ThursdayDoors: The City of Facades

In Charleston South Carolina it takes a lot of money to be an SOB. You also have to be willing to live in a house that’s over 200 years old but which you cannot change the exterior of in any way other than to repair or repaint. And don’t expect to get around your neighborhood easily. You have to share the road with an endless stream of horse drawn carriages filled with people snapping photos of you in your bathrobe.

house

Note the lady in pink on the balcony trying to escape my camera.

 

The SOB, which in Charleston stands for South of Broad (street), is an enclave of historic buildings on narrow sometimes cobblestone streets. Although there are strong restrictions concerning remodeling, they were built in a variety of architectural styles ranging from Queen Anne to Art Deco. Every effort is made to save these beauties, however sometimes they burn down or simply can’t be repaired.  Any new building must resemble one built two hundred years ago.  As you can imagine, that would be quite a challenge.

You can either take a guided walking tour through the SOB or a horse-drawn carriage. It was 85 degrees and humid so you can probably guess which one we chose.

house1

A Queen Anne given as a wedding present to the daughter of a Confederate millionaire.

I have to apologize for the quality of the photos.  We were at the whims of Jack, a horse who didn’t like to stop even when we were at a stop sign.

horse

Jack

But he is a handsome dude, don’t you think?   You would expect with as many horse drawn carriages as they have in the SOB the streets would be knee deep in you-know-what  but they’re not which led me to believe Charleston has an army of horse poop picker uppers who, like the street sweepers in Disneyland, work in stealth. The streets were always miraculously horse poop free though no shovelers were in sight.

house2

One of the few houses undergoing some sort of renovation

Characteristic of homes in this area are balconies that could host tennis tournaments.  Many face the street but along the waterfront, they face that vile reminder of Northern Aggression, Fort Sumter, which I talked about last Thursday.

fancygate

An example of pineapple gates

Another thing you see in the SOB is intricate iron work on gates, fences, and windows.  Their purpose was not entirely decorative.  They were installed as protection against slave revolts but of course they have to be lovely and not coarse and vulgar.  Racism in the south is laced with the nuance of genteelity.

During the Civil War, genteel Southerners surrendered anything made of iron to the Confederate Army to be melted into munitions so they could keep the right to own human beings. Those bullets and cannon balls shredded many an arm, a leg and heart but over the years they’ve been replaced.

federalisthouse

Washington/Heyward House

 

 

This is one of the oldest houses in Charleston, built in 1772 in the Georgian style by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward. Today this house is a museum primarily because George Washington once stayed here. There are a number of houses and plantations in the area built by Founding Fathers who themselves owned slaves and believed women shouldn’t vote. I don’t know what to tell you all but it’s sinking into the sea so if you want to visit the City of Facades you’d better visit soon because every morning the streets are flooded with seawater which the non climate change believers  have somehow accepted as normal.

No one can live in a house over two hundred years old without changing the exterior which it appears we in the USA might have to do.

Please skip on over to Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoors event to see other doors from around the world.

 

20 thoughts on “ThursdayDoors: The City of Facades

  1. “Racism in the south is laced with the nuance of genteelity” … that, sadly, is a powerful statement. Is it just my perception, or is there a tendency to ‘overlook’ racist behaviour and opinions when neatly wrapped in good manners? Coincidentally, this has been a topic of several different conversations today.

    Beautiful photos, Jan. It looks like a lovely place to play tourist. I especially like the rounded features of the house in the second photo.

    • Joanne, I thought the same thing about “Racism in the south is laced with the nuance of genteelity.”

      I love Charleston, and you definitely saw it the right way, Jan — literally and figuratively. Whenever I’m in The South, I am keenly aware of my Yankee pride.

    • It is a beautiful little city with lots of great restaurants and nightspots and plenty of southern warmth and charm. Not a place I would discuss politics though!

      • I do love the south – and though not ever lived in the ‘deep’ south have long ago forgiven its history. Especially when I see, and am so very aware, of such rampant racism in the ‘north’ even in modern times.
        Of course slaves were abused & the entire structure was hideous – but most slaves were expensive property & less likely to be shot in the back for essentially nothing as people of color are today.
        Very lovely pictures and interesting conversation but did I miss something Jan- what does SOB stand for? The usual thing? :))

  2. Owning those historic old homes can be both a blessing and a curse. So many bureaucratic hoops to jump through every time you want to refurb or repair. Making sure to use the right historically accurate materials and methods is not always easy and it’s never cheap.
    Mind you if you have the money for a place like that, one assumes you have the money to do the repairs right too.
    This really is a beautiful area. I will have to check it out if I ever make it down there.
    Great post Jan

    • It’s definitely worth a visit but I wouldn’t plan on spending more than a couple of days – it’s quite expensive and if you like to walk, you can see the town easily in three or four days.

  3. Very nice, Jan. I give the owners credit for keeping them looking great. It’s like Norm said, it’s tough duty. I think Jack doesn’t care much for photos, since he’ll be down the same street tomorrow.

    • According to his handler, Jack used to work in the fields as a plow horse. Now he’s in “semi-retirement” – they don’t work him for any more than few hours a day. It was hot so I’m sure he wanted to get back to the water barrel.

  4. Great post, Jan, and well written too. You integrated the south and its history and customs including slavery, with architecture, the Civil War, and current events like Jack the horse. Much enjoyed.

  5. Quite the homes, Jan. It must cost an arm and a leg to keep them up, much like other older, large, historic homes. SOB made me laugh because my dad calls my mom that, but it stand for “Sweet Old Barb”, Barb being her name. 🙂

    janet

  6. We have a neighborhood next to us like that in Huntsville, AL. It’s called Twickenham (the original name of Huntsville before we became not a fan of the Brits for that short stint). I’m sure Charleston has a far larger area, but the houses are immense, beautiful, dated, and a pain in the bum to live in, I know because I have many friends who do live there.

  7. I liked the beauty in the white lacy woodworking the doorway in the pretty mansion (or so it appeared to me. 🙂 )
    I like that you were honest about some of the less than covered or obscure racist elements in the South. They are sometimes obvious, but I notice subtle examples, too.
    I liked the city of Savannah, GA but somehow the attitude of another table of restaurant patrons just ruined the lovely setting. . .

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