CHURCH STREET: In the last century, this iconic view has changed little, save for the towering palms and modern modes of transportation. Popularly believed to reference St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, the street’s name came instead from either the French Huguenot Church built at the corner of Queen Street in 1687, the Baptist Meeting House at 61 Church dating to 1699, or both. While St. Philip’s is the oldest religious organization in South Carolina, it was originally located at the corner of Broad and Meeting, where St. Michael’s currently stands.
View looking north down Church Street to St. Philip’s Church, circa 1920s, by German photographer Arnold Genthe
The church seen today replaced an earlier edifice that burned in 1835, after which a new stuccoed brick building was erected. For years, a light in the spire acted as a range light guiding mariners into the harbor—one of only two spires in the nation to serve this function.
MARKET HALL: Old Market, circa 1910, from Detroit Publishing Co. (at left); Although it has been 176 years since the Greco-Roman, temple-styled Market Hall was built in 1841 to replace the previous “head house” of the city market destroyed by the 1838 fire, the structure looks much the same. Designed by Charleston architect Edward Brickell White (1806–1882), the large upper-floor assembly room now serves as a museum and headquarters for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In 1910, when the archival picture was taken, the building was painted grey and white. Renovated after Hurricane Hugo, its original ochre coloring and bronze-green wrought ironwork were restored.
The 1910 Woodie truck parked on Meeting Street is perhaps more suited to Charleston’s narrow streets. Horse-drawn carriages still regularly round this busy corner carrying visitors touring the old city.
TRADD STREET: One of the earliest streets in the old walled city was named for William Tradd, whose house stood on the corner of Tradd and East Bay in the 1690s. In the early 1900s, this iconic east-west thoroughfare was still paved in cobblestone and brick. Gone are the silversmith shops and storefronts of the 18th century, and the homes are no longer in disrepair but impeccably restored.
61 Tradd Street looking east, circa 1910, from Detroit Publishing Co.
“The restoration movement of the 1920s... centered on the earliest streets such as Tradd and East Bay, where individuals such as Susan Pringle Frost personally purchased homes and resold them to restoration-minded people.” —Jonathan H. Poston, The Buildings of Charleston
THE BATTERY: The trees in White Point Garden, which was planned by the city in 1837 as a public park, are taller now than in 1909 and block the view of the Villa Margherita on South Battery, which then still had a cupola. There are more monuments, most noticeably the colossal bronze statue dedicated to the Confederate Defenders of Charleston in 1932. The multi-piazza mansion built by Louis DeSaussure in 1858 still commands the waterfront; the heavy guns left from the Civil War-era Battery Ramsay remain peacefully at rest.
East Battery, circa 1909, from Haines Photo Co. of Conneaut, Ohio
CHARLESTON MUSEUM: Many Charlestonians can still recall magical childhood visits to this beloved museum, which opened in 1907 on Rutledge Avenue south of Calhoun Street. Children gawked in wonder at the huge stuffed polar bear and Egyptian mummies as they wandered aisles lined with glass cases holding the mysteries of the world—shrunken heads from the Amazon, Native American arrowheads—not to mention the massive whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling.
Rutledge Avenue, circa 1937, by Frances Benjamin Johnston
After the museum moved in 1980 to its new facility on Meeting Street, the old building caught fire and burned to the ground, leaving only its majestic Corinthian columns, today standing in Cannon Park.
BROAD STREET: Time travelers from both the 1700s and the early 1900s would recognize the east end of Broad Street, particularly the Old Exchange Building, built between 1767 and 1771. By 1906, the Exchange had lost its original cupola (it was replaced in 1976), and the dirt street was paved with bricks and trolley tracks. This was the city’s business center, home to apothecaries, silversmiths, merchants, and, later, banking and law offices.
East Broad Street, circa 1906, from Detroit Publishing Co.
Originally called “Cooper Street,” it was renamed in the 1750s when townspeople began speaking proudly of the new “broad” street marking the northern boundary of the town, the distinguishing line between the older areas (“South of Broad”) and the newer, uptown boroughs located “North of Broad.”
BENNETT RICE MILL: Designed and built by Thomas Bennett Sr. in 1844, it survived the earthquake of 1886 and damage from the cyclone of 1938 but ultimately fell victim to storms, fire, and neglect. In the 1990s, it was restored by master brick masons and students learning the trade. Preservation groups continue efforts to conserve this significant relic of Charleston’s past.
Bennett’s wealth allowed him to create a building for milling rice that was both utilitarian and a masterpiece blending Classical Revival and Italian Renaissance styles. Bennett Rice Mill, circa 1937, by Frances Benjamin Johnston
Standing sentinel in the parking area of the S.C. Ports Authority’s Union Pier Terminal, the western façade of the Bennett Rice Mill is all that remains of one of the finest examples of 19th-century industrial architecture in America.
WATERFRONT: Passenger ships regularly called on Charleston in the early 20th century. A far cry from the massive cruise liners that visit today, the Clyde Steamship Lines’ S.S. Arapahoe (at left) illustrates what was then considered “top-of-the-line.”
The Clyde ships ran regularly between Charleston, Philadelphia, and New York, docking at the wharves at the foot of Queen Street. The amenities they touted included cabins finished in oak; an exceptionally attractive social hall ”finished in cream and gold, having an upright piano, velvet cushioned sofas;” and the most modern invention of all—electric lights throughout. Clyde Steamer Arapahoe, circa 1900, from Detroit Publishing Co.