Downtown Discovered: Harleston Village

While downtown Charleston is most often known for its historic district, a variety of unique neighborhoods exist within the city center. From picturesque South of Broad to the artistic French Quarter, there’s plenty here for guests to delight in. In our next installment of Downtown Discovered, we will explore the diverse and lively Harleston Village.

Location:
Stretching from King Street, west to the Ashley River, Harleston Village is bordered by Calhoun Street to the north and Broad to the South. Frequently called Harleston’s Green, the area was part of a grant made to John Coming in 1671 and later inherited by John Harleston. Streets named for prominent men of the period, including Lord Charles Greville Montagu and Lt. Gov. William Bull, still bear their names today.

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Concierge Tip:
Originally developed in 1770, the neighborhood is a mix of Antebellum houses and upscale modern townhouses situated along tree-lined streets. Be sure to stroll past the most famous homes in the area, the 1802 Gaillard-Bennett house at 60 Montagu Street and the 1800 William Blacklock house at 18 Bull Street. The Gaillard-Bennett house boasts 10,000 square feet of Georgian/Adam details plus one of the most impressive formal gardens in Charleston while the Blacklock House is a National Historic Landmark. 


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History:
Founded in 1700, the same year as the initial development of Harleston Village, the College of Charleston is the oldest education institution south of Virginia, and the 13th oldest in the United States. Also located in Harleston Village and owned by the College of Charleston, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture holds regular exhibits, tours, lectures and workshops dedicated to educating the community on the history and culture of African Americans in the Lowcountry.

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Concierge Tip:
A hub of learning in historic Charleston, Harleston Village is also home to the American College of the Building Arts, the country’s only four-year liberal arts college educating and training artisans in the traditional building arts. While staying at Belmond Charleston Place, be sure to stop into the Thoroughbred Club for tapas, served on trays created by local blacksmithing students. 

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Places of Interest:
From college students to families to the elderly, you are likely to see numerous people outside enjoying the various parks in the neighborhood. Colonial Lake, a tidal lake currently undergoing a $5 million revitalization, is the perfect place for afternoon strolls. You will see walkers, joggers, bikers, kids and dogs at this family-friendly spot. Located near the Medical University of South Carolina, Cannon Park was previously a sawmill pond before becoming a convention hall, museum and hospital. A fire destroyed the hall in 1981, leaving behind its four grand columns, still visible today.

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Concierge Tip:
Grab a cup of coffee from the minimalist-chic Black Tap, before heading out to explore Harleston Village. Make sure you stop to see the Old City Jail on Magazine Street, home to pirates, gangsters and even ghosts! By day, the Old City Jail houses the American College of the Building Arts and at night, is open for haunted walking tours. In case you’ve scared up an appetite, visit Queen Street Grocery, established in 1922 and home to irresistible crepes and hot pressed sandwiches. Once you’ve had your fill, head down Broad Street and wind around to the City Marina, for stunning views of the Ashley River. End your day with a cocktail at Salty Mike’s while watching the sun set! A perfect end to an ideal Lowcountry day.

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A Symbol of Southern Hospitality

A leisurely stroll along any of the charming and historic streets of the Charleston peninsula lend the eye and ear many enchanting sights and sounds. Glances to the left and right can reveal hidden gardens filled with sweeping ivy and the gentle sound of bubbling fountains. And there is always the faint clip, clop of horse’s hooves on cobblestoned streets. If you look closely enough, you may notice that one symbol in particular seems to pop up quite often, the pineapple. This has become ubiquitous to the Charleston area, but few know what the tiny emblem actually represents.

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Sprinkled all over downtown, pineapples can be spotted on doors, atop gates, adorning houses and even on some pieces of jewelry. So what’s the deal with these little fruits, and why are Charlestonians so obsessed with them? It’s because the pineapple has historically served as a symbol of Southern hospitality. According to Levins.com, pineapples were often the main attraction of the large and decadent centerpieces commonly found at extravagant Southern dinner parties. The fruit therefore came to represent the warmth of friendship that was shared at gatherings, as well as the prestige of being in attendance. Some Charlestonians will also tell you that pineapples use to be given as presents on someone’s doorstep, as a sign of friendship. As architects and dignitaries began to pick up on the symbol and what it represented, pineapples were soon incorporated into many of the architectural details in Charleston.

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The history of the pineapple explains the popularity of one of the most iconic, photographed spots in town. Visit the Pineapple fountain at Waterfront Park while sightseeing, or after a lovely dinner, as it’s a treat to see any time of day. If you visit the park during daylight hours you can snap a picture of the Charleston harbor behind the fountain, and as soon as the sun sets you can behold the pineapple lit up and glowing against a gorgeous starlight sky. The fountain is a landmark for many visiting the Charleston peninsula, and is a must-see experience.

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One of the best ways to understand what the pineapple truly represents is to visit Charleston for yourself. The city is known for making visitors feel right at home with its hospitable charm, and the pineapple is just a token of this feeling. The next time you visit the Holy City, take some extra time to notice the cheery way that locals greet each other. Charlestonians pride themselves on being welcoming to all who visit, and that is one reason why those who have experienced Charleston say that it is unlike any other city. In fact, Charleston has been consistently ranked by Travel + Leisure as one of the friendliest cities in the United States.

Because of the unique history of the pineapple, visitors and locals alike have come to sport jewelry that features this Southern symbol. Whether it’s a commitment to being hospitable to all, or a charming reminder of time spent in the Holy City, people seem to love all that the pineapple represents. If you want to add a piece of pineapple jewelry to your collection, you won’t have to look too hard, just venture down King Street and visit the many boutiques which feature a variety of pineapple-inspired pieces. The charm pictured below can be purchased from Pandora in The Shops at Belmond Charleston Place.

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The Palmetto Cafe at Belmond Charleston Place especially prides itself on being welcoming to guests who dine here. As a token of this sentiment, and as a delightful end to your delicious meal, guests are served a candied pineapple slice that has been dipped in milk chocolate. Hoping that each guest feels the warmth and hospitality of Charleston when they visit, this pineapple treat is the perfect end to an exceptional dining experience.

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Downtown Discovered: The French Quarter

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Downtown Charleston, also known as the Historic District, offers a host of smaller neighborhoods within the city center, each with a unique personality and experience for visitors. Our previous post in this series had us exploring picturesque South of Broad and now the French Quarter, also known as the Art District, beckons.

Location:
Named the French Quarter in 1873, the area is roughly bordered by Market Street to the north, Broad Street to the south and extends from the Cooper River westward to Meeting Street. Most of the French Quarter is located within the area that comprised the original colonial walled city of Charles Town, the only walled city built by the English in North America.

Concierge Tip: The only above-ground portion of the city’s earliest defenses still visible is located on the site of the Old Powder Magazine, Located on Cumberland Street, this National Historic Landmark was completed in 1713 and housed the community’s store of gunpowder. Open Monday-Saturday for tours.

History:
The name “French Quarter” was derived in the 1800s when preservation efforts began to protect warehouse buildings on the Lodge Alley block, largely occupied by French Merchants. Local vendors also sold their wares, including meat, vegetables and fish, at the city market. Built between 1804 and 1830, the land was ceded to the city by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney for the express use that it remain as a public market for perpetuity. The current Market Hall was erected in 1841, after the previous building was destroyed by fire. Recognized as one of the oldest in the country, the Charleston City Market is a beloved institution for locals and visitors, especially since it’s home to more than 50 sweetgrass basket weavers who carry on this Lowcountry tradition.

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Concierge Tip: Following a $5.5 million makeover, the City Market now houses vendors and food purveyors. Grab lunch and then make your way down Church Street. One of the most photographed spots in the city, St. Philips Episcopal Church is home to the oldest congregation in the state of South Carolina. Notice the church’s foundation in the middle of Church Street. Locals say that the church was built this way so that even if you were not a believer, when you rode down Church Street you had to acknowledge the presence of God. Also worth a visit are the Circular Congregational Church and the French Huguenot Church, the only such congregation in the United States, both located on Meeting Street.

Places of Interest:
While the historic French Quarter is small, art and culture abound. The first building in the country designed for theatrical use, the Dock Street Theater, is located on Church Street. First opened in 1736, the theater still produces performances every year. The area is also home to numerous art galleries. Spend the afternoon browsing Gallery Row, located on Broad Street before visiting those located on Church and State Streets. Currently closed while it undergoes a multimillion dollar renovation, the Gibbes Museum of Art is slated to reopen in the spring of 2016 with a renewed focus on American Southern art.

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Concierge Tip: Our restaurants, The Palmetto Cafe and Charleston Grill, are filled with art by local artists, included notable painter Robert Lange. Lange’s studio is open daily, and private tours can be arranged here and at a variety of other studios. If you find yourself here on the first Friday of March, May, October or December, enjoy the French Quarter Art Walk which is free and open to the public. Galleries open their doors for patrons to mingle with artists over refreshments. Stroll among gas lit lanterns and discover the works of more than 500 artists of various styles and mediums.

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