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Charleston: 1910

Circa 1910. "Charleston, South Carolina." A back-door view of the waterfront. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Circa 1910. "Charleston, South Carolina." A back-door view of the waterfront. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Lighthouse in the Harbor

There is a structure barely visible in the distance that I believe is the Fort Ripley Shoal Light, a screwpile lighthouse in use from 1878 until 1932, when it was demolished.

Castle Without a King

This view affords only a small glimpse of Charleston Harbor, so the amount of commerce conducted there cannot be discerned from this particular photograph. However, it does allow a small glimpse of a bygone landmark. Situated on Shutes’ Folly Island, Castle Pinckney is visible in the far left background. The name is deceiving, as it was not a true castle, but a federal fortification to guard the harbor, and later served as a prison for federal POW's during the Civil War.

This particular structure was 100 years old at the time of this photo, having replaced a short-lived fortification completed in 1804, but destroyed by a hurricane that same year. The new structure was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Charles Pinckney.

Unfortunately, very little of the castle remains. It was abandoned following the War of 1812 and began to fall into disrepair. President Calvin Coolidge declared it to be a national monument in 1924, but congress stripped it of this designation in 1951. The local Sons of Confederate Veterans attempted to revive the site, but eventually abandoned their efforts and the property reverted to the state, where it languishes today.

Just off Tradd

Thermocline got me in the right area and working from an assumption that this was taken from a high place like a steeple, looking in the direction of Folly Island and Fort Sumter (just can make it out on the middle horizon).
Settled on St Michael’s steeple, here is the current view looking out onto those four (five in the 1910 photo) narrow wood houses in the middle of the vintage photo. Even the wall, the house to the left, and the one to the right with the notched roof are extant as are many others.

Tradd and East Bay

Looks to be the area near the intersection of Tradd and East Bay streets.

Urban Blight

Some of those buildings are in rough shape!!! Yet it appears people live all in and around them. Hard to look at this photo and not think of all the individual lives and what the people were doing both in town and out on the ships.

Same location today

I found the location by searching for those five distinctive narrow houses. Looks like the leftmost one has been demolished.

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This is not exactly a thriving waterfront. I see no "modern" steamships -- just 3 schooners, two 2-masters in the center, one with a main topmast and the other "bald-headed" -- perhaps it has an auxiliary engine, although that would be unusual in 1910. Then there's a larger 3-master on the extreme right that looks like it might have been built in Maine.

I think Charleston is still feeling the effects of the Civil War in this picture. When I visited in 1976, I found that one of the restored antebellum houses had been little better than a ruin as recently as 1960. But by 1976 it had been lovingly restored and furnished with period antiques, and there were enough tourists that it was evidently out of danger.

Sideways Houses

Houses were placed sideways on lots due to tax assessments being made on the side of the lot that faced the street. Also, isn't it too early(1910) for a transformer to be on a pole??? Wouldn't all these distribution systems be DC based which would preclude use of a transformer???

[That's a telephone line drop, not a transformer. - Dave]

The Big Sooty

Even in sunny Charleston, I bet chimney sweeps made a decent living.


The effect of all these houses is all too like my "Plasticville" village setup around my model train layout I had as a kid.

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