Charleston is a very walkable city. There are so many interesting nooks and crannies with hidden treasures. The architecture alone is worth its weight in gold. This is why, I recommend starting your day early by just meandering through this bucolic city before it swells and teems with life. This is the perfect time of day for Charleston to quietly presents its perfect charm.
As the city begins to wake up, make your way to Bakehouse Bakery Cafe on East Bay Street.
Upon first entering Bakehouse, I was arrested by the design of the café; it gave me all the good feels and vibes. The counter and display cases were straight ahead. Before arriving at the counter, there’s: an opening with a sliding barn door that leads to a second seating area decorated like a library/reading nook; a display wall decorated with burlap coffee sacks from many coffee producing countries; and booths big enough to fit a family of 6-8 people.
Based on the clientele this morning, it was clear to see that Bakehouse is a family friendly place where mothers, fathers, and children stop off on their way to school or work. I perused the display case and decided to order a slice of the turkey, mushroom and gouda quiche. The quiche’s crust was flaky, while the egg was creamy and dotted with just the perfect quantity of turkey and chunky mushrooms. The added bonus was the very thin layer of caramelized melted cheese on top. YUMMERS!
After enjoying a leisurely breakfast, walk south along East Bay Street until you get to the beautiful cobblestone-lined Middle Atlantic Wharf.
Walk toward the waterfront until you reach Prioleau Street. Walk south on Prioleau Street until you reach Exchange Street. You are now standing at the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon.
The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon was erected between 1767 and 1771. Throughout its history, it has been utilized for many purposes.
Prior to its construction, the site on which it currently stands was the formal seaward entry to the city. In 1670, Broad Street was established to run from waterside to the new town’s marketplace. By 1704, the town was fortified with a semicircular fortress-like seawall, known as “Half Moon Battery,” which housed the source of law and order for Carolina, a two-story building called the Court of Guard, the Palace of Arms with a guard house on the lower level and a council chamber above. The Guard housed notorious prisoners, such as Stede Bonnet and his pirates.
As the volume of maritime trade increased during the 18th century, this led to the need for a central structure to provide both commercial and customs services. In 1767, money was appropriated by the British government and work commenced on the modern-day Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon.
The original foundation was supposed to be constructed of brick and mortar. Instead, the foundation was constructed on the old Half Moon Battery fortifications. Other intended building materials included: solid Portland Stone for the steps, handrails, banisters and arches; bricks for the walls; Parbeck Stone for the piazza floor; Welsh Carnavan slate for the roof; Lead for the cupola roof, bed of the entablature, hips and ridges, pediments and cornices to the windows; Cypress wood for the doors; and Iron for the bars and shutters for the windows. In 1771, construction was completed, and the new building quickly became the focus of activity and marked the formal entrance to the city from the sea.
In 1774, South Carolina’s revolutionary leadership councils were held onsite. During the American Revolution, confiscated tea was stored there. After the British captured the city in 1780, it was used as a barracks, and its basement was used as a military prison. In 1788, the South Carolina convention was held to ratify the United States Constitution and was the site of many of the events in George Washington‘s week-long stay in Charleston.
During the 19th century, land reclamation caused the building to be landlocked, removing it from the sea front. It was during this century that the Exchange became a post office where the postmaster defended the shipment of abolitionist pamphlets from angry rioters. During the American Civil War the building was hit by several shells and was abandoned.
During World War I, the building served as an army headquarters and the United States Lighthouse Service. During World War II, the building served as a USO facility, a canteen for troops, and the Coastal Picket Station for the United States Coast Guard. In 1965, the Half-Moon Battery, a 1698 fortification, was discovered underneath the building.
In 1973, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today, the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon is a museum operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution with a costumed docent guided tour that includes all three floors of the building and displays on the top floors..
Visiting the The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon was worth every penny. I learned so much about the city of Charleston during the Revolutionary War from the costumed-docent. My absolute favorite part of this visit, though, was seeing the Half-Moon Battery wall. I love being able to see history with my own eyes.
The next stop on your 24-hour tour of Charleston is the Old Slave Mart Museum. For this short walk, I recommend making your way back to Exchange and East Bay Streets. Then walk along Broad Street for 1 block and turn onto State Street. Take State Street to Chamlers Street. From the corner, you should be able to see the Old Slave Mart building facade.
The Old Slave Mart, once part of a complex of buildings, is the only known surviving building used as a slave auction gallery in South Carolina. First constructed in 1859, this large one-room building with a 20-foot ceiling, was used to auction slaves. Slaves would stand on auction tables, three feet high and ten feet long, placed lengthwise so slave owners could pass by them during the auction. In 1865, with the defeat of the South in the Civil War and the subsequent end of slavery, the Old Slave Mart ceased being utilized for the purpose of auctioning off slave. In 1938, the property was purchased by Miriam B. Wilson and turned into a museum of African American history, arts and crafts.
When I was researching Charleston, the Old Slave Mart Museum was the site I had the highest anticipation to visit. It is located on one of the few remaining cobble stoned streets in the historic district and I was looking forward to being transported back in time as I walked through the magnificent and imposing archway and door.
The exterior was everything I hoped for and more. It was old and weathered. The phrase, “If these walls could talk …,” came to mind. Walking through the doors into the museum was like walking into an alternate reality where modernism wrestled with history and won the battle. The interior was largely made up of placards and photos of historic events contextualized with a lot of text. The entirety of the interior was covered with these types of display. On the upper level, there were maybe a handful displays with a minimal amount of physical artifacts.
Although I was giddy with enthusiasm on my way to the Old Slave Mart, I left with a feeling of slight disappointment in seeing most of the original elements stripped from the interior. I was hopping to see a display showing what the auction block looked like and more original artifacts from the building’s history. In understanding how great this museum could have been had it retained some of its original features, I think the Old Slave Mart missed this mark. Where it shined, outside of the facade, was the placards, photos and contextual information leaves visitors with a deeper understanding of Charleston’s history and role in the slave trade. This museum is definitely worth a visit.
As you make your way to the next site, the Powder Magazine, enjoy more of the city’s beauty and charm. Walk along Chalmers Street to Church Street. Once on Church Street, walk past St. Philips Church until you reach Cumberland Street. From this location, you should be able to see the sign for the Powder Magazine building at 79 Cumberland Street.
The Powder Magazine is the oldest public building in South Carolina. It is the only remaining building from the era when Spain and France still contested England’s claims to the region. The original Powder Magazine was constructed in 1713 to store the city’s supply of gun powder. The building contained 32-inch thick brick window-less wall and was constructed in a way that building would implode if any explosions were to occur inside. In 1748, a new magazine was built and by 1770, it was condemned. The outbreak of the Revolutionary War renewed demand for the Magazine and it was used once again to store powder. Post-Revolutionary War, the building was used in a variety of ways including for storage, as a printing house, a livery stable, and currently as a museum.
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Powder Magazine.
After a full morning of exploring museums housed in historic buildings, maker your way to Magnolias for a late lunch. Magnolias is know for its upscale southern cuisine. Reservations are highly suggested, but if you arrive later during the lunch service, you will more than likely be seated immediately. To get to Magnolias walk along Cumberland Street towards East Bay Street. The restaurant is located 1 block away at 185 East Bay Street.
My mom and I began our late lunch by ordering sweet teas while we enjoyed the warm sourdough bread. We shared the Down South Egg Roll (collard greens, chicken, tasso ham, red pepper puree, spicy mustard, and peach chutney) for the appetizer course. My mom ordered the Buffalo Chicken Cobb Salad, while I ordered the Cuban Sandwich (ham, crispy pork belly, and homemade chips) for our entree. We ended our meal by sharing a slice of Pecan Pie with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.
This meal was absolutely scrumptious. The Down South Egg Roll was my favorite because it wasn’t something that I had before. The piquancy from the red pepper puree and peach chutney was blissful. I used every bit of egg roll to sop up all that flavorful goodness.
After the jammed pack morning spent museum hopping and eat a delicious lunch, spend the rest of the afternoon leisurely walking around the city and shopping on King Street.
After resting at your hotel, grab a late dinner. To take out the stress out of trying to figure out what we wanted to eat, my mom and I decided to revisit Sticky Fingers for some good barbecue.
As we were leaving Sticky Fingers, the weather began to take a turn. We could hear thunder and see the lightening moving closer to our location. We just made it back to our hotel when the clouds broke and it began to rain heavily.
As the lightening move ever more closer, I grabbed my phone and tried to capture a photo of it through the deck doors off our living room space. Realizing that the storm was on the other side of our hotel, I ran to the long hallway to try to grab a photo.
Trying to capture lightening in a photo is like trying to catch it in a bottle; it’s elusive. Spending a day museum hopping and learning about the history of Charleston, SC is very much attainable.
Sites visited: Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon 122 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 727-2165 Website: http://oldexchange.org/ Hours: 9 am to 5 pm Tour times: 9:30 am to 5 pm every half hour Admission: $10 (adult), $5 (child, ages 7-12), Free (child, ages 0-6) Admission (Combo for Old Exchange and Old Slave Mart Museum): $15 (adult), $8 (child, ages 7-12), Free (child, ages 0-6) The Old Slave Mart Museum 6 Chalmers Street Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 958-6467 Website: http://www.oldslavemartmuseum.com/ Hours: 9 am to 5 pm (Mon-Sat) Admission: see Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon for combination ticket Powder Magazine 79 Cumberland Street Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 722-9350 Website: https://www.powdermagazine.org/visit Hours: 10 am to 4 pm (Mon-Sat) and 1 pm to 4 pm (Sun) Admission: $6 (adults), $3 (child), see website for group rates Restaurants visited: Bakehouse Bakery Café 160 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-2180 Hours: 7:30 am to 7 pm (Mon-Fri) and 8 am to 7 pm (Sat-Sun) Website: https://www.bakehousecharleston.com/ Magnolias 185 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-7771 Hours (Lunch): 11:30 am to 3:30 pm (Mon-Sat) Hours (Dinner): Begins at 3:45 pm (Daily) Hours (Brunch): 11 am to 3:30 pm (Sun) Website: https://magnoliascharleston.com/ Sticky Fingers 235 Meeting Street Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 853-7427 Website: https://www.stickyfingers.com/
Let me know what you think of my recommendations for 24-hours in Charleston, SC.
Winter S., Savory Sweet Neat