Discover Your Charleston Tour Stops
The Aiken-Rhett house is the northernmost site on Charleston’s Museum Mile and is one of the best preserved mansions in the area. It is a perfect representation of urban life in antebellum Charleston and one of the many impressive historical sites you will have a chance to see on your carriage tour of charming Charleston.
The Aiken-Rhett house was built in 1817 on 48 Elizabeth Street for a local merchant by the name of John Robinson, but any original pieces of art or exquisite furnishings still existing in the mansion today would have belonged to Governor and Mrs. William Aiken Jr. The Governor and his wife purchased the home in 1827 when John Robinson lost five ships in his fleet and was forced to sell. The Williams family began expanding and renovating the home in the 1830’s.
William Aiken was one of the wealthiest citizens of South Carolina and it was during his trips to Europe with his wife that he collected many of the magnificent pieces that are, in some cases, still in the same rooms they were placed in when he owned the home. These pieces can still be seen today if you return to the home for a tour after your historic Charleston carriage ride is complete.
The Aiken-Rhett house has survived the years in remarkable condition having been carefully cared for since 1858, after the William’s family completed the second expansion. Pride of family and ownership helped to keep the mansion in good condition as it remained in the Williams family all the way until 1975. At this time the home was donated to the Charleston Museum and later bought by the Charleston Foundation in 1995.
Today you can tour the home, taking in the amazing architecture of the time while learning about the history of the mansion. Your tour guide on your historical Charleston carriage ride will be able to tell you all about this well preserved piece of history as you experience all the historic charm the city of Charleston has to offer.
Charleston is a city rich in history that dates back further than that of most American cities. There is so much to see and learn here in this charming city by the sea that you may find a relaxing carriage ride with a knowledgeable tour guide is the best way to see and discover the most at one time.
18th century architecture abounds here and you won’t be disappointed when your carriage tour travels down Church Street and past some interesting historical structures. Located on 89-91 Church Street is a three storied row of houses locally known as Cabbage Row.
Cabbage Row is a structure from the Revolutionary War era. It is a well preserved example of this type of home, consisting of a pair of houses connected by a central arcade. The structure is three stories tall with commercial ground floors that have stood the test of time. The area is now lined with private homes and specialty shops but that wasn’t always the case.
At one time, Cabbage Row was home to up to ten families at a time and was mostly inhabited by the African American families of freed slaves. This is also where the name, Cabbage Row, was born. African Americans living in these row houses would sell cabbage right from their window sills. The building continued to house a tenement into the early 1900s.
If you stop by Cabbage Row you may be confused by a sign on the building which reads “Catfish Row.” This more recent name comes from a book written by Charleston and Church Street native, Dubose Heyward. Cabbage Row was the setting for his novel and in it, the name was changed to Catfish Row in order to reflect the fictional location by the sea. His 1925 novel, Porgy, was also the basis for George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy & Bess.
The Calhoun Mansion is the largest private residence in all of Charleston and may be seen on your carriage tour of this beautiful, historic city.
Built in 1876 by George W. Williams, the mansion was his contribution to the reemergence of Charleston after the civil war. It took nearly five years to build, employing hundreds of local artisans and craftsman. The Calhoun Mansion is more than 24,000 sq ft containing 35 grand rooms including the grand ballroom and the music room which boasts a 45 ft covered glass skylight. The home also holds 23 period fireplaces, numerous ornate chandeliers and beautiful plaster and wood molding.
The 14 by 65 ft grand entrance is a sight to behold along with the 75 ft high domed stair hall ceiling. There are no less than three levels of Piazzas in this Italianate manor home and you won’t want to miss the delightful Koi ponds you’ll find on the grounds. There are so many surprises awaiting you in this historic mansion, you have to see for yourself.
The Calhoun Mansion is known as the “Grande Dame” of Charleston’s great homes and was once dubbed “the greatest post civil war home on the eastern seaboard.” After the death of Williams in 1903 the house began to deteriorate and was eventually condemned in 1972. The mansion was eventually rescued by a Charleston native who spent 25 years and nearly five million dollars restoring it to its original grandeur.
Today the Calhoun Mansion is still the largest single family residence in Charleston. It is a revered historic structure that is open to the public for tours now that it has been restored to its previous condition. The Calhoun Mansion has been featured in Architectural Digest, America’s Castles, Forbes, HGTV, and The Wall Street Journal. This magnificent home is a must see on your trip to charming Charleston.
Every historical city needs an old market to bring past and present together. Charleston, South Carolina does not disappoint with one of the oldest markets in the country, the appropriately named, City Market.
The City Market was first established in 1807 on land given to the city in 1788. What was the catch? The city had to use the land, indefinitely, for the purpose of a public marketplace. They have kept their end of the bargain. Until the 1830’s the market was a place to find fish, meat and vegetable vendors. The original small shacks that housed this oldest part of the market are still alive and well today, host to charming vendors still selling meat and vegetables and often other homemade goods.
The current “new” structure with its grand entrance facing Meeting Street was constructed in 1840. Inside you will find four blocks of open air market space housing a variety of vendors offering an array of high quality items. Strolling through the market you will find original artwork including paintings, pottery, jewelry and Charleston’s famous sweet grass baskets. Clothing, souveniers, and arts and crafts abound. And if you work up an appetite while shopping, there’s a variety of casual and fine dining restaurants to choose from.
Downtown historic Charleston wouldn’t be the same without their traditional market. Tourists and locals alike gather in this charming, vibrant market 365 days a year from early in the morning until it’s time to go home for dinner. Don’t miss a chance to see this lively attraction on your carriage tour of Charleston. And when it’s over, be sure to come back and stay awhile. This site deserves a second look.
The College of Charleston majestically stands as a reminder of this city’s rich history in the heart of the historic district. This public college founded in 1770 holds the title of oldest college or university in all of South Carolina.
The college was founded by important men in history who included future signers of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is one of the oldest colleges in the United States, coming in at 13th, and the oldest municipal college in the United States. The Revolution soon held the attention of the founders and the governor and opening of the school was delayed. Classes finally commenced in 1790 and the first class of six students graduated from the College of Charleston in 1794.
This was not to be the last of the problems the college would experience. The College of Charleston was unreliable after the resignation of its first president and it closed for a time in 1811. The situation improved somewhat with the hiring of a new president in 1824 and finally stabilized in 1837 when the city of Charleston City Council took over the school and its finances. In 1864 the school was again forced to close due to the Civil War but resumed classes in 1866.
The historic campus is charming, with large oak trees draped with Spanish moss that is so recognized in the south. Beautiful brick walkways wind their way through the trees. The beautiful historic campus has been used for filming numerous television shows and movies. Buildings from the original campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the College has been named a National Historic Landmark.
Even though the college spent much of its time as a small private institution, today it is a public liberal arts school with an enrollment of over 11,000 students.
Charleston is an old city with a vast history and over 1400 historic places of interest but it is hard to beat the Old Exchange Building in a competition for the most interesting and varied history in the city. The old Exchange Building is known as one of the three most historically significant colonial structures in the country.
At the time when the Old Exchange was built in 1767 Charleston was the most prosperous port in the South. The Palladian style exchange was built to accommodate the commercial imports and exports and also came to play an important role in the political and social scene of Charleston.
In addition to its role as a commercial center, the Old Exchange played a big part in America’s beginnings. Here the Declaration of Independence was read for the citizens of South Carolina. In 1790 the South Carolina State Legislature met to ratify the new State Constitution. George Washington himself hosted banquets and events here during his week in Charleston in May of 1791.
But the history here isn’t all colorful. Some of it is quite dark. Right next to the place where the Declaration of Independence was read, others were losing their independence as slaves were bought and sold on the property prior to the civil war. Provost Dungeon was located underneath the building where pirates, deserters, socialites and civil war prisoners were shackled with heavy iron in extremely poor conditions. There was sickness, disease, rats, and dead prisoners often left with the living. It is rumored that the tortured spirits of some of these prisoners still haunts the dungeon and that maybe there are some colonial spirits walking around upstairs, mistaken for tour guides in uniform.
The Old Exchange Building was declared a national historic landmark in 1973 and is now owned by the South Carolina Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It is currently operated as a historic museum.
Charleston is a charming southern city dating back to the 1600s with a rich history which is partially evident in the many grand, historical churches that dot the city. One of these churches is the Grace Episcopal Church, standing tall as a perfect example of Gothic Revival architecture in the city. Come along on a relaxing carriage tour of Charleston and discover all the rich culture and heritage this city has to offer visitors and locals alike.
Grace Episcopal Church was built in 1846 and admitted to the Diocese of South Carolina amidst strong religious fervor and a growing population. This explains why the church was founded during a time when there were already four Episcopal churches in the city.
The view of the Charleston skyline from the harbor reveals a beautiful picture including many distinctive church steeples all unique in their own way. Grace Episcopal Church’s unique architecture evokes Medieval European cathedrals with its spire, pinnacles and arched windows and doorways. Stained glass windows depicting stories of Christ complete the stunning picture.
Although Grace Episcopal is a thriving church today with a growing parish and many active programs including worship, education and service programs, the church has not been without its difficulties. The Grace Episcopal had to reopen in March of 1865 after undergoing repairs needed due to excessive damage suffered during the Civil War.
Again the church was damaged, and this time almost beyond repair, in 1886 when an earthquake rocked the city. Grace endured damage due to a hurricane in 1911 and again in 1989. This time, the congregation took the opportunity to not only repair the damage, but restore the church back to its earlier grandeur and appearance.
Spend some time getting to know old Charleston with the oldest carriage company in the city, Palmetto Carriage Works and see a side of Charleston you’ve never known before.
On 27 King Street in Charleston South Carolina you will find one of the most admired colonial townhouses in the historic district. Charleston has no lack of interesting historic architecture and the Miles Brewton House does not disappoint. Some have even called it “the finest townhouse of the colonial period.”
Built from 1765-1769, and designed by architect Ezra White, the Miles Brewton House is an excellent example of Georgian Palladian architecture. The home’s two story design includes four main rooms per floor and a main façade with a two story portico. The intricate ornamentation created by English wood carvers adds to the elegance of the home and in 1822 the addition of wrought iron fencing further added to its charm. It is a perfect example of the “Charleston double house.” You can see why this is one of the most photographed historic homes in Charleston.
The Miles Brewton House was twice occupied by armies using it for their headquarters. It’s no wonder, considering it was known as one of the best townhouses in all of Charleston. The British General Clinton occupied the home during the revolution and it was again occupied by the Federal Garrison after the end of the Civil War.
The house was named a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It has never left the hands of the family and is even today still privately owned and occupied by descendants of Miles Brewton.
n the heart of the historic district, the oldest part of Charleston, sits the Old City Jail. It was in use from 1802- 1939. The building sat vacant for 61 years prior to its purchase by the American College for the Building Arts which has undertaken the job of renovations to preserve this important part of Charleston history. Most of the original structure is still standing today although the original octagonal tower had to be removed after it was damaged by the earthquake of 1886.
The Old City Jail was home to some of Charleston’s most famous criminals. Denmark Vessey was jailed here while he awaited hanging for organizing a slave rebellion in July of 1822. He was condemned to live the rest of his short life in the top of the octagonal tower. At this time the jail filled up with hundreds of inmates who were part of the planed slave rebellion. Most of them were slaves or free blacks but there were four white men who were also jailed for supporting the rebellion.
Other famous residents of the Old City Jail include Lavinia Fisher, her husband and much of their gang. They were convicted of murder and robbery and Lavinia Fisher is still considered the first female mass murderer in the United States. Strange tales abound of bizarre happenings at the hotel the Fishers used as their headquarters.
But this wasn’t only a jail for famous criminals. Charleston was a busy port in the 19th century and often the victim of wily pirates. Many of these pirates met their fate in the Old City Jail. During the civil war, murderers, robbers and pirates were jailed alongside confederate and federal war prisoners.
And what Old City Jail would be complete without a few good ghost stories? Don’t worry, there are plenty of those here. Learn more about the county jail and its colorful history on one of our carriage tours of this important, historic city.
The Powder Magazine was built around 1713 just inside the original city walls. The modest structure housed a supply of gunpowder safely away from the civilian population. It is the oldest public building in the southeast.
Rainbow Row just may be the most photographed area of historic Charleston. This charming row of colorful historic homes is a major tourist attraction and a perfect example of the old row houses that were very distinctly Charleston.
Rainbow Row was built in the mid 18th century on 83-107 East Bay Street. To begin with, this was a commerce center on Charleston’s waterfront, built to serve the wharfs and docks of the very vibrant and busy Port of Charleston. Merchants worked in their stores on the first floor and called the top floors home.
Unfortunately, conditions here severely deteriorated after the Civil War. The area became slum-like and the homes were in disrepair. In the early part of the 20th century a woman named Dorothy Porcher Legge purchased the homes on 99-101 East Bay Street and began to renovate them. She painted this row of homes pastel pink, for the popular colonial Caribbean color scheme. Eventually other homes in the row were purchased and renovated and their owners followed her example, painting the homes in different shades of pastel colors.
As with any historic area with lots of character, there are many stories as to the reasons for the different paint colors on Rainbow Row. One story says the houses were painted in different vibrant colors so drunken sailors coming from port would know which house they were supposed to sleep in. Other stories tell of merchants who used different color paints so illiterates would know which store to shop at without having to read the sign. Either way, the results are delightful.
Today, Rainbow Row consists of 14 private residences that are part of one of the most famous architectural landmarks in Charleston. Considering Charleston’s history, that’s saying a lot. When visiting Charleston, make sure you don’t miss this most recognizable of sights and be sure to bring your camera!
Palmetto Carriage Works charming carriage tours stop at one of the most historical buildings in the city. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is the oldest church building in Charleston, built on the original site of the first Anglican Church south of Virginia.
The first Anglican Church in the South was a small wooden structure located on the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets. The church was eventually moved to Church Street and a bigger church building. By 1751, the church had become too small for the growing population of Charleston and so began work on St. Michael’s. St. Michael’s opened its doors for services in 1761.
With the exception of one addition in 1883, little has changed about St. Michael’s over the years. The church was built in the style of architect Sir Christopher Wren and still retains its beautiful white bricks and 186 ft high steeple. The pulpit is original and so are the pews, made of local cedar. As a matter of fact, George Washington himself worshipped in the long double pew in the center of the church in May of 1791 and 70 years later, General Robert E Lee did the same.
The clock and bells are original, dating all the way back to colonial times. It is thought that St. Michael’s Church may have the oldest functioning colonial clock tower in America. The chandelier, now electric, dates back to 1803 and the new organ is housed in the original organ case dating all the way back to 1768, just seven years after the church opened its doors.
St. Michael’s has survived the Revolution and the Civil war, a tornado and an earthquake which threatened the majestic steeple. This old church has a lot of stories to tell.
Today, St. Michael’s has a thriving congregation, still holding services every Sunday and throughout the week.
St. Philips Church founded in 1680 is just one of many old churches in Charleston South Carolina and the oldest congregation in the state. South of the Virginia state line it is known as the oldest Anglican congregation.
St. Philips stands tall on Church Street in the heart of the historic district of Charleston, but this is the congregation’s second location. The first St. Philips was a small wooden structure located on the corner of Meeting and Broad Streets. But this was to be only the first in a succession of new buildings, all due to damage caused by natural and some not so natural occurrences.
In 1710 the original church was badly damaged in one of South Carolina’s famous hurricanes and a new, stronger brick building was authorized for the Church Street location. Unfortunately, the new building, still under construction in 1713, was damaged by yet another hurricane. The building of the new church suffered other setbacks too mostly due to the Indian wars. Finally, in 1723, the first services in the new brick church took place on Easter Sunday.
In 1835, just more than a century later, tragedy struck the old church again when a fire burned it down to the ground. This time the rebuilding was quick and unhindered by storms or other disasters and the new church, which still stands today, was open for worship. The three Tuscan porticoes and Roman columns on the interior gave the church a grand feel.
Today the church is registered as a national historic landmark. The historic graveyard spans three sides of the church and the property across the street and contains the graves of notable authors, governors, congressman and even a vice president. Some say it’s haunted and with a history dating back to the 18th century, maybe it is, but the church proudly boasts a sign that states “The only ghost here is the holy ghost.” Either way, this is a congregation that is proud of its heritage.
In historic downtown Charleston, situated in the heart of the desirable South of Broad neighborhood, is quite possibly the most recognized Bed and Breakfast in Charleston and one of the most romantic destinations in the country. Here you find Two Meeting Street Inn, on the corner of Meeting Street and South Battery.
Cobblestone Streets lined with old Oak trees, the view of Charleston Harbor and grand historic mansions combine to make this one of the most desirable and romantic locations in historic Charleston. Add to that the picturesque southern porch where visitors relax for afternoon tea and you won’t be surprised to find out that this is one of the most photographed locations in the South.
And isn’t it fitting that this most romantic of destinations had its start with a love story. History tells it like this. Once there was a prominent jeweler in Charleston by the name of Waring Carrington who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful young woman by the name of Martha Williams. It was love at first sight they say. They were married in 1890 during a grand affair to which 2500 hundred invitations were sent.
The father of the bride was a wealthy merchant himself. He presented to the young couple, a gift that would be considered grand even by today’s standards. He gave them $75,000 toward the purchase of their new home located on the corner of Meeting and South Battery Streets; what was then, and still is now, a very desirable neighborhood. That home eventually became one of the most romantic Bed and Breakfasts in the country and is a top destination for newlyweds. A perfect ending for such a romantic beginning.
Today the house is still owned by the family of Minnie Carr who bought the house in 1946 and turned it into a guest house. Don’t miss out on this charming historical Charleston spot. Be sure to bring your camera and in this case, maybe your sweetheart too.
Looking at Waterfront Park now, you would never guess that not so long ago in the history of Charleston, this once bustling area had declined to the point that it was almost unrecognizable as the busy section of harbor that it once was.
In the area of Charleston Harbor where we find Waterfront Park today, there were once very busy wharfs and ship terminals. Eventually the area began to decline, as sometimes happens, and by June of 1955, when fire ripped through a steamship terminal site, this part of the harbor was in ruins. The area was overgrown and strewn with the charred remains of the fire, mingling with rutted, graveled parking lots.
When Joseph P. Riley Jr. became Mayor, he made it a priority to make improvements to the area. He wanted to build a park. Despite a setback due to a hurricane that came through the area months before the park was set to open, on May 11, 1990, Waterfront Park opened to the public.
Waterfront Park consists of 8 acres along Charleston Harbor and nearby Cooper River. Just the view and the soft ocean breezes is enough to make anyone want to spend an afternoon.
The park is popular with both residents and tourists. The pier is a popular place to walk with children and the wading fountains are always a hit with families during the hot summer months. Spacious lawns and quaint garden areas are calling you to join them for a picnic. Complete with walking and jogging paths, picnic tables, wooden swings and large shade trees, Waterfront Park is the perfect place to spend a lazy summer day.
In 2007, Waterfront Park won a Landmark Award for maintaining its original design while still remaining relevant in Charleston. If you are visiting Charleston for the first time, you can make a whole afternoon of visiting Waterfront Park by combining it with a trip to nearby City Market or stopping for lunch down the street on East Bay.
Historic Charleston is known for its grand historical architecture but some have called this mansion in the heart of the historic district “the finest home in all of Charleston.” Located in one of the most charming neighborhoods in the historic district is the famous Wentworth Mansion.
Wentworth Mansion is a 5 star luxury hotel and a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It is also known as one of the best boutique hotels in the world. This family owned hotel is popular for families, couples and history buffs alike that are looking for a more upscale hotel experience. Its location near the antique district, King Street shops, boutiques and the Charleston nightlife combined with the luxury hotel experience come together to make a stay in this historical mansion a unique Charlestown getaway experience.
But Wentworth Mansion was not always a hotel. The mansion was built between 1881 and 1886 by the wealthy cotton merchant, Francis Silas Rodgers for his large family of 13. The mansion was 24,000 sq ft and four stories tall. This elegant home’s carved marble fireplaces, intricately carved woodwork and custom crystal chandeliers imported from Europe gave the majestic mansion a sophisticated feel.
When the mansion was renovated in 1998, the new owner was careful to preserve the historical essence of the mansion. The original European chandeliers are still there, as are the marble carved fireplaces. In fact, most of the unique features of the home were preserved during the renovation.
An award winning, four star restaurant was eventually added to the hotel located in the original carriage house on the property. The state of the art spa is housed in the old stables of the Mansion. Guest rooms and suites are furnished with antiques to preserve the 19th century style.
Take a relaxing carriage ride on cobblestone streets in old historic Charleston and discover the charm of this famous mansion turned luxury hotel.
Visit their website at www.wentworthmansion.com
In the heart of the Charleston historic district is a piece of history with roots going back to the early 18th century. It was the site of colonial style justice in the 1720s and played a part in the civil war. Today, White Point Garden is a charming waterfront park located right on the Charleston Battery.
Ocean views, gentle breezes, large shady oak trees and oyster shell pathways are enough to make anyone want to pull up a blanket and have a picnic on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Old civil war time cannons provide a place for children to climb and play and pretend. The gazebo style bandstand, a throwback to 1907, adds an element of charm. Statues and memorials located throughout the park give visitors a chance to learn a little about the history of the area. The park today is a place the whole family can enjoy for locals and visitors alike.
The history of White Point Garden, often called White Point Gardens by locals, is not as quaint as the park you find there today.
The area where White Point Garden is now located was once called Oyster Point. What is now covered with soft green lawn used to be covered with oyster shells. The shells were eventually bleached from the warm Carolina sun giving the point a white look. The area was officially renamed White Point Garden in 1837.
As the centerpiece of the Battery, the park was used as a Civil War Fortification, but more than a century before, the park was part of an even darker piece of history. A monument in the park remembers the storied pirate, Stede Bonnet. He was buried in a nearby marsh after his death, but not before he was hung at this very park, along with 49 others over a five week period of time. His body was left hanging for four days to deter others from engaging in pirate activity, lest they meet the same fate.
A Palmetto Carriage tour will give you the chance to see the park and many other landmarks located throughout the city while learning all the fascinating details of this historically rich city by the sea.
The William Rhett House is considered one of the oldest houses in historic Charleston and was one of the first of its kind to be restored back to its original grandeur. There have been a few changes and additions to the home over the years but otherwise it is the perfect picture of an 18th century home in Charleston, South Carolina.
William Rhett came to Charleston in 1698 where he quickly rose in the ranks as a colonial militia leader. He was a successful merchant and sea captain who is most famously known for his participation in the capture of the pirate Stede Bonnet in 1718.
The two storied stuccoed brick home on 54 Hassell Street in Charleston was built by William Rhett in 1712. Its square shape was characteristic of homes during that time. The home includes a central hall with two large rooms on both the west and east sides. In the early 19th century, an addition was built on the northwest side of the house and piazzas were added to both the west and east sides of the house which are still in use as entrances today.
When the house was first built, it existed outside the city limits on property that was once named Point Plantation and was later named Rhettsbury .The property was later subdivided for the granddaughters of William Rhett. In time, the home was purchased by a wealthy wharf owner. His grandson, Wade Hampton III, US Senator and Governor of South Carolina, was born there.
As the neighborhood declined, the home spent some time as a boarding house in the 1920s and 1930s before it was purchased in 1941 and restored. Today it is still a private residence, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of the many charming historic sites you will see on the Palmetto Carriage Tour.
You might be wondering why a lake and lakeside park are part of a historical carriage tour in a city filled with historical architecture. Colonial Lake just happens to have a story and rich history all its own. Colonial Lake was originally named Rutledge Street Pond. This is back in 1768 when the manmade pond was part of the commons and most likely functioned as a mill pond, used to power saw mills located in the area. Although it was renamed Colonial Lake in the 19th century, you might still catch a local calling it “the pond”.
Tourists and residents alike have been enjoying this lake and park for hundreds of years. It is especially popular during the holidays when events are held in the park and the famous Charleston Christmas tree glimmers with twinkling lights right in the middle of the lake for all to see. The park is also a famous spot for such special occasions as wedding proposals and other important events or gatherings.
But it’s a good spot for quiet pursuits also. Any day of the year you are likely to find people casually strolling around the lake, sometimes with laughing children or cheerful dogs. Bikers and joggers regularly use Colonial Lake as the background for a ride or a run. And if you just want to sit awhile and enjoy the gorgeous view there are many park benches just waiting for you to come relax.
Come along for a quaint carriage ride with Palmetto Carriage Works and take the opportunity to spend some time in this charming, historical city park. Don’t forget your camera.