The largest and most expensive public structure ever erected in the United States was the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Considered the world’s first true Penitentiary, it was constructed between 1822 and 1836 on a radial, or wagon wheel, design. Operating between 1829 and 1971, it became the model for more than three hundred other prisons. Its philosophy was “...to link solitude with moral and vocational instruction.” Each cell had its own exercise yard behind it and time out in the yard was synchronized so that no two adjoining prisoners would be out at the same time. This was to minimize any possible inter-prisoner communications. In addition, guards would place hoods over the prisoner’s head so that they would not be recognized by others. For its time, the ESP cells were considered to be quite advanced, in that they each had running water and flush toilets. Notable criminals that were incarcerated here included Al Capone ( 8 months between 1929 and 1930 for weapons charges), bank robber Willie Sutton, and Leo Callahan, who is considered to be the only inmate ever to successfully escape (1923) from ESP. While technically considered to be “still at large”, Callahan would now be over 110 years old. Eastern State Penitentiary closed in 1971 and is now a museum and National Historic Site.
Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) on Fairmount Ave in Philadelphia was just 100 yards up the street from our apartment.
Designed on a radial, or wagon wheel, plan, ESP was the largest public structure ever built in the U.S.
During the first phases of construction, the cellblocks were only one story high...
...but as overcrowding became an issue, new construction added a second tier.
While typical cells had only a cot, running water, and a flush toilet...
... if you had money, like Al Capone, your accommodations could be a little more luxurious.
Already an international celebrity, Al Capone was greeted by movie cameras and hundreds of onlookers upon his 1930 release ( after serving 8 month’s on weapons charges).
A number of movies were filmed within the confines of ESP, including the 1998 “Return to Paradise” with Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, and Joaquin Phoenix.
Founded in 1682 by English Quaker, William Penn, Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city. But long before the arrival of the Europeans, this area was home to the Lenape (Delaware) Native Americans in a village known as “Sackamaxon.” The Europeans came to the Delaware Valley in the early 17th century with the Dutch establishing their first settlement in 1623, known as Fort Nassau ( now Brooklawn, New Jersey). By 1638, Swedish settlers established the colony of New Sweden in what is now Wilmington, Delaware. Several years of conflict between the Dutch and the Swedes ended in 1755 when Peter Stuyvesant took control of the area and created New Netherlands. By 1664, the English had conquered the area, but not much changed until 1682 when Charles II of England granted a charter to William Penn to establish an English settlement, which Penn named “Philadelphia” (Greek for “brotherly love”). In order to remain friendly with the local Lenapes, Penn bought the land from them in spite of his charter. Because Penn had experienced religious persecution back home, he established religious freedom in the new colony. This helped the city to prosper. By the 1750’s, Philadelphia has become an important trade center and the busiest port in British America. The First Continental Congress was held here in 1774 in an effort to deal with the grievances the various colonies had with England. The Second Continental Congress of 1775-1776 however ended up writing the U.S. Declartion of Independence, beginning the American Revolution. Following this conflict, Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the U.S. while Washington, D.C. was under construction (this was completed in 1800 and the capital moved to D.C.). Throughout the 19th century, industry flourished in Philadelphia, with the largest of them being textiles. Philadelphia hosted the first World’s Fair in 1876 as part of its Centennial Exposition.
Philadelphia’s City Hall (with William Penn’s statue on top) is so huge that I had to be way down the street to capture it (even at that, the sides were blocked by the other buildings).
Independence Hall where the First and Second Continental Congresses met and where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Located in front of Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell Memorial.
Of course the Hollywood film industry has also left its mark on the city, such as with this statue of “Rocky Balboa” in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love” because that’s what its name translates to from the Greek.
One of the most photographed sections of Charleston is East Bay Street along the waterfront; affectionately known as “Rainbow Row.” The thirteen colorful historic homes that comprise Rainbow Row represent the largest cluster of Row Georgian houses in the United States. Its name derives from the pastel colors the houses were painted after restoration work in the 1930’s. Most of these homes were built in the early to late 1700’s and originally fronted directly on the Cooper River (later land reclamation efforts filled in a portion of the Cooper River waterfront, pushing this neighborhood back a street). Merchants that built these houses, had shops on the ground floor with living quarters above on the second and third floors. At the time of construction, most of the houses had no interior access between floors - only exterior stairs in the back of the buildings. In 1778, a fire destroyed most of the neighborhood. Following the Civil War, the area deteriorated further into near slum conditions. Susan Pringle Frost (founder of the Society for Preservation of Old Buildings) bought six of the homes in 1920 with plans to restore them. However, she ran out of funds before completing this project. By 1931, Dorothy Haskell Porcher Legge purchased several of the houses and began refurbishing them. She painted her houses pink “...based on a colonial Caribbean color scheme.” Other owners soon followed suit with similar colors believing these would help keep the buildings cool during the summer. By 1945, most had been completely restored. Today, this neighborhood is one of the top tourist attractions in Charleston.
”Rainbow Row” with its pastel colors is considered the most photographed portion of Charleston.
The pink house was constructed around 1740 by sea captain Othneil Beale (from New England). Also a successful merchant, he built this house with the ground floor for commercial use, and living rooms, decorated with cypress paneling, above.
103 East Bay Street was built in 1787 by Joseph Dulles, ancestor of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State Under President Eisenhower.
The Deas-Tunno House was built around 1770. While like its neighbors, it was constructed for commercial use on the ground floor, with residential space above, it differed in having a side yard separating it from the adjacent house.
Lewis Dutarque built the house on 105 East Bay St. in 1778. Italian immigrant Giovanni Guida bought it in 1784 and added an iron Victorian store front.
While we are not certain that the colors do actually keep the buildings cooler, they do add a vibrant flavor to this neighborhood .
It should now be no surprise that we love history. And what better place to explore that love than in a museum. Charleston’s Museum is one of the oldest in the United States. In fact, it touts itself as “America’s First Museum.” Founded in 1773 (but not open to the public until 1824), the museum recreates the history of Charleston and the Low Country, including “...everything from early southern culture and decorative arts to military and natural history,” (quoted from their own website). Located on Meeting Street opposite Charleston’s Visitor Center, it is the home to the only known fossil of the largest flying bird ever discovered; the Pelagornis sandersi (with a reported wing span of 20 to 24 feet). While visiting this museum, we were reminded of the Peabody-Essex Museum back in Salem, Massachusetts (which was originally founded in 1799 as the East India Marine Society).
”America’s First Museum” on Meeting Street in Charleston, South Carolina (founded in 1773).
This marble faced clock had been in use at the police station on the corner of Hutson and King Streets between 1880 and 1900. Connected to a fire alarm system, it would record the time when an alarm was sounded by stopping.
Traveling salesmen were ubiquitous throughout the south during the late 19th century. Their samples trunk carried everything from combs to purses...
...and coffee grinders were not the counter top types we have today.
Apothecaries of the 1800’s did not look like any of today’s pharmacies. Many served as “Medicine Warehouses.”
While life may have seemed more “genteel” back then...
...it was frought with many dangers. House fires were so concerning that the kitchens often were located in a separate building from the living quarters.
Pelagornis sandersi, with a wing span approaching 24 feet, was the largest flying bird known to exist.
Artist rendition of what this monster might have looked like.
Charleston’s first public market was established in 1692, although formal brick structures were not added until 1739. By the 1790’s, this was primarily the city’s beef market. A devastating fire in 1796 destroyed most of the market (which, at that time was known as the “Centre Market”). Afterwards, a four block series of farmer’s ”sheds” replaced the old market. Throughout the 19th century, this was THE place for local farmers to sell beef and produce, as well as a social gathering place. Soon, fish and general merchandise were added to the list of selling products. Since 1899, the market also housed Charleston’s Confederate Museum , under the sponsorship of the Daughters of the Confederacy. A series of devastating tornadoes tore through Charleston in September of 1938, extensively damaging the market, but the community came together and quickly repaired the damage. Today, vendors sell everything from Gullah sweet grass baskets, to jewelry, to souvenirs. This is one of Charleston’s top tourist attractions.
The main entrance to City Market faces onto Meeting Street with Charleston’s Conferste Museum at the top of the stairs.
While the Market’s beginnings were as a beef and produce sellers place, today, it primarily caters to tourist products...
...to sweet grass baskets,..
...to books and other items.
A 1910 postcard depicts the origins of the location as primarily a farmers’ market...
...and this old painting shows the “sheds” out behind the Confederate Museum entranceway.
Every city we’ve visited has had a number of iconic eateries that both locals and tourists enjoy. “Sticky Fingers Ribhouse” in Charleston is one such popular restaurant. Originally established in the Mount Pleasant section of the city, in 1992, by three high school friends (Jeff Goldstein, Todd Eischeid, and Chad Walldorf), it soon grew to include 16 stores in four states (Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee). While this chain of eateries has a varied menu, its emphasis is on Memphis-styled barbecue ribs. Fourteen years after its founding, the chain was bought out by the Charlottesville-based Quad-C Management Corporation. Change is not always successful. Loyal customers of the chain soon realized that the quality of the food was deteriorating and they stopped eating there. By 2016, original founder Chad Walldorf was convinced by former customers to buy back the chain. Quickly, those customers noticed Sticky Fingers returning to its original level of good food. Located a short distance from City Market, Charleston’s Sticky Fingers building is a charming 18th century venue with old wooden floors, tin ceilings, and exposed brick walls. This is a must-do stop when visiting Charleston.
Located on Meeting Street a short distance from City Market, Charleston’s Sticky Fingers is a great place to eat.
The original 1992 Sticky Fingers in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood that started everything.
Charleston’s version of Sticky Fingers (the third store of the chain) is located in a building that was originally built in 1860 as William Harrell’s Saddlery Warehouse. It was one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1861.
Sticky Fingers’ mainstay part of their menu is the Memphis-style BBQ ribs...
....and to enjoy them properly definitely leaves you with “sticky fingers.”
Their menu even attracted the attention of President Bush (photo posted in the window of the Charleston restaurant).
A promise to keep!
Out of a desire to worship in their native language, Johann Andreas Wagener and 49 other German speaking colleagues, in 1840, founded St. Mathew’s Lutheran Church (officially known as the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Charleston, South Carolina). Nine years later, Wagener also established the German immigrant colony of Walhalla, S.C. During the Civil War, Wagener, then a Brigadier General, served as the Confederate Army’s commandant of Charleston until 1865. Three years after the end of the Civil War, the church’s congregation decided that they had outgrown their original structure and began plans for a new building. In 1872, they dedicated their new, larger church. The Bell Tower and clock were added in 1901. Today, St. Mathew’s Lutheran Church serves as a frequent venue for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Gospel Choir concerts.
St. Mathew’s Lutheran Church’s original sanctuary...
...and as it looks today.
An 1883 archival Photo of the “new” St. Mathew’s.
A view of the main altar from the entrance way...
...but the impressiveness of the stained glass windows can’t be fully appreciated until you get closer...
...and there are many more beautiful windows on both sides of the church, including in the balcony.
The colors have remained vibrant, even after nearly 150 years.
The end of Charleston’s peninsula, at the junction of the Ashley and Cooper rivers (creating Charleston Harbor) was home to Fort Broughton during the early 1700’s and, later, to Fort William during the American Revolutionary War; known then as White (or Oyster) Point because of the piles of bleached oyster shells. The promenade along the sea wall was first used as as a public park in 1837 and was officially known as White Point Gardens. However, locals prefer to call it by its nickname, “The Battery” because of its prominence as a coastal defensive system during the Civil War. Fort Sumter is visible from the Cooper River side of the park. Today, this beautiful green space is more noted for the many antebellum homes constructed opposite the sea wall. These grand homes include the Louis DeSaussure House, the Roper House, and the William Ravenel House, among others. During warm summer days, a stroll along the promenade is not only full of history, but also a relaxing way to watch the goings on in the harbor.
White Point Gardens at the Junction of the Cooper and Ashley Rivers is popularly known as “The Battery Park” by locals.
Four months after South Carolina seceded from the United States, the Civil War began when Confederate Forces fired on Fort Sumpter, visible across the harbor from here. Locals like to call this area “Battery Park” because of its role during the Civil War.
An 1863 archival photo of Confederate Forces at “Battery Park.”
While this coastal defensive system is what gave the park its nickname...
...viewing the grand mansions along the promenade attract an equal number of visitors.
These homes are truly impressive.
Every Park has to have a gazebo/bandstand...
...as well as a requisite number of statues.
Even the most neophyte of historians of the American Civil War are cognizant of the role that Fort Sumter played in that conflict. Construction of the fort began in 1829, in response to the War of 1812. Built as a sea fort to protect Charleston harbor, it was named after the American Revolutionary War hero, General Thomas Sumter. Construction had not been completed when, on April 12, 1861, following years of tension between the North and the South, Confederate forces fired on the fort just four months after South Carolina voted to secede from the United States. Considered to be THE ACT that initiated the Civil War, the bombardment lasted for thirty-four hours. A number of Union attempts to resupply the fort failed prior to its eventual surrender on April 13th. Union forces tried unsuccessfully for nearly four years to take Fort Sumter back, including a failed September 8, 1863 battle. While the Confederates never officially surrendered the fort, they were forced to abandon it because of General Sherman’s advance through Charleston. On April 14, 1865, the former Union commander of Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson (then a Major, now a Major-General) took possession of it just hours prior to President Lincoln’s assassination. Following the Civil War, the U.S. Army worked to restore the ruined fort, but it never again saw battle. Between 1876 and 1897 it served as an unmanned lighthouse. Today, Fort Sumter is a National Historic Site and plays host to nearly one million visitors per year.
Archival aerial view of Fort Sumter as it looks today.
Artist’s sketch of how the fort looked in 1861.
Interior of the fort taken from the upper wall.
Remnants of the ammunition storage rooms.
One of the fort’s original canons mounted on a 1961 reconstructed carriage.
This 10-inch mortar, discovered during 1959 excavations, is the type used to fire on the fort in 1861 from Fort Johnson across the harbor. After taking the fort, the Confederates mounted a number of these inside the fort to defend against Union forces .
We had a beautiful day for our visit to Fort Sumter.
Plantations were very important to the history of the American South, especially prior to the Civil War. Soil that was fertile for crop growth, rainfall that was abundant, and a climate that was hot and humid during the summer, while mild in winter, all contributed to making plantations successful. One of America’s oldest working plantations is right here in the Mount Pleasant part of metropolitan Charleston; the Boone Hall Plantation. The first recorded reference to the property was a circa 1681, 470 acre land grant to Theophilus Patey, who gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, John Boone. This property would become known as Boone Hall Plantation. Boone had arrived in Charleston in 1672 as one of the area’s first settlers. Ownership of the property continued with the Boone family until 1811 when it was sold to Henry and John Horlbeck. The brothers created a brick factory on the grounds which provided much of the construction materials for many of Charleston’s buildings. By 1850, the factory was producing around four million bricks per years, utilizing 85 slaves. The Horlbeck family was also responsible for adding the famous “Avenue of Oaks” that lead up to the main house, in 1843. One of their more important additions to the Plantation was the planting of over 700 acres of Pecan trees. By the turn of the century, the Plantation was the leading producer of pecans in the country. Unfortunately, a major hurricane in 1911 wiped out a majority of the pecan trees. Canadian Thomas Stone purchased the property in 1935, demolishing the existing two-story house and building the current Colonial Revival Plantation House. Following several successive ownership changes, the Plantation was open to the public in 1956. From downtown Charleston, Boone Hall can be accessed by bus #40 along route 17 in Mount Pleasant.
As Charleston’s oldest working plantation, Boone Hall is a top tourist attraction.
Created in 1843 by the Horlbeck brothers, the Avenue of Oaks is one of the more impressive features of the plantation.
Often known as a floating staircase, this one really makes the front hall.
Just off the main hall, this sunken music room served as the main entertainment center for the mansion.
This conservatory was for a different type of relaxation.
Nine of the original slave cabins make up “Slave Street” (beside the main house)...
... each of which depicts different aspects of the lives of the plantation slaves. During the reconstruction period, these slave quarters became sharecropper’s cabins.
When Major John Boone died in 1711, he was buried along the Avenue of Oaks. But this maker is not his burial site...
...his actual tomb is about fifty feet beyond the marker and behind a bush.
There is just so much to see here that we could not possibly cover it all in this post. We had a great time.
Continuing the Stateside portion of our travels, following a visit to Washington, D.C., the next stop was Charleston, South Carolina. Situated at the junctions of the Cooper, Wando, and Ashley rivers, Charleston is the oldest and largest city in South Carolina. It was founded in 1670 as “Charles Town”, so named in honor of King Charles II of England. Initially located on the West Bank of the Ashley river ( at Albemarle Point), by 1680 it was relocated to its present site. Incorporated as a city at the end of the American Revolutionary War (1783), the city adopted its present spelling. During the peak years of the slave trade, historians estimated that nearly half of all Africans brought to the United States, passed through Charleston. As part of the first state to secede from the Union in 1861, Charleston initiated the beginning of the Civil War by seizing the city’s arsenal, Castle Pinckney (a small government fortification), and firing on Fort Sumpter in the harbor. Now a popular tourist destination, Charleston is known not only for its history, but also for its architecture, dining experiences, and the friendliness of its inhabitants.
Originally founded nearly three hundred- fifty years ago, Charleston is now a popular tourist destination.
From the Pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park...
...to the colorful homes along “Rainbow Row”...
...and the Southern Charm of plantation style homes, Charleston is a beautiful city.
While the houses along the waterfront are beautiful, they do tend to flood easily during storms (apparently that is why this is called the “Low Country”).
Charleston Harbor is still quite active, with the old...
...and the new.
Make sure not to pass up the food in the numerous fine restaurants.
When lots of land in Alexandria, Virginia were auctioned off in 1749, Scottish merchant, John Carlyle bought numbers 41 and 42 in what would eventually be known as “Old Town.” Using indentured and slave labor, Carlyle began construction of his new home in 1751, completing it two years later. His plans included space for his family, entertaining, and for servant use, along with a number of out-buildings for his business and the household. Carlyle was very successful in the business world, owning three plantations and a foundry. In 1755, during the French and Indian Wars, Major-General Edward Braddock made the Carlyle House his headquarters. Carlyle reportedly was not very pleased with this arrangement as Braddock caused a lot of damage to the interior of the main building. During this same period, the Virginia Congress frequently met in Carlyle’s dining room to help develop strategy for the war. Upon Carlyle’s death in 1780, his son, George, inherited the home. Unfortunately, George himself died a year later. The House then passed through a number of family members until 1826, when it was sold to pay off some debts.By 1860, the then owner, James Green, built a hotel (known as the Mansion House Hotel) in the front yard, neglecting the home behind it. In its heyday, the hotel became known as one of the best on the East Coast. During the Civil War, Union Troops converted the hotel into a hospital for the wounded. Following the Civil War, the property again changed hands several times with a number of upgrades and renovations. During the mid-1970’s, the hotel was torn down and the house totally restored, eventually becoming a National Historic Site.
Scotish Merchant, John Carlyle’s home in “Old Town” Alexandria. At the time construction was completed (1753), this was the grandest home in the neighborhood.
John Carlyle (1720 - 1780) came to the Virginia colony in 1739 and became a successful landowner and businessman. In addition, Carlyle became quite socially active as a Justice if the Peace and contractor for many public works projects.
Like many homes of the period, the main hall had two entrances (front and back) to allow for cross ventilation during the summer.
When guests arrived, the formal drawing room was used for entertaining.
Often used as a Music Room, the small drawing room was for intimate family occasions.
One of the unique features of homes of this time period were the small closets in the first floor rooms. The most prized family possessions were usually kept in these closets.
The upstairs hallway was used to display period clothing.
Of course, the master bedroom was the main feature of the second floor.
A second bedroom would be used for guests or children.
As nice as the house was, the backyard was equally impressive...
...including this English style garden.
Carl and Lorraine Aveni are two retirees planning on traveling through Europe for at least one year.