I immediately felt at home when I arrived in Charleston.  And no wonder.  The inhabitants of this lovely town in South Carolina, America, have always been talented mimics of architecture. London is one of their favourite places and British Airways now flies directly between the two towns.

Mansion on The Battery in Charleston, South Carolina Credit: Valery Collins

The Architecture of Charleston

Charleston was established by English colonists in 1670 and named after King Charles II.  Situated on a peninsula between the estuaries of the Rivers Ashley and Cooper, ideally placed for the trade that has brought prosperity here.  And beautiful mansions built by the wealthy merchants.  This area has no natural building materials so facades replicate different architectural styles.  Charleston has also developed the unique Single House.

Charleston Single House in Charleston South Carolina Credit: Valery Collins

The Charleston Single House

A Charleston Single House has a narrow front facing the street with large balconies at the side.  These face south or west to catch the breeze.  This style was popular during the eighteenth century following a fire in 1740.  The most attractive houses are along Tradd Street and Orange Street.  Some display plaques relating the history of the property.  Pretty alleys link the residential streets to the main roads.  Tours in horse-drawn carriages are a popular way to explore the town.

Historic Houses and Gardens in Charleston

The owners of the historic houses of Charleston are proud to show them to the public.   A few of them are open all the time and others can by visited by appointment.   They are also open during one of the regular festivals organised by the Historic Charleston Foundation.  Carved pineapples, the symbol of hospitality, are a popular decoration on some of these historic houses.  Carved rope designs on a building indicate that it once belonged to a merchant.

Mrs Whaley’s Garden in Charleston

Mrs Whaley’s Garden in Charleston, South Carolina Credit: Valery Collins

I was enchanted by Mrs Whaley’s Garden on Church Street which is open during festivals or by appointment, and is the most visited private garden in America.  It reflects the Charlestonian tradition of garden rooms, bordered by low hedges.  The late Mrs Whaley wrote a book about her  garden.  She related the creation of a garden to her philosophy of life.

The Battery and White Point Gardens in Charleston

White Point Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina Credit: Valery Collins

The Battery is a long promenade around the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula. Cannons to defend the city were once lined up here.  Now, it is an exhilarating walk passing mansions on one side and pelican infested estuaries on the other.  White Point Garden is at the far end of the Battery.  A lovely green space littered with memorials.  There are other monuments, museums and a large number of churches, it is renowned religious tolerance, in Charleston.  But , in my opinion, its charm is rooted in its architecture and gardens.

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