Explore Charleston SC

South of Broad Self-guided Walking Tour

For your convenience, we have created a walking map with the GMaps Pedometer website.
A stand alone copy of the map can be printed from here.

The complete walking distance is just over 1 and a quarter miles.

Architectural Detail

The area at the tip of the Charleston Peninsula south of Broad Street is one of the finest residential showcases in the U.S. Here you’ll find a treasure chest collection of architecture spanning the range of American history.

A good place to begin your walking tour is at Washington Square. This small park offers a quiet respite in the busy downtown area, convenient to both Meeting and Broad Streets. If you proceed out of the park onto Broad Street and make a right, you will find yourself at the Four Corners of Law, with facilities representing federal, state, municipal and canon law.

 

 

If you make a left on Meeting Street, crossing Broad Street and heading toward the harbor, you will find yourself on the main thoroughfare heading through the old historic residential district. Notice along this street fine homes, monumental public structures, as well as majestic churches, side-by-side, creating a grand parade of historic architecture. Just a walk down Meeting Street straight down to White Point Gardens illustrates the rich architectural history of the city.

However, if you turn to the left at St. Michael’s Alley, you’ll find yourself on one of the many small alleys that dissect the historic district. Follow the alley to Church Street and make a right.

 

 



Church Stret


Church Street is one of the prettiest residential streets in all of Charleston. While the Battery is lined with impressive, stately mansions, this quiet little tree-canopied street is lined with some more modest, yet beautiful homes, including some fine examples of the Charleston single-house. If you continue to the south along Church Street, you’ll find the Heyward-Washington House located at Number 87. This house is owned and opened for tours by the Charleston Museum. Built before the Revolution, it is a beautiful example of colonial Georgian architecture.




Once you come to Tradd Street, make a left and you will find yourself on perhaps the most picturesque avenue in the residential district. If you stand in the middle of Tradd Street, you will see to one end of the street the Cooper River, and the other the Ashley River. This is the only street on the peninsula from which you can see both rivers at the same time. Tradd Street offers some fine examples of row houses. Many of these blocks were saved from demolition in the early twentieth century by the efforts of Susan Pringle Frost, founder of the Preservation Society of Charleston. Tradd Street had a reputation as a low-income, and run-down urban slum before it was saved from further deterioration.


Rainbow Row





Once you come to the end of Tradd Street, you will find yourself on East Bay Street, which is lined with stately homes. Just to the left up East Bay you will find the colorful and historic Rainbow Row, however if you continue to the right down East Bay from Tradd, you will find yourself on the Battery with a breathtaking view of the Harbor.
Garden Path



Notice as you pass the homes on your right that there are many beautifully manicured private gardens, featuring water fountains and statuary. I suggest crossing over East Bay to the walk that runs alongside the seawall on the harbor. From here you will have excellent views of both the harbor and the homes of the Battery.
The Battery


Stately homes line East Bay Street, keeping watch over Charleston Harbor. You can see how modern conveniences have altered some of these homes, such as at number 29, where you will find the Porcher-Simonds House. Notice that the piazzas on the east side of the house have been enclosed with tinted windows, no doubt air-conditioned now. However for many of the homes here along East Bay, time has changed them little. The Edmondston-Alston House (number 21), the pink Drayton family house (number 25), and others appear today little changed from their original construction
Two Meeting Stret Inn



Once you come to the last home on the Battery, cross back over East Bay (East Battery here) to South Battery. To your left, you can catch a glimpse of White Point Gardens, which features canons and statues dating to the Civil War. This area was utilized to help defend the city from Union attack. Make the right onto South Meeting Street and you will see the Two Meeting Street Inn on the corner. This unique castle-like Victorian house is home to an original Tiffany glass window, and you can just make it out inside the first floor parlor, from the right angle. This home features some bold and notable architectural features. Locals call it the “Wedding Cake House.” Notice the chimney on the north side of the house, which is etched like the Arche di Triomphe.

Further up Meeting Street on the right, you will find the Calhoun Mansion at Number 16. This is the largest residential home in the city, built by a rich merchant in the late nineteenth century. The impressive Italianate home is open for tours daily. Notice the thick rope molding around the doors and windows, which is also even set into the glass of the front door. Rope molding was a flourish afforded to the richest Charlestonians, and this architectural element was featured to display your wealth. Continuing along Meeting Street, take note of the handsome eighteenth century Georgian home located at number 34. The stately façade features a curiosity that is, to my knowledge, unique to Charleston. You will notice round iron fixtures on the front of the building between the second and third floor windows. These are not decorative elements: these once served a very functional use as earthquake bolts.

 

 

First Scots Presbyterian
As you walk up Meeting Street, notice the wealth of architectural detail and styles, appearing both in homes and, as you draw nearer to the Four Corners of law, in public buildings. To your left, at the corner of Price’s Alley, you will find the Nathaniel-Russell House at number 51, which is also open daily for tours. This is a grand and impressive Federal-style home, featuring a large garden. Just past the house, you will notice the First Scots Presbyterian Church, located at number 53 Meeting Street. This is the fifth oldest congregation in Charleston. The current building was constructed in the early nineteenth century. Notice its beautiful symmetrical towers and columned portico.


Meeting Street Details

To your right, take note of the beautiful architecture of the modified single-house at number 68. If you venture just down Ropemaker’s Lane a few steps, you will get a nice view of the layout of the dependencies that were part of a historic Charleston home. These separate buildings, which would have served as kitchens and servants’ quarters in the past, have been connected to the main house today. Just past the house, at number 72 Meeting Street, you will find the South Carolina Society Hall, another of the impressive public buildings along South Meeting, which features a bold portico that extends out into the street and striking symmetrical staircases.

If you continue up Meeting Street you will find yourself again at the Four Corners of Law and Washington Square, the starting point of your walk.



Footnotes:
Urban Alleyway


Urban Alleyways
Many alleys lead down ancient paths that predate the invention of the automobile. These are public property and you may explore them. The best way to determine if an alleyway is open for you to explore is to look for a street sign. Also, check to see if there are any private gates that lock off parts of the pathway. Some examples are Stoll’s Alley, Zigzag Alley, Ropemaker’s Lane, Price’s Alley and Longitude Lane. There are many such alleys to explore South of Broad.

Charleston Single House

Charleston Single-House
Throughout the city, you will notice examples of the Charleston single-house architectural style. This takes advantage of cool breezes blowing in over the harbor. Houses are designed only one room wide, so that all rooms in the house can take advantage of the sea breeze. Wide porticoes and piazzas are built on the side of the house facing the prevailing winds. For example, along the Battery piazzas were built primarily on the south side of the house in order to catch the breezes blowing up the Cooper River from the harbor.

Private Garden




Private Gardens
On the peninsula, land is such a valuable commodity because of the large concentration of homes that every square inch of it is used creatively. Notice as you walk along the streets south of Broad that you will catch many glances of small courtyards and gardens in the small alleyways and paths that lie between homes. Driveways lead past piazzas on single houses and you will see glimpses of the immaculately manicured lawns and gardens to the rear of the properties.

Earthquake Bolts




Earthquake Bolts
In 1886, Charleston was hit by a severe earthquake which was estimated to have had a magnitude of 7.3 on today’s Richter scale. This is the most significant earthquake ever to have occurred in the southeastern U.S. The quake left many of the city’s buildings in ruins, and caused significant damage to the majority of structures. Since the city did not have enough money to rebuild everything, buildings were stabilized by running iron bars from one end of the structure to the other, with iron bolts fixing them in place to the façade of the structure. These are visible throughout the district.

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