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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A Belle and Her City!

If you’ve lived in Charleston for some time, there’s a good chance you might know Shelley Grant Julian, or possibly someone who knows her. She’s an active member of the local community and one of Charleston’s most ardent supporters.

For the past 22 years, Shelley has put her love of Charleston to good use, selling Charleston Place Hotel and the city’s many treasures to prospective meeting planners. It’s a job that she has performed with great pride and panache, and an equally high level of success. However, after more than two decades with Charleston Place, Shelley is embarking on a new chapter.

In honor of her departure, we asked Shelley to list the “Top 10” things she’ll miss about Charleston Place and sharing her city. In true Shelley fashion, she came back to us with 22. Enjoy!

22. My morning stroll to the office. Birds chirping. Delivery trucks making their morning drop-offs. And local business owners sprucing up their store fronts to welcome the day’s visitors.

21. The beautiful flowers surrounding the fountain at the hotel’s Market Street entrance, which greet me every morning as I arrive at the hotel.

20. The exchange of pleasantries with Olesya, as she prepares my morning cappuccino at the lobby coffee shop.

19. Stopping by the Orient-Express Boutique to pick up my morning copy of the Post and Courier, and sneaking a peak at any new items that have arrived.

18. The expansive views of our magnificent city and the Charleston Harbor from the Club Level lounge on the hotel’s eighth floor.

17. The buzz and energy that emanates from the hotel lobby, as leisure travelers arrive at check-in and group meeting attendees gather to depart on a tour of the city.

16. Teaming with the passionate staff from the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at events around the country to promote our charming city.

15. Settling into my favorite stool (next to the server stand) at the Thoroughbred Club and enjoying my favorite cocktail…the Mouzon Mash.

14. Representing Charleston Place Hotel and working with the wonderful people behind our city’s signature events, including Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Family Circle Cup and Spoleto Festival USA.

13. Catching up with Dana Berlin during one of our regular “girlfriends lunch out” at a local favorite spot—Jestine’s Kitchen.

12. Savoring every last bite of the Jumbo Lump Crab Salad at the Palmetto Cafe in my favorite booth, which overlooks the Palmetto Courtyard and fountain.

11. Spying my first SALE bag in the hand of a local or tourist walking down King Street, notifying me of the semi-annual shoe sale at Bob Ellis Shoes.

10. Catching sight of the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse as I cross the Cooper River on my trek home each evening and leaving the events of the day to float away.

9. Enjoying one of Teresa’s famous vodka cocktails and catching up on the news around town at the bar at Charleston Grill.

8. Site inspections with visiting meeting planners. One of the favorite parts of the job, where I get to see a planner’s eyes light up as they tour the hotel and city, and get to see firsthand everything I’ve been telling them about over the phone all this time.

7. My routine lunchtime indulgence—a pedicure with Van at The Spa at Charleston Place.

6. Strolling through the Charleston City Market and admiring the renovations, new indoor shops and the goodies at the Historic Charleston Shoppe.

5.  Working with a professional, funny and great group sale’s team.

4. Leaving the office for the day and seeing the city alive and buzzing, as locals and visitors finish up shopping or step into another one of the city’s fabulous restaurants for an early bite.

3. Window shopping the Antique District and soaking up the sweet smells of the Jasmine and Tea Olive on lower King during a lunchtime walk to the battery.

2. Circling White Point Gardens and heading back to the office on Meeting Street, stopping to check in with the “Sweet Grass Basket” ladies in front of the Courthouse.  They say business is good this spring!

1. All of the amazing people at Charleston Place and throughout the city that I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my life with daily for the past 22 years!

From all of us at Charleston Place, we wish Shelley much happiness on her journey, and look forward to seeing her out and about playing tourist in Charleston.

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Walkable History: Charleston City Market

There are few cities in the world that have preserved their past quite like Charleston. History abounds on every street corner with beautifully maintained architecture from houses and churches to historic sites and museums. Tucked away gardens and antebellum plantations dot the city like intricate seashells.

Finding a historic attraction is about as easy as finding a courteous local with a penchant for holding doors open. So put away your map, guide book and iPhone, and strike out for the first street you come to. Let a true sense of adventure light your way.

Based in the center of the historic district, Charleston Place is the perfect location from which to relive Charleston’s rich history. In our “Walkable History” series, we’ll do just that, sharing our favorite spots to see history come alive in Charleston. All within a short stroll from the doors of the hotel.

Charleston City Market

Located directly across from the hotel’s Meeting Street entrance, you’ll find the Charleston City Market—a historically significant landmark dating back to 1788. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney ceded the land where the Market is built to the City of Charleston under the stipulation that the land would forever be used as a public market.

Charleston City MarketConstruction was complete in 1807 and the buildings behind the Daughter’s of the Confederacy building were used to house meat, vegetable and fish markets. Butchers paid $2.00 for booth rental because the space was equipped with a marble slab to keep meat cold. Buzzards were nicknamed the “Charleston Eagle” because they were often found outside of the market begging for scraps.

Several years later the building was burned and not rebuilt until 1841. After the rebuilding, the market was used for Market Commissioner’s meetings, social functions and space rental underneath. Since 1970, the space has been used for arts, crafts and gourmet goods. The City Market saw it’s most recent renovation in 2011, enclosing the building and providing central heating and air.

While strolling the market you will find great shopping in booths such as the Charleston AnglerGallery Chuma and The Historic Charleston Foundation. Restaurants such as Caviar and Bananas and Food for the Southern Soul serve up delicious food and provide comfortable tables for weary shoppers. The Charleston City Market is a “must see” when visiting the city.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Charleston Museum Archives

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