If you’re not from the Lowcountry, you might be curious about those long green planks on rockers that grace the piazzas of many Charleston, SC homes. They’re called joggling boards, and their history and folklore are quite interesting.
CREATION OF THE JOGGLING BOARD
Joggling boards are typically 16 feet long and made of flexible pine painted Charleston green (a tint so dark it almost appears black). Although they are mainly used for decoration or fun seating today, they actually started out as an exercise device. According to legend, the first joggling board was built at Acton Plantation in Sumter County in the early 1800s. The owner of the plantation, Cleland Kinloch, was a widower who invited his widowed sister Mary Huger to run the household. That woman developed rheumatoid arthritis that made it too painful for her to do many activities. Riding in a carriage that was outfitted with a rocking chair was one of the few things she could enjoy. Upon hearing this, the Kinlochs’ relatives in Scotland devised an apparatus that would simulate the movement of a carriage ride and gently “joggle” its occupant back and forth, up and down, providing a little exercise and joint pain relief. The result was the joggling board.
Soon many houses in Charleston and across the state had joggling boards. They provided a fun way to relax on your porch or in your yard as you enjoyed the breezes and took a break from the southern heat. Throughout the 19th century they became so ubiquitous that they made their way into some of life’s most important events.
One of the more colorful stories in Southern lore says that no house with a joggling board on its front porch has an unmarried daughter living there. Back in the days when proper young couples couldn’t be alone together without supervision, the distance of the joggling board was deemed adequate protection. So if the young lady sat on one end and her suitor on the other, they were far enough apart not to require a chaperone. But as they talked and joggled, they’d slowly move closer to each other. If they got so close that his hand touched her knee, her reputation for purity would be ruined and he’d be forced to propose marriage. Imagine a father concerned that his daughter may become a spinster deciding that his best option was to get a joggling board!
Another popular use was to rock babies to sleep. Nannies were often seen soothing fussy infants with the gentle swaying motion.
JOGGLING BOARDS TODAY
In the 20th century, the cost of suitable lumber increased to the point where joggling boards fell out of fashion. Today, however, they are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. One of the first companies to bring them back is based in Charleston. They harken back to a more genteel time and still provide an enjoyable place to sit. Plus they require less space than a porch swing. As not all houses have expansive porches, modern versions are built in various smaller sizes. They are particularly well-loved by children.
Disher, Hamrick & Myers Real Estate is proud to sponsor The Preservation Society of Charleston’s 43rd Annual Fall Tours of Homes, History, & Architecture. This year, the tours take place from October 3 – November 2. This highly-anticipated event is The Preservation Society’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Founded in 1920, the organization’s goals are to recognize, protect, and advocate for the Lowcountry’s historic places.
If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the grand historic estates in downtown Charleston, this is your chance. Volunteer homeowners open their doors to you and welcome you into their homes. Each tour includes 6-8 properties within walking distance, with guides stationed to help you navigate your way, as well as docents in each home to tell you more about its history, architecture, furnishings, and art.
In addition to the ever-popular house tours, there are garden tours, which let you peek behind the gates into private oases. Each Thursday, a curated tour of gardens is led by industry professionals, for those who desire a deeper dive into Charleston’s horticulture.
Then on Fridays, professional and amateur photographers alike are invited to attend a 3-hour walkabout that will teach them how to take stunning architectural photographs for their own collections. Be sure to bring a camera or phone to capture your masterpieces.
And early birds can take a morning history walk through downtown’s streets. While these strolls do not include admission into private homes or gardens, they are a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our beautiful city. Topics vary and include ironwork, the Grimke Sisters, architecture, and even our graveyards.
So put on your walking shoes and join DHM in supporting the Preservation Society for the 2019 Fall Tours!
Row houses are a distinctive part of the architecture of many of the oldest cities across the United States. The style first appeared in Europe at the Place des Vosges in Paris, early in the 17th century, concurrent with the founding of America. It followed settlers across the Atlantic to the colonies, where early cities were founded near the water or on peninsulas. These connected homes make the most of limited land. Accordingly, they are prominent in port cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.
WHAT IS A ROW HOUSE?
A row house is a single-family dwelling of at least 2 stories that shares one or both walls and roofline with a neighbor. While this definition also applies to townhouses, they differ in that row houses are very similar in architectural design and the facades are aligned. Townhouses, on the other hand, can be staggered from the street and may differ vastly in style.
One well-known example of a row house is a New York brownstone, named after the reddish-brown color of sandstone on the exterior. Throughout Europe, row houses are called terraced houses. But across the US South, “row house” is a more generic term referring to any long contiguous group of residences. While there are a few brownstones in Charleston, row houses are more common along our historic streets.
CHARLESTON’S ROW HOUSES
A number of streets in downtown Charleston are adorned with beautiful row houses that date to the city’s earliest residents. Many of Charleston’s row houses have balconies with elaborate iron railings.
One such row has earned worldly distinction: Rainbow Row. This stretch of 13 homes is located on East Bay Street, just South of Broad. The collection of different pastel colors used on each individual residence led Robert Ripley of “Believe It Ot Not” fame to coin the term Rainbow Row.
While Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed areas in downtown Charleston, it has not always been that way. The homes were built in the middle of the 18th century as modest residences. Merchants working Charleston Harbor could conduct business downstairs and live upstairs.
After the Civil War, the area was so rundown it was deemed a slum and stayed in disrepair for almost a century. Then in 1931, Judge Lionel Legge and his wife Dorothy purchased a block of the homes. It was Dorothy’s idea to paint the homes in colorful pastels, to reflect the city’s Colonial Caribbean affinity. She painted their primary residence at 99-101 East Bay Street pink.
Eventually, the entire row was repainted in various pastels. There is a longstanding legend that the homes were painted different colors so that drunken sailors could find their way to the proper front door. However, since the homes receive a generous amount of sunshine, it is more likely Legge’s motivation was to make the houses cooler in the hot South Carolina summers.
Whatever the original reason, these charming Charleston row houses have captivated the imagination and love of locals and tourists alike.
North Central is one of several neighborhoods on Charleston’s upper peninsula currently undergoing a residential revival. The area is bounded to the north by Mount Pleasant Street, the south by Congress Street, the west by Rutledge Avenue and the east by I-26. This up-and-coming, yet still diverse, community is composed mainly of early- and mid-20th century cottages and bungalows. Many of these older structures are undergoing renovations, joining new construction of high-end apartments and condo communities. For now, North Central remains one of the more affordable areas of downtown Charleston. Home and rent prices couple with proximity to Upper King Street and NoMo to make this a highly desirable and quickly-growing neighborhood.
Adding to its convenience, North Central is rated the 9th most walkable neighborhood in Charleston with a Walk Score and bike score of 74. Most errands, shopping, dining, nightlife and even commuting can be accomplished on foot or 2 wheels. It also borders other emerging neighborhoods of Cannonborough/Elliotborough, Hampton Park and Wagener Terrace. As a result, it’s attractive to young professionals, college and medical school students and downtown professional workers, along with families and long-time residents.
Upcoming projects impacting the vicinity include the proposed Lowcounrty Low Line park, which will travel through North Central and add community green space. In addition, Historic Charleston Foundation and the City of Charleston have designated preserving the vernacular historic fabric and diversity of North Central as their top priority. Their goals of their Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative include promoting and facilitating:
Historic preservation and revitalization
Livability and quality of life
With these longer-term initiatives in place, it’s safe to say North Central will only become a more popular and desirable destination to live.
WHERE TO EAT in NORTH CENTRAL
North Central is home to some of Charleston’s hippest restaurants and lounges. No matter what you are in the mood for, you have many delicious dining options including:
Rodney Scott’s BBQ – James Beard Award-winning pitmaster Rodney Scott serves up slow-smoked BBQ and all the fixins’.
Charleston is a city full of successful adaptive architecture. Recently, the American College of the Building Arts opened its campus in the former Trolley Barn. The DHM Blog has previously profiled the condominiums at 3 Chisolm Street in the old Murray Vocational School. But this isn’t the only area school building repurposed into residences. The Crafts House at 67 Legare Street was originally home to a free school for children founded by antebellum Charleston lawyer, poet and philanthropist, William Crafts (1787-1826). Crafts was a Harvard University graduate who served in both houses of the South Carolina General Assembly.
Crafts was an advocate for free public education, and as such, purchased the property at the corner of the current Queen and Legare Streets for this purpose. He built his first school, designed by Edward C. Jones, in 1859. He called it the Friend Street School after the road’s original name. That building burned in a fire during the Civil War in 1861. A new Gothic Revival building designed by architects Abrahams and Seyle replaced it in 1881. This style, featuring buttresses and lancet arches, mimics that of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist just across Legare Street.
By the turn of the 20th century, the Crafts School accommodated over 1200 students in 14 classrooms. In 1915, a three-story wing (seen on the right side of the accompanying photo) was added by David Hyer, who also designed Buist Academy. The Crafts School served the area’s children until the 1970s. After that, the building was used as administrative offices until the mid-1980s, when it was remodeled into condominiums. Today, the Crafts House features 31 one- and two- bedroom units in the heart of Harleston Village. Residents can enjoy views of St. Michael’s, St. Phillip’s, and St. John’s Church steeples while listening to their sonorous chiming of the hours from the nicely landscaped gardens surround the building.
Cannonborough-Elliotborough is an up-and-coming transitional neighborhood populated by students, young professionals and long-time local families. Rife with redevelopment, it offers some of the more affordable housing (both fixer-uppers and renovations) on the Charleston peninsula, as well as a number of hip restaurants, corner stores and cocktail joints all within walking distance.
Located on the downtown Charleston peninsula, the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood is bordered by the Crosstown (Septima P. Clark) Espressway on the north, Bee and Morris Streets to the South, President Street on the east and King Street to the west. Rutledge Avenue creates the boundary between Cannonborough to its west and Elliottborough to its east, but today, the two neighborhoods function as one with no border. Much of the land was originally marsh that has since been filled in. Major roads include Spring, Rutledge, Bogard and Line Streets. The MUSC campus, College of Charleston, Charleston School of Law, Upper King Street and the Crosstown–with access to all areas of Charleston–are all nearby.
The area was first settled 1785 by Col. Barnard Elliot, a planter and member of the Provincial Congress for whom Elliotborough is named. Cannonborough is named after Daniel Cannon, a carpenter and mechanic who owned several lumber mills in the area. Throughout its history, it has been populated by blue-collar workers and ethnic groups. As agriculture gave way to industry in the mid-19th century, lumber mills and shipping and rail lines moved into the area to take advantage of its lower costs. With them came blue-collar workers, immigrants of various ethnicities and freed slaves. German, Irish, Polish and Jewish residents lived alongside African-American and working-class whites.
During the mid-20th century, Cannonborough-Elliotborough experienced the same “white flight” as other American cities, and became largely African American. The completion of the Crosstown in 1967 disrupted the residential climate of the area and furthered its decline throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Today, the neighborhood is experiencing a revitalization that is returning it to its roots with a mix of workers, students, older residents and young families. The recent conversion of Cannon and Spring Streets from one-way thoroughfares to two-way traffic seeks to further encourage community growth.
Cannonborough-Elliotborough has always been known for its vernacular architecture rather than the grand mansions and gardens in other parts of historic Charleston. However, it does have its own noteworthy structures. For example, it contains a high concentration of the city’s remaining Freedman’s cottages. Charleston single houses and Victorian homes dwell next to more modern structures. While the area is mostly residential, churches and small local businesses also dot the area. And it has a greater concentration of corner stores than other parts of downtown Charleston.
In the past few years, several of these corner stores and other structures have become home to local favorite joints as well as new and exciting culinary concepts. Residents and visitors alike flock to the area to enjoy restaurants including:
The single house is an architectural style found almost exclusively in Charleston, SC and this home plan gives the historic city much of its unique charm. The layout of a single house is ideally suited to the narrow street-facing lots originally laid out in Charleston in the late 17th and early 18th centuries (see Grand Modell). The homes are only one room wide and two rooms deep on each level, with a central hall between. Typically a porch, or piazza as it is known in Charleston, runs the length of the house with a public door facing the street. Visitors must enter the home through this entrance and traverse the porch before entering the central private door into the home. To take best advantage of prevailing breezes, piazzas always face south or west.
Public spaces, like an entry or office, inhabit the first floor. Entertaining spaces, such as drawing rooms, withdrawing rooms or ballrooms occupy the second floor – above the hustle and bustle (and mess and smells) of the streetways. Family spaces and bedrooms are found on the third floor. Each room would incorporate more or less decorative detail according to its use, with second floor spaces having the highest ceilings with intricate and colorful moldings. Those high ceilings, coupled with tall windows (often floor-length to accommodate walking out to the piazzas) allowed breezes to flow through the rooms and helped make Lowcountry weather more bearable.
Outbuildings, such as kitchens, stables and carriage houses, were constructed separate from the main house to the rear of the property. Today, many of these have been converted into separate residences (and given rise to the unique ½ address that dot the Charleston Peninsula). Other outbuildings were later connected to the main residence via “hyphens.” Kitchens were built away from the main house in an attempt to prevent fires — such as the numerous ones that destroyed large swaths of the peninsula — from spreading to the living quarters. This is also why the back wall of the main houses had fewer windows than might be expected for ventilation.
Various decorative styles have been applied to the single house layout, including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate and Victorian. Two and three-story piazzas often employ the classical order of columns with the ground level being Doric, followed by Ionic and Corinthian. Formal gardens beautified the side yards to be enjoyed from the shady porches. In fact, upper porches were sometimes used as sleeping quarters on hot, humid nights.
Don’t believe a tour guide who tells you single houses were a reaction to the city taxing street frontage. Instead, “early Charlestonians developed the Single House as an ingenious solution to the various demands of their unique urban landscape: a house that provided privacy, ventilation, fire protection, and social status within the confines of a tightly restrictive public space.” (credit Charleston County Pubic Library)
Looking for a trendy and relatively affordable home in Charleston, SC? Be sure to consider Upper King Street. With almost every type of business — from hip tech firms, to interior designers, to architects, to collaborative work spaces — in this neighborhood, many residents take advantage of the opportunity to walk to work. This area is a great place to stay when visiting, as hotels aren’t as expensive as in other parts of the historic district. It’s also an ideal home base from which to explore the Charleston area.
King Street crosses through the middle of the Charleston peninsula and is divided into three zones: Lower King is the Antiques District, Middle King has the Fashion District, and Upper King is known as the Design District. It runs north of Calhoun Street from Marion Square to the Septima P. Clark Expressway, more commonly called the Crosstown. The neighborhood features new construction as well as restored historic homes and those ready for renovation. It also boasts some of the city’s latest and trendiest restaurants along with hotels, art galleries, fantastic shopping, flourishing businesses and a lively nightlife. With its proximity to the College of Charleston, students and a younger crowd frequent it during the school year.
Charlestonians love this neighborhood for its eclectic vibe, easy access and cultural value. Are you a foodie? Look no further: Upper King boasts some the latest and greatest Charleston restaurants. On Saturdays, visitors and locals alike shop the Marion SquareFarmers Market for fresh food and local treats. You can spend your days window shopping along the picturesque avenue, then enjoy your nights in the latest hot spots.
THE HISTORY OF UPPER KING STREET
At more than 200 years old, King Street is the second most historically and architecturally significant street in downtown Charleston, after Meeting Street. It was named for King Charles II of England and was a main route in the early city of Charles Towne. Many side streets were named after prominent families, including Ann, John and Mary Wragg. In the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, King Street bustled as a retail corridor. Accordingly, many of the buildings are commercial, with residential spaces on the upper floors. Today, Upper King Street continues to be home to mostly local businesses and remains a work-where-you-live neighborhood.
The story of Upper King Street closely parallels that of downtown Charleston as a whole. After the Civil War, it fell into disrepair. But during the 1950s, it experienced a regrowth. The shopping district was very popular, perhaps too popular, leading to traffic congestion. As a result, in 1950, King turned into a one-way street. This sped up traffic, but hurt local businesses, as the road became more of a thoroughfare than a place to stop and shop. The general move to the suburbs during this time also hurt in-town businesses, and buildings along Upper King fell into disrepair. Like elsewhere in the city, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 destroyed many of the structures that were left or forced the remaining businesses to close. A silver lining of the storm is that it brought awareness to the need to revitalize the area, along with insurance money to make that happen.
In his first mayoral campaign, Mayor Joe Riley “promised to reverse the flow of business from downtown Charleston to the suburban shopping malls by revitalizing the central business district.” He spurred the revival of King Street throughout the decade of the 1980s, beginning with the construction of the Charleston Place Hotel. He also prompted the city to spend almost $50,000 to rebuild the c.1913 Bluestein’s clothing store at 494 King Street, which had been gutted by fire in 1987.
Other significant steps in the revitalization of Upper King into the lively hub it is today include:
2001: the city renovated Marion Square for public use.
1994: Upper King Street converted back into to two-way road.
2005-2007: a streetscape project buried power lines, upgraded communication and gas lines, made stormwater improvements, and added bluestone sidewalks with granite curbs.
DINING & ENTERTAINMENT
All of these enhancements paved the way for new businesses to venture into Upper King Street. The relatively inexpensive rent, compared to other more established retail venues, was also an incentive. The transformation into a dining and entertainment district began in 2005 with the opening of two popular restaurants, Chai’s and Reval. In 2009, fine dining came to Upper King with Halls Chophouse, and the city’s nightlife began to move from the Market to Upper King. Since then, dozens of the city’s trendiest restaurants have made their home here, including:
39 Rue de Jean
Stars with its rooftop bar
Click here for a full guide to Upper King restaurants and bars, including links to their menus and reservations.
UPPER KING ACTIVITIES
Be sure also to explore the retail shops and art galleries along King Street. While other areas of town have become populated by national and regional chains, Upper King remains home to mostly local businesses. In addition to shopping and dining, Upper King has plenty of landmarks to entertain you.
Francis Marion Hotel: This 12-story building was built in 1925. At the time, it was the largest and grandest hotel in the Carolinas. It underwent an award-winning restoration in 1996 to fully modernize it. A coffee shop and restaurant occupy its street level.
William Aiken House: this 1810 National Historic Landmark is now a sought-after wedding and event venue.
Charleston Music Hall: This c. 1849 Gothic Revival building was originally a train station, but now houses a live music venue.
Downtown’s Harleston Village — bordered by Calhoun, Broad and King Streets and the Ashley River — is one of Charleston’s oldest neighborhoods. The land was granted to John Coming and Henry Hughes in 1671-1672. John was first mate on the Carolina, one of the first ships to bring settlers to the colony. Upon Coming’s death, the property passed to his wife’s nephew, John Harleston. The Harleston family was active in colonial government, and the subsequent neighborhood inherited this surname. The village was developed for residential and other uses by 1770. Its streets were named after prominent men of the day, including Beaufain, Bull, Gadsden, Montagu, Pitt and Rutledge. Tidal marshes along the Ashley River powered numerous lumber mills that dotted the area until the arrival of steam power in the 1880s. Housing also continued to populate the neighborhood throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Harleston Village is the home to several historic “firsts.” The College of Charleston was established in 1770, the same year as the neighborhood. The CofC is the oldest educational institution in the state, and indeed the oldest south of Virginia. It was also the nation’s first municipal college. The first golf club in America, c. 1786, played in Harleston Village. The golf course is likely the origin of the appellation “Harleston Green,” which is another common name for the neighborhood.
At the heart of Harleston Village is Colonial Lake Park. Its origins date back to 1768, when an Act of the Commons House of Assembly set aside land for a park that would always remain for public use. It was known as the Colonial Commons. By 1869, what became known as the Rutledge Street Pond was completed. For decades, small boats were allowed on the water. In 1881, it was renamed Colonial Lake after the old Colonial Commons, and that name remains today. In the early 1880s, a landscaped promenade was built around the lake. The grounds have been continually improved, with the most recent overhaul having just been completed in 2016. Today, the picturesque park is surrounded by grand old homes and attracts families, dog walkers, joggers and visitors alike. Across Ashley Avenue is Moultrie Playground, which also has tennis and basketball courts, a baseball field and picnic areas. These facilities make the area popular with families, outdoor enthusiasts, and fitness buffs alike.
Another popular public space in Harleston Village is Cannon Park, which houses the columns of the old Charleston Museum, which burned down in 1981. But that site is not the only place where you might experience the ghosts of Charleston past in Harleston Village. Another square that was reserved for public use in 1680 became the site of a hospital, poor house, runaway slave workhouse and eventually the Old Charleston Jail – reputed to be one of Charleston’s most haunted places. Most recently used by the American College of the Building Arts, the structure is now under consideration for renovation into office space that will also allow for tours of the site.
A WALKABLE NEIGHBORHOOD
Much of the neighborhood is walkable, with markets, coffee shops, and restaurants all nearby. Some of the more popular dining options, from fine dining to waterfront casual, are:
The Marina Variety Store Restaurant & Salty Mike’s Deck Bar at the City Marina
Harleston Village has a diverse mix of housing. Options range from historic 18th, 19th and 20th century mansions, to converted condominiums (like 55 Ashley Avenue, once the Baker Hospital), to more modern homes and tall condo buildings. With the College of Charleston inside its borders, you‘ll find a combination of students and renters along with homeowners. This is an ideal location for investment properties as well as primary residences. DHM currently has an excellent investment opportunity in Harleston Village consisting of 4 multifamily homes with off-street parking for 20 vehicles. We also have a condo at 63 Rutledge Avenue. For more information and help navigating the real estate market in Harleston Village, count on Disher, Hamrick & Myers to Open Every Door…
The Holy City has many spectacular views and landmarks, but perhaps none so remarkable as the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. Tens of thousands cross Highway 17 between Charleston and Mt. Pleasant on it every day. However many – especially newcomers to the area – don’t know its story. The DHM Blog takes a look at how we got the engineering marvel that is the Ravenel Bridge.
DESIGN BY THE NUMBERS
The Ravenel Bridge is a cable-stayed suspension bridge with dual diamond towers, each rising 575 feet. At 1546 feet, the main span was the longest in the Western Hemisphere when it was completed. It is now the third longest. 128 cables connect the towers above to the roadway below. There are 8 lanes for vehicular traffic plus bicycle and pedestrian lanes. Interestingly, the original design did not call for the bike or walk lane. Grass-roots enthusiasts backed by Charleston Moves led the call for what is now one of the most popular outdoor activities in Charleston. It is officially known as Wonder’s Way, memorializing late bicyclist Garrett Wonders.
Have you ever noticed the tops of the diamonds seem incomplete? That’s because the initial design called for them to be topped with large beacons of light that would be seen for miles. However, wildlife conservationists pointed out this could confuse endangered sea turtle hatchlings from following the moon to the waterline. As a result, the bridge only has functional, not decorative, lighting.
The Ravenel Bridge replaced the functionally obsolete 2-lane Grace Bridge (1929) and 3-lane Pearman Bridge (1966), locally known as the “Old Cooper River Bridge” and the “New Cooper River Bridge.” As any local can tell you, driving over the Old Bridge, especially at night or in the rain, was a daunting experience not for the weak of heart. In fact, many people refused to drive the bridge, limiting population growth in Mt. Pleasant. An interesting piece of trivia is that the towers of the Ravenel are named for the original bridges: Grace and Pearman. In fact, sculptures made with metal salvaged from the old bridges can be found on each of the towers.
By 1995, the twin spans were both functionally obsolete. In addition, they limited port traffic, as their clearance above the Cooper River (once among the highest in the world) couldn’t accommodate large, modern shipping vessels. Credit for spear-heading the 20-year funding effort to replace the bridges goes to retired US Congressman Arthur Ravenel, Jr. The overall price of the new bridge that would be named after him totaled approximately $700 million. Funding came from local, state, and federal sources through the SC Infrastructure Bank, which was created for that purpose.
CONSTRUCTION & OPENING CEREMONIES
Construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony in Mt. Pleasant in 2001. The bridge was a design-build project in a joint venture between two companies (Tidewater Skanska of Norfolk, Virginia and Flatiron Constructors of Longmont, Colorado) operating under the name Palmetto Bridge Constructors. Erection of the two approaches from Mt. Pleasant and the Charleston peninsula, as well as the two towers, was simultaneous. Each span rose from the shore to eventually meet in the middle of Charleston Harbor. All construction occurred while the old bridges remained fully operational – crossing directly over the old spans and cars passing below in some places!
As the bridge was being built, locals wondered what they would call it. The “New, New Bridge”? Just the “Cooper River Bridge”? More colloquial suggestions included the “Cuz-way” for “Cousin Arthur.” As a testament to his part in securing the funding, the bridge was named after Arthur Ravenel Jr. and is known simply as the “Ravenel Bridge,” rather than by a nickname.
A week of festivities led up to the official opening of the bridge. It included a gourmet dinner served on the bridge and the opportunity for all citizens to walk the lanes before they opened to vehicular traffic. People of all ages and abilities came from the tri-county area and beyond to do so. It’s said the number of people who turned out that day equaled the entire population of Charleston. The evening before the opening, a concert with a fireworks display (the largest in Charleston history) lit up the sky. The bridge officially opened on July 16, 2005 – amazingly a year ahead of schedule and under budget.
Engineers designed the Ravenel Bridge to withstand earthquakes, high winds of a hurricane, and even being hit by ships (which actually happened to the Grace in 1946). One thing they apparently did not take into consideration was the unusual occurrence of ice on the cables. In January 2014, an rare ice storm hit the area and massive icicles formed on the cables then broke off, pelting drivers below like missiles. Thankfully no one was injured. However, as a safety precaution, the bridge was closed for several days. This severely disrupted traffic and thrust Charlestonians back into the days before a bridge crossed the Cooper River. This hazard has since been addressed.
A NEW ERA
The final chapter in the story of the Ravenel Bridge was the demolition of the old bridges, completed in 2007. The explosions used to bring down the last of the old spans were heard and felt for miles around. With that, the Charleston skyline forever changed and one era ended while a new one began. The only physical remnant of the old bridges is a support from the Pearman Bridge left standing along East Bay Street across from aptly-named Grace Bridge Street.
Crossing the bridge is now a marvel instead of a hazard. The population of Mt. Pleasant has expanded accordingly. Community parks are housed underneath it, with additional amenities to come. Perhaps its most famous use is for the annual Cooper Bridge Run, one of the largest 10Ks in the country. The race was first hosted on the Ravenel in 2006. The bridge has been featured in popular culture in music, movies, and television shows.
The Ravenel Bridge has also become a community gathering place. After the tragic shootings at Emanuel AME Church, a local group of women organized a show of support. They invited citizens to come together and hold hands across the pedestrian lane from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant as part of the Charleston Strong movement. On June 21, 2015, this “Unity Chain” drew upwards of 15,000 participants and became national news.
The Ravenel Bridge has quickly become an iconic and well-loved landmark in Charleston. In addition to vehicular traffic above and boats below, pedestrians and bicyclists cross the bridge day and night in all weather. Walking the bridge is a mainstay for tourists and athletes as well as commuters. Photographing the spans from the roadway, the water or the air is an art form in itself. Views of the bridge are a huge real estate selling point. DHM has Dockside condos for sale with amazing bridge views.
We would love to hear your stories of traveling over the old bridges as well as the Ravenel Bridge. Please share your memories along with photos in the comments.