top of page

A weekend in Charleston.

Glancing out over patches of landscape seemingly stitched together to form a rolling quilt of lush greens only broken up by occasional wavy ribbons of gray, sparkly waterways as we started our descent into Charleston last week, my husband and I reflected on how impossibly fast nearly nineteen years had whizzed by since our last visit to this quaint and charming city.

The memories of that last trip - a stopover during our move from Texas to Virginia - had faded a bit. At that time, exhaustion had set in traveling with a five- and seven-year-old, a rambunctious golden retriever, four confused goldfish in a swishing glass bowl and a car packed with suitcases, snacks + a whole lot of stray items that had not made it onto the moving van. Both of us vaguely remembered a snapshot of different moments... edgy blurs of horse-drawn carriages, cobblestones, colorful homes with layers of balconies, Spanish moss dripping from branches in a park, boats bobbing in the harbor, swaying palm tree-lined lanes and an open outdoor market and we were looking forward to dusting off those distant recollections.

Over the weekend, we logged more than ten miles each day soaking in the ocean views and salty air, watching crisp white sailboats compete in a regatta, marveling from the top of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge at the towering stacks of containers on the cargo ships as they were guided through the channel by pairs of tugboats, ducking into a variety of sweet cafés and bakeries tucked away off of the beaten path, fawning over the stunning architectural details of the historic residential structures overflowing with classic boxwood and ivy window boxes and catching glimpses of manicured, enchanting gardens and courtyards behind beautiful iron scrolled gates.

Wandering down King Street - the vibrant main corridor anchored by a mix of retail and dining options - under the spring sunshine of a bright blue cloudless sky, we peeked through storefronts filled with creative displays, popped into boutiques with delicious scents wafting from open doors, carefully stepped around crocks of water left out on the sidewalks for the happy, tail-wagging dogs strolling about downtown with their families and chatted with the Finnish owner of a lovely European antique shop brimming with curated selections of gorgeous wares.

We explored sections of the French Quarter and Battery districts - my favorite parts of Charleston - meandering down brick alleys and past rows of elegant pastel colored houses neatly encased with flowering shrubs and greenery. The Pink House, built c. 1712 from Bermuda stone, is located on cobblestoned Chalmers Street in the French Quarter and listed in the National Register. Originally opening as a tavern, it has served as a law office, private residence and art gallery and after its last purchase in 2019 has again returned to a residential property following a series of renovations. Now stuccoed, it has been painted pink to preserve its name. It has survived over thirty hurricanes, two major earthquakes, two wars, snowstorms and catastrophic fires and is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in South Carolina and the second oldest residence in Charleston after the Colonel William Rhett House built around the same period.

Many of the homes include a Carolopolis plaque awarded annually to qualified property owners by the Charleston Preservation Society recognizing the property's historic background, preservation, restoration and rehabilitation. The word "Carolopolis" is the Latin word Carolus - Charles - and the greek word polis - city. The combination of the Latin and Greek languages is used in this context as Charleston architecture is historically renowned as both Roman and Greek design.

The campus grounds of the College of Charleston are another highlight within the heart of the Historic District. Established in 1770, it is the oldest educational institution south of Virginia and carries a rich historical background. In 1970, the college developed flagship programs in academic areas that support the natural and cultural strengths of Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry - notably marine biology and fine arts. Today, the marine laboratory is one of the Eastern Seabord's leading research centers in the marine sciences and the School of the Arts has expanded into one of the most comprehensive arts schools in the nation. The Cistern, constructed in 1857 to help control flooding and provide water for fires, is now a grassy site with live oaks adopted as a setting for studying and commencement ceremonies and bordered by Porter's Lodge, a National Historic Landmark with an arched entry into Cistern Yard.

For centuries, flooding and sea level rise have presented Charleston with serious challenges and continues to be a factor as concerns with climate change progress. In the past 100 years, the city has encountered thirteen inches of sea level rise with flooding occurring more rapidly and more frequently than ever before and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates the Charleston region will experience fourteen inches of sea level rise just by 2050.

Tidal and storm surge heights are reaching further inland and combined with an increase in rainfall intensity and duration are exceeding the design and service levels for which the stormwater systems were initially developed. Without ongoing strategies, Charleston will face further flooding impacts. To protect the region from extreme weather events, the city is investing in climate adaptation, resilience and sustainability by identifying and implementing innovative solutions and prioritizing infrastructure improvement projects. The 100 year old, eight mile long Low Battery seawall is undergoing extensive rehabilitation and reconstruction and other drainage measures are in place to ensure this historic port city and the surrounding Lowcountry remain a treasured destination for many future generations.

We certainly plan to return...


bottom of page