Even though our campground was an hour and a half from Charleston, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit this historic Southern city. So we left the motorhome at the campground and drove the car to Charleston for the night.
We stayed in the center of the historic district at the beautifully restored Mills House, which opened in 1853. The Mills House is within walking distance from the scenic waterfront parks, fine shopping, and historic homes and public buildings that make Charleston such an enjoyable city to visit.
It was a chilly morning, so before we started exploring the city we stopped for lunch at the only waterfront restaurant in Charleston, Fleet Landing. The food was good, and we had stalled long enough for the sun to come out and warm up the day. The restaurant was close to pretty Waterfront Park with fountains and a half mile walk along the Cooper River, so we began our exploration here.
We continued to the the Battery which is a landmark defensive seawall and promenade at the lower end of the peninsula. The Ashley and Cooper rivers converge here to form Charleston Harbor where Fort Sumter is visible from the Cooper River side and from the point. It’s a beautiful walk from the Battery, across the street through White Point Garden, to the historic antebellum homes.
It is only a few blocks from the lower peninsula to the main hub of Charleston, the shopping mecca of King Street. Here we found art galleries, antique stores, unique and name brand clothing and jewelry stores. We did some window shopping, but were pretty worn out by this point so headed back toward our hotel for dinner in the courtyard serenaded by bluesman Shrimp City Slim.
Charleston is an interesting place to visit. We loved that wherever we looked, cars were sharing the roads with horse and buggy tours. We took a carriage ride ourselves, and enjoyed the beauty of the city and its architecture. As we explored, we tried not to think too much about the underlying economic and racial issues that have divided Charleston’s people since its founding.
Sadly, these issues are very real and very apparent. One prominent example is the Confederate Museum, which is owned and operated by Charleston’s Chapter #4 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It’s a temple-like structure located at a very busy intersection in the historic district. Our carriage driver urged us to visit the museum and not to miss the exhibit of General Robert E Lee’s lock of hair, which he assured us is highly regarded in the city. Weird, and offensive on many levels.
Compared to Jefferson’s Monticello and other southern cities, such as Montgomery, which face their slavery past honestly and with respect, Charleston is uncommonly proud of its antebellum past. This is reflected in its public monuments and statues, which tout the city’s leading role in the American Civil War. Our carriage driver, who is an ambassador of the city, even referred to the war as the “War of Northern Aggression” without a hint of irony.
The bottom line is that Charleston is a truly beautiful city, which has yet to constructively deal with the evil upon which it is built and the sickness that infects it one hundred and fifty years later.