for sesame pronounced ben YAH) was brought from East Africa and planted extensively throughout the South.
Sesame is a seed that can be used in many of the same ways as nuts. When toasted, its flavor is almost almond- or peanut butter-like flavor. The original Benne Wafer is produced in Mt. Pleasant at the Olde Colony Bakery
They can be ordered on-line. The picture is from their website since I have long ago eaten all of my benne cookies.
Sweet grass is a grass that grows naturally from the Carolina to Texas along the coastal dunes. It is also common on the coast of Africa, in countries that grew rice hundreds of years ago. These people used the grass to make baskets for winnowing and hauling rice and other products. When the slaves were brought to America beginning around 1500, the coastal African people were in high demand because of their experience in growing rice. When the slaves arrived, they found grasses similar to those in their homelands, so they began creating baskets. After the Civil War, the basket making continued in some coastal areas, in particular, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina near Charleston, where the the baskets have become a favorite souvenir.
Mt. Pleasant, is about four miles north of Charleston on Hwy 17. About 75 ghetto basket stands line this busy road. Baskets are also sold Charleston's Market area. It is estimated that there are about 300 families involved in the basket industry, down from 1200 families in the 1970s. Sweet grass baskets can sell for as much as $500 if they are of high quality.
In the Charleston Market sweet grass baskets typically cost several hundred dollars for a large basket and maybe twenty dollars for a tiny basket an inch tall and three inches wide.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHARLESTON
1670--Charles Town founded as the capital of Carolina, with 30 houses and 200-300 settlers.
1718--Blackbeard the Pirate sails into the harbor with four ships; takes hostages for ransom.
1752--Great Hurricane of 1752 devastates the city.
1773--Charleston Museum opens--the first in the country.
1776-- First major naval battle of the Revolution. British warships attack Ft. Moultrie and are repulsed.
1780--British siege begins; lasts 40 days. After a bitter struggle, Charles Town is surrendered to the British, their greatest prize of the Revolutionary War. Two-and-a-half year occupation begins.
1782--Defeated British Army marches out, ending occupation.
1783-- Official adoption of the name Charleston.
1791--President George Washington visits Charleston, lodging at the Daniel Heyward House (87 Church St.). He attends a reception at the Old Exchange and a social evening at McCrady's Longroom (153 East Bay).
1828-29--A young Army recruit named Edgar Allan Poe is stationed at Ft. Moultrie on Sullivans Island for a year. Poe later sets his first published story there.
1843--The Citadel opens.
1860--Ordinance of Secession ratified, proclaiming South Carolina "an independent commonwealth."
1861--(April 12) Confederates open fire upon Ft. Sumter, the first shots of the Civil War.
1863--Union sends fleet of ironclad warships to attack Ft. Sumter. Attack is repulsed.
1863--Union assault upon Morris Island is led by an all-black unit. This is the battle portrayed in the film Glory.
1863--The 587-day Federal bombardment of downtown Charleston begins.
1864--The Confederate submarine CSS H. L. Hunley becomes the first submarine to sink a vessel in war.
1865-- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's troops reach Middleton Place Plantation, leaving it in ruins. Charlestonians fear imminent invasion, but Sherman's forces turn toward Columbia. The burning of Columbia destroys many records and valuables which Charlestonians had sent there for "safekeeping."
1886--The Lowcountry is struck by an estimated 7.5 earthquake, resulting in 83 deaths and $6 million in damage.
1925--A new dance craze begins in Charleston and spreads across the nation; soon to be named "the Charleston."
1934--George Gershwin arrives in Charleston to research and write Porgy and Bess, the first American opera.
1989--(September 21) Hurricane Hugo, a category 4 hurricane with winds of 131-155 mph slams into the city with a 12-17 foot wall of water rolling over Ft. Sumter. The barrier islands are inundated as an estimated 80% of homes on Sullivan's Island and Folly Beach are badly damaged or destroyed. Homes in the Historic District sustain 10 to 24 inches of flooding. Total losses estimated at $2.8 billion.
1995--Team of divers discover the wreck of the Confederate Submarine Hunley in the waters off Sullivan's Island.
Courtesy South Carolina’s Information Highway
The French Quarter of Charleston was designated as such in 1973 when the area was being preserved and revitalized. This section of the city along the Cooper River contains many of the city's oldest structures as it was one of the original parts of the city when it was founded in 1680.
This area has art galleries, Waterfront Park, Pink House Tavern (1712), Dock Street Theatre (1809), French Huguenot Church (1844), St. Philip's Episcopal Church (1835), and the Old Slave Mart (1859).