Southern Holiday Traditions

How do you celebrate Christmas in Charleston and where did those traditions originate? The South is rich in history, and Charleston is no exception. Did you know that Southern states were the first to adopt Christmas as a legal holiday? (Alabama in 1836, followed by Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.) Over the years, it’s no surprise that many regional Southern holiday traditions have spread around the country.

CHARLESTON’S POINSETTIA ROOTS

Southern holiday poinsettiaToday we hail the poinsettia as the official plant of the Christmas season. Did you know this is thanks to a South Carolina gentleman by the name of Joel Robert Poinsett? Poinsett was in the US House of Representatives and also served as the Minister to Mexico. While on a trip to Mexico in 1925, he discovered the festive red-colored flower. He brought it home to Charleston and introduced it as a holiday adornment. The rest is history. Today, throughout the South and the nation you will see these beautiful flowers displayed on the inside and outside of homes during the Yuletide season.

CITRUS FOR THE SEASON

Southern holiday citrus decorationsIt is a Southern holiday tradition to this day for Santa to leave some citrus fruit in children’s stockings. No, it’s not a gimmick to take up space. Years ago, finding citrus in your stocking in the middle of winter was a luxury. Citrus was only available during certain seasons of the year, so to receive an orange at Christmas was a special and expensive treat. Decorating wreaths, trees and holiday decor with different citrus fruits is still a tradition today. In fact, take a tour around Downtown Charleston or visit one of the museum houses to see citrus and evergreen decorations on the outsides as well as interiors of historic Charleston homes. To view some beautiful examples, visit The Charleston Museum’s blog showcasing the Garden Club of Charleston’s traditional holiday decorations at the Joseph Manigault House. They will be on display to the public through December 31.

FRIED TURKEY, OYSTERS & PECAN PIE

Southern holiday oystersWhat would a Southern meal be without any of these delicacies? Fresh oysters are popular during the holiday season because their harvest is best during the coldest time of year. (Remember the old adage that oysters are good during months that have an “R” in their names.) Deep frying as a preparation for turkey also originated in the South. And don’t forget the pecan pie for dessert. The documented history of this recipe dates back to the 1880s. Legend says the French in New Orleans made a version of it after Native Americans introduced them to the pecan tree. Today this gooey, delicious Southern treat has spread across the country and is a staple this time of year. Visit Southern Living for a variety of delicious pecan pie recipes and other traditional Southern holiday foods.

What holiday treats and traditions does your family celebrate? Please share in the comments. Disher, Hamrick & Myers wishes HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all!

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French Quarter Art Walk

Disher, Hamrick & Myers is proud to be located in the heart of the city’s original commercial district on Broad Street in the French Quarter of historic downtown Charleston. And one of our neighborhood’s favorite events is coming up on December 2. The first Friday in March, May, October and December is the Charleston Gallery Association’s French Quarter Art Walk. Over 40 galleries and shops stay open from 5-8 in the evening to welcome art lovers and guests. Many serve wine and light refreshments and host artists and exhibit openings. USAToday named the art walk one of the  10BEST “Free Things to Do” in Charleston.

Highlights of the last art walk of the year will include:

ART WALK INSIDER TIPS

All the participants are within walking distance and maps can be picked up at any location. You may start at any one and visit as many as you wish at your own pace. Strike up a lively conversation with a gallery owner or artist. Discuss your reaction to a painting or sculpture, and maybe even find a piece to add to your own collection. Art prices are very accessible, ranging from prints and original pieces available for under $50 to larger pieces of fine art and jewelry priced in the tens of thousands of dollars. There is truly the opportunity for everyone to find something they can afford and enjoy.

French Quarter art walkArchitecture buffs should be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see inside and behind the buildings normally only glimpsed from the street front. To make the most of your experience, venture off the beaten path to shops and galleries that are located in alleyways or on the second or third levels of buildings. The streets will be bustling with locals and visitors of all ages.

After the art walk, treat yourself to a cocktail or dinner at one of the French Quarter’s restaurants, like the upscale Oak Steakhouse or Disher, Hamrick & Myers’ neighbor, the recently reopened Blind Tiger Pub. The weather should be pleasantly warm and sunny, presenting the perfect opportunity to stroll the historic streets of downtown Charleston. Beautiful weather, art, architecture, food, drink and company – what more could you ask for on a Friday evening? We look forward to seeing you all there!

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French Quarter Art Walk

Disher, Hamrick & Myers is proud to be located in the heart of the city’s original commercial district on Broad Street in the French Quarter of historic downtown Charleston. And one of our neighborhood’s favorite events is coming up on October 14  (postponed from October 7 due to Hurricane Matthew). The first Friday in March, May, October and December is the Charleston Gallery Association’s French Quarter Art Walk. Over 40 galleries and shops stay open from 5-8 in the evening to welcome art lovers and guests. Many serve wine and light refreshments and host artists and exhibit openings. USAToday named the art walk one of the  10BEST “Free Things to Do” in Charleston.

Highlights of the first art walk of the fall will include:

ART WALK INSIDER TIPS

All the participants are within walking distance and maps can be picked up at any location. You may start at any one and visit as many as you wish at your own pace. Strike up a lively conversation with a gallery owner or artist. Discuss your reaction to a painting or sculpture, and maybe even find a piece to add to your own collection. Art prices are very accessible, ranging from some prints and original pieces available for under $50 to larger pieces of fine art and jewelry priced in the tens of thousands of dollars. There is truly the opportunity for everyone to find something they can afford and enjoy.

French Quarter art walkArchitecture buffs should be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see inside and behind the buildings normally only glimpsed from the street front. To make the most of your experience, venture off the beaten path to shops and galleries that are located in alleyways or on the second or third levels of buildings. The streets will be bustling with locals and visitors of all ages.

After the art walk, treat yourself to a cocktail or dinner at one of the French Quarter’s restaurants, like the upscale Oak Steakhouse or Disher, Hamrick & Myers’ neighbor, the recently reopened Blind Tiger Pub. The weather should be pleasantly warm and sunny, presenting the perfect opportunity to stroll the historic streets of downtown Charleston. Beautiful weather, art, architecture, food, drink and company – what more could you ask for on a Friday evening? We look forward to seeing you all there!

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The Joggling Board in Charleston, SC Homes

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.

COURTING BENCHES

EA Joggling boardOne 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.

If you would like to see and try out a joggling board, they are found in several museum houses in Charleston. Please visit the Edmondston-Alston House or the Nathaniel Russell House in downtown Charleston or Middleton Place in West Ashley.

Would you like to have a joggling board in your Charleston home?

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Property Taxes for Your Charleston, SC House

So you’re thinking about purchasing a home in Charleston, SC. You’ve fallen in love with the charm of the local culture, southern beaches and gorgeous houses. We don’t blame you. But now you’re wondering exactly what you’ll be paying every year in property taxes for your Charleston, South Carolina home. Lucky for you, property taxes in South Carolina are the 5th lowest in the U.S.

Here’s a simple equation that will give you a rough calculation of what you’ll pay in property taxes for your home in Charleston, SC:

1. Determine your home’s fair market value.

2. Multiply it by the assessment ratio to get your home’s “assessed value”.

3. Multiply your home’s assessed value by your local millage rate.

We’ll explain what each figure means below. We’ll also provide a sample calculation to show you how to determine the approximate property taxes for your home.

WHAT IS THE “FAIR MARKET VALUE” OF MY HOME?

Charleston home with joggling boardThe fair market value of a home is basically the price that a buyer would realistically be willing to pay for your home. The county assessor is responsible for determining the fair market value of your home.

Three things the county assessor looks at to determine your home’s value include:

  • Your home’s value compared to other nearby properties that have recently sold.
  • What it would cost to replace the property with one that is similar.
  • How much income the property would produce if it were rented out.

Here’s a great article that walks you through how to estimate your home’s fair market value.

Because the fair market value of a home can fluctuate, county assessors can reassess the value of your home every 5 years. If your home’s value increases by more than $1000 when it’s reassessed, you’ll get a notice in the mail by December 31st.

WHAT IS THE “ASSESSMENT RATIO” IN CHARLESTON, SC?

The assessment ratio is the percentage of your home’s value that is “taxable”.

The SC assessment ratio is 4% for a primary residence.

That means if you live in that home more than 50% of the year, you can qualify for the 4% rate. But here’s what most homeowners don’t realize: You actually have to apply for that lower rate of 4%. Otherwise, once you buy a home, you are automatically taxed at 6%.

Therefore, as soon as you close on a house, if it will be your primary residence, you’ll want to file an application for the 4% assessment ratio. Once you apply for the lower rate, you won’t need to file for it again.

If you are currently being taxed at 6% and your home is your primary residence, click here to apply for the Charleston County “special assessment ratio” tax of 4%. As long as you file your application before January 15th (and assuming your application is accepted), you will be taxed at 4% for the prior year.

If you do not live in the home more than 50% of the time or rent it out, you will will remain taxed at the 6% rate.

WHAT IS THE “MILLAGE RATE”?

Charleston home piazzaThe millage rate is a dollar amount of tax owed for every $1000 of assessed value. A mill is equal to 1/10 of one cent. This portion of your tax money goes to the county’s political subdivisions like the school district, county, city etc. Because the millage rate is set by local governments, it varies from municipality to municipality.

Local municipalities millage rates can be found here.

SAMPLE CALCULATION FOR RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TAXES IN CHARLESTON, SC

So now that we know a bit more about each of the property tax terms, let’s look at how you would calculate the property tax on your home in Charleston, SC. In this example we will assume:

  • Your home’s fair market value is $550,000
  • The assessment ratio is 4% (owner occupied)
  • The millage rate is 2634

Here’s how you would calculate your residential property tax given these numbers:

Multiply your home’s fair market value by the assessment ratio to get your home’s assessed value:

sample calculation

Then multiply your home’s assessed value by your local millage rate:

sample calculation

So $5795 would be the rough estimate that you’d be expected to pay in property taxes. For a more exact answer, contact a licensed tax attorney or use Charleston County’s online tax calculator to help you determine your residential property taxes.

NEED HELP FROM A CHARLESTON REALTOR?

Knowing what you’re expected to pay in property taxes each year helps you make informed decisions regarding the purchase of your new home.

Have questions about the value of your home? We offer an easy home valuation tool – just enter some information about the property and we’ll follow up with detailed information shortly.

Disher, Hamrick & Myers looks forward to helping you navigate our beautiful Charleston properties!

 

*Note: for information only. Not to be regarded as legal advice.

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The Charleston Single House

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.

Charleston Single House at 62 Tradd St.

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.

Charleston Single House at 45 Church St.

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)

Disher, Hamrick & Myers Real Estate currently has several archetypical singles houses for sale in downtown Charleston: 24 King Street45 Church Street, 25A Montagu Street and 66 Smith Street. If this style historic home appeals to you, contact us for a showing!

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