Fast and curious Powder Magazine! A quick look at Charleston in the 1700s

“Charles Towne the Capital of this Province…is very inviting, and the Country about it agreeable and fruitful…There are several fair streets in the Town and some very handsome buildings…As for public Edifices the Church is most remarkable.”
John Oldmixon, 1708

The Powder Magazine is the oldest public building in South Carolina. It took us about 20 minutes to visit the museum. Admission was $2 (free for my daughter) which is about right, for the easy going, brief peak into colonial Charleston history.

Goofing around at the Powder Magazine museum

I did not do it! Trust me...

Historic highlights
• In 1713, under the Lord Proprietors rule, the Powder Magazine was completed in the northwest corner of the Charleston fortifications.

GR British cannons found in Charleston

American Revolution field guns in front of the Powder Magazine

• Col. William Rhett – the same guy who will later capture the famous Stede Bonnet, The Gentleman Pirate – was appointed Commissioner of the Fortifications.

• The building had thick brick walls and a sand packed roof designed to collapse in an event of explosion. Iron nails and metal fixture were kept to a minimum to prevent inadvertent sparks.Today, you can still see an exposed section of the original brick.

Back then they truly built to last!…

• From 1713 to 1770, and again briefly during the Revolutionary War, it was used as storage building for loose gunpowder. Afterward it became a livery stable, wine cellar, print shop, and finally a museum.

• In 1902, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America and the State of South Carolina purchased the building and opened it as a museum.

• Recently, the Powder Magazine has been restored to its original appearance (except for the addition of a thin plaster wash inside to protect the brick from a chronic moisture problem).

18 century artifacts (on loan from the Charleston Museum)
• Two Revolutionary War cannons, found in the Charleston area. The field guns featured the British “GR” – Georgius Rex – stamp, in reference to King George III.
• Right-handed bone dice, “Royal Welch” button, bronze whistle, slate whizzer
• A 6 pounds cannon ball, embedded in the wood it was shot at and a 3 pounds solid shot, found under a house in Charleston near the location of the American lines during the Charleston Siege
• Iron crossbar, Irish coin, English flintlock.

Revolutionary War flintlock pistol iron crossbar

17 and 18 century British and African artifacts

Defend the city!
The walls and moat that surrounded Charles Towne allowed entrance only by sea at the Cooper River wharves and by land over a drawbridge near the intersection of Broad and Meeting streets.

Indian weapons demonstration Charleston Museum

Look mom I am a warrior!

Although, one settler said “This fortify’d more for Beauty than Strength” the walls proved useful on two major occasions:

• In 1706, five French and Spanish ships sailed into the harbor to conquer the colony. Colonial forces lead by Gov. Nathaniel Johnson and a fleet of six small ships lead by Col. William Rhett repelled the invaders.

• In 1715 the colony faced its biggest threat, when Yemassee Indians with support from Spain, attacked the English settlements. More than 400 colonists were massacred. Carolinians flocked to Charles Towne, regrouped and marched out to counterattack.

By 1716, the Yemassee were defeated and driven into Florida. Then the Proprietors amassed the lands owned by the Indians, angering the settlers who have fought and won the war.

• In 1719, surprise, surprise…the colonists “peacefully” overthrew the Lord Proprietors, and South Carolina became a royal colony.

Kids enjoy playing with the interactive Charleston map that showcases the city’s landmarks in the 1700s

Old Charles Towne Harbor walled city bastions defenses

Lightning up Charleston landmarks in the 1700

Free and fun family attractions in the area

• The one and only Waterfront Park
• The renovated Dock Street Theatre

Having fun inside the Powder Museum

Checking out the powder kegs


How sweet it is! Charleston tea plantation, your weekend paradise escape

I’ve always wanted to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation, America’s only tea garden and this Spring I finally made it! Nestled in the picturesque Wadmalaw Island, the plantation is a short drive from both downtown Charleston and Folly Beach.

Come to the First Flush Festival at Charleston Tea Plantation

We made it to Americas only tea garden!

Things to know before you go
You can tour the indoor tea factory for free or take the $10 (free for kids under 6) trolley tour around the farm.

The plantation is open daily 10AM to 4PM (noon on Sundays), except on major holidays.

Although the Charleston Tea Plantation started in 1987, its roots go way back.

In the 1700’s the Camellia Sinensis tea plant first arrived in the United States from China in an attempt to produce the exquisitely aromatic tea.

It only took about 150 years…In 1888, Dr. Charles Shepard managed to produce the first American grown tea on his Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville, SC.

In 1963, Shepard’s tea plants were transplanted from Pinehurst to a 127 acres potato farm located on Wadmalaw Island.

State of the art machinery on display at Charleston Tea Plantation

Here comes The Green Giant!

This farm eventually became known as the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Every Camellia Sinensis plant growing on the grounds today is direct descendant of Dr. Shepard’s 1888 crop, making the Charleston Tea Plantation a living part of American history!

The trolley tour lasts about 20 minutes. You listen to a recorded audio that goes over the most interesting aspects of growing tea.

The trolley makes frequent stops so you can take pictures, and have plenty of time to marvel at the charming garden, serene irrigation ponds, and blooming rows after rows of tea plants.

Charleston Tea Plantation facts, trivia and tips

Picture perfect spot from the tea trolley

I feel jolly on the trolley!

• This is probably one of the most eco-friendly plant farms in the world. They use no herbicides, pesticides or insecticides and consequently there is minimum soil erosion.

• The plantation is not only organic but very high tech. They have designed their own fully sustainable irrigation system and the Green Giant tea harvesting machine…truly unique in the world!

• Did you know that green, black and Oolong tea all come from the same plant? The difference is in processing: green tea leaves, once harvested go straight to drying, and within minutes, are sorted, then put into bags or let loose.

• Tea plants, once mature are very sturdy and resilient and can live for hundreds of years!

• A cup American Classic Tea contains half the amount of caffeine than the average cup of coffee. To reduce the caffeine in hot tea try the following: Pour boiling water over your tea and let it sit for 60 seconds. Pour OUT that first cup (heat releases caffeine), then again pour boiling water over the tea and enjoy!

• To get the best flavor and lower caffeine iced tea, pour cold water over your tea bags (DO NOT use boiling water!) and let it sit overnight at room temperature. In the morning, remove your tea bags, add a sweetener if desired and serve over ice.

See how tea is made

The self guided free factory tour

The self guided factory tour is free and takes about 15 minutes. You watch video on a TV screen about each major step in the tea producing process: harvesting, withering, maceration, filtration, oxidation, drying and packaging.

Note the tour may be boring for young children (mine ran up and down the corridor)…

It gets more exciting during the harvesting season, May through October, when visitors can see all the big machines in action!

Once done with the tour, enjoy all you can drink fresh-made tea or shop for one of kind gourmet items at the Shoppe. Make sure to get the American Classic Tea sampler box, featuring six delicious varieties of loose leaf tea in the staple pyramid bags.

Indulge in most delicious green and black Southern tea

Yummy, yummy in the tummy!

Health benefits of green and black tea
• Great source of antioxidants
• Promote cardiovascular health, higher bone density
• Help reduce body fat
• Have no carbohydrates or calories

Irrigation pond

High tech, eco friendly and so, so beautiful...

Best time to visit the plantation is during annual First Flush Festival, which this year is on May 16, from 10AM to 6PM. The first flush is when the most fresh, flavorful and aromatic tea is produced. There will be great music bands, art, local cuisine, and fun kids games.

Festival tickets are $15 until May 1, $20 until May 16, and $25 at the door on the event day. Kids 6 and under get in FREE.

Family fun attractions in the area
• The 1,500 years old, gigantic Angel Oak Tree on John’s Island
• The romantic Morris Island Lighthouse, one of the most revered historic landmarks on the Charleston Harbor
Folly Beach, featuring one of the best surfing and fishing spots on the Atlantic Coast.

Soul searching travel into Fort Moultrie mysteries and Sullivan’s Island sorrows

Would I know where to kneel and dig?
Who first covered the fort’s walls with molasses and lime?
What treasures still lie beneath my feet?
– from “Molasses” by Ed Madden

A trip to Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island is filled with emotions, mysteries and soul searching questions. The fort is most famous for the Patriots bravery and ingenuity during the Revolutionary War that lead to a historic victory, the state flag and its marquee Palmetto symbol.

But there is more behind the old stucco fortifications. If only the walls could talk…

Inside Fort Moultrie

Inside Fort Moultrie

There are closed tunnels, locked gates and hidden passages that lead nowhere. Who built them and why?

What about the unusual colors “the color of onion and okra”, “the chalk wash”. Apparently the interior brick walls and buildings were painted yellow to protect the soft brick from the elements. The sulfur on the inside walls comes from molasses, used to thicken the mix of water and lime!

The Middle Passage and the houses of pain and sorrow
The pest houses are gone now, but the fact remains: 40% of all Africans brought to North America from 1700 to 1775 first arrived on Sullivan’s Island.

Few historical monuments and markers pay (and are planned to pay) tribute to the millions of enslaved Africans:

Bench by the Road 2008 Ceremony - Photo by Tony Morrison Society

Bench by the Road Ceremony - Photo by Tony Morrison Society

Bench by The Road – a 6-foot-long structure with a small bronze plaque mounted on its back. The bench was revealed last summer during the Fifth Biennial on Sullivan’s Island in a ceremony lead by Toni Morrison, the 1st African American Nobel Prize for Literature winner and main catalyst of the project.

• A marker erected in 1999 that says tens of thousands of African captives arrived on Sullivan’s Island’s shores between 1700 and 1775.

• Future planned exhibit “Passages” connects the West Coast of Africa with Lowcountry Gullah-Geechee culture.

• Future commemorative markers of the four Pest Houses where slaves were quarantined and kept in abominable conditions. The houses were demolished at the end of the 18th century so residents could better enjoy their island.

Fort Moultrie Park Entrance

Fort Moultrie Park Entrance

Admission to Fort Moultrie is FREE. The fort is open 9AM – 5PM year around except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Check out these awesome photos that several visitors posted on Flickr.

More area attractions

Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor where the Civil War started. Free admission, must pay for ferry to get there

• USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier in Mount Pleasant. “The Fighting Lady” is home to dozens incredible war jets, a submarine, a flight simulator and more.

• Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of Charleston and South Carolina, is an incredible park featuring a historic trail, Horry plantation ruins and the Animal Forest Zoo.