We didn't have time to get out to the country to tour a plantation, so we looked for a way to see as many elements of plantation life as we could without leaving the historic old town area.
We chose this as one of two houses we had time to see because it included a house that had not been altered since 1858, had a reasonably priced self guided audio tour which included house, grounds and an excellent example of slave quarters with other aspects of urban plantation life. This house is not restored, but stabilized and preserved with layers of history evident. Tickets for the tour are $10, or $16 for this and the Nathanial Russell House, which is the option we chose.
The audio tour was interesting and we found it easy to coordinate turning it off and on so we could take photos-outside, only-and then continue the tour together. We were fascinated by the glimpses into a past life and the elegance contrasted with the lives of the workers. Most of the house is hands off, but be sure not to miss trying out the re-created Joggling (Jostling) board on the verandah, which is the 1800s version of a porch swing, only way more fun. the docent told us these are still common fixtures on Charleston porches everywhere. This house also had the advantage of being in close walking distance along a lovely little street and park from the visitor's center parking garage where we parked to let others of our group go off to the Charleston Museum.
We chose this house as complimentary to our tour of the Aiken-Rhett house, which is a stabilized but not restored building. The Charleston Heritage Federation operates both houses, so we were able to get combined tickets to the two houses at a discount. Admission is $10 for one house and $16 to tour both. This house is fully restored and allowed us to see the impressive elegance of these fabulous Charleston mansions. this National Historic Landmark Federalist style home was not a typical example of Charleston architecture, but did give a lot of insight into Charleston society in the early 1800s, and had so many fascinating features, we're glad we chose to tour it. Not the least of which is the rare free flying staircase. Efforts are going forward to close the stairs to visitors to save stress on it, but at this point we were able to climb it to the second floor. The impeccably restored rooms were full of beautiful and details, and the docent led tour was full of interesting information about the history of the house and the life of its original occupants. The grounds are also beautiful, although not entirely an accurate recreation of how the grounds were when the house was built. All in all, we were really pleased with our choice of the two houses we had time to tour during our day in Charleston for giving us a look at the old as it has weathered the years and how those homes would have looked in their heyday.
the charleston custom house is an impressive example of renaissance revival architecture. the custom house was designed by ammi burnham young, and e.b. white supervised it's construction. the construction of this building took over 25 years to complete due to the interruption of the civil war. the custom house was finally completed in 1879.
We were wandering back into town from the battery when we came across the Calhoun Mansion, it's sparkly leaded glass windows beckoning us from the street. We saw a couple of people leaving from a tour and asked if it was worth the admission price and they gushed "oh, yes!" We caught the last tour of the day at 4:30pm, the tour takes you through the 1st and 2nd floors of the mansion with it's jaw dropping collection of antiques. My favorite room was the music room with it's stunning skylight ceiling, according to our guide the skylight was covered over for many years.
The 35 room mansion was built in 1876 and remains the largest single family home in Charleston. It has had several uses since the original owner died in 1903, George Williams was a blockade runner during the Civil War and obviously had quite a bit of money. Williams' daughter Sarah married Patrick Calhoun which is why it's called the Calhoun Mansion. They lived there until they lost their fortune in the stock market crash in 1929. In between 1930 and 1976 when Gedney Howe III bought the mansion for a mere $220,000 and restored it, the mansion was used as a B&B, a luxury hotel and used by the Navy for boarding. At one time the upstairs was converted into showers for them and painted in that hideous navy blue-gray. They had proposed to eliminate the impressive wood staircase, after seeing it you will wonder at the absurdity of that.
The current owner was not named, only that he was living there by himself with his dogs and cat who freely roam the rooms after the tours end for the day. The antique collection is his, the guide said that he was an international attorney. As a cat owner, this was an incredible notion as I know my cats would be knocking over antique vases and priceless antiques on a daily basis.
The regular 1/2 hour tour is $15 per person, there's another 90 minute tour for $50 per person that tours the entire mansion. No pictures are allowed in the interior but you can take them in the garden.
Pirates, Presidents and 300 years of history--that's what you'll learn about at the Old Exchange, included in an area of the city known as Museum Mile--a historic area where a concentrated number of noteworthy buildings are situated. On our walking tour, we learned that it is one of America's three most historic colonial-era public buildings, constructed in 1771.
In this very building "Gentleman Pirate" Stede Bonnet was imprisoned, South Carolina declared its independence from England and President George Washington visited during his Southern tour of states. But there were many other events in its three centuries that make this a worthwhile visit.
You'll want to visit the Provost Dungeon, where 'animatronic' figures bring Pirate history alive--arrrrgh! I'm sure any child will think this is the highlight of your visit!
Hours are daily 9am-5pm. Admission is $8 for adults; $4 for kids 7-12; $4 for students; 6 and under free
From 1887 to 1888 Charleston installed two huge bell towers that look like deer stands or prison camp watch towers that housed the city's automated fire alarm warning bells. These towers, along with the city's orphanage held three large, 2500-pound bells that were connected to call boxes throughout the city, replacing the original electric fire alarm system that was installed in 1877. The bells were in operation until 1953.
The giant bell towers are located behind 5 Cannon Street and 112 Meeting Street.
Tour the Aiken-Rhett House. The tour is awesome because they give you an MP3 player and let your tour the place at your own pace. There is really nice staff at each level to help explain anything you might have a question about and the house is just really cool as well as the personal stories behind it. Pick up the book 62 Famous houses in Charleston...it is a great guide to decide what other houses you might want to see!!!
The Charleston Historic District.
The district has many historic buildings from the 18th and 19th Centuries. A few are accessable as House Museums, giving visitors an oportunity to see what life was like in a different era. One of the best of these is the Joseph Manigault House (See picture). It was built in 1803 by a wealthy family who made their fortune through rice farming amngst other things.
There are many other beautiful houses, many open to the public, giving one a glimpse into life during the latter 18th and 19th Centuries.
The USS Yorktown is now docked in Charleston Harbor, and is open to us as a museum. It's a great place to spend a few hours touring, learning about some of the most seminal moments in world history.
The Yorktown is part of Patriots Point and can be reached by a ferry that leaves downtown Charleston once an hour (it's a $12 roundtrip ticket). It costs $15 to enter Patriots Point itself, less for kids, seniors and those in the US military. The Yorktown is the major part of a fleet docked in the harbor, all of which you can visit. It and it's crew served its country valiantly in several battles in the Pacific theater in WWII, and for several years thereafter.
You can visit several exhibits while on the Yorktown, including seeing several WWII fighters & bombers. You can see how the Yorktown's crew lived while on ship, and tour a fascinating museum honoring winners of the Congressional of Honor.
Leave yourself a few hours to tour the Yorktown, especially if the kids are along.
Again, we enjoyed the Boone Hall experience, also, the Jack's Cosmic Dogs was a must, this is where Alton Brown did one of his stops on his show Good Eats or his biking show...can't remember name of it, but the hot dogs were different and great!!! Also, POE's is a great little place to get lunch, good sandwiches, burgers and cute restaurant, very crowded most of the time!
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