Spirit of Charleston, Part 2 | Mary Long's Yesteryear (1990)


Fires, yellow fever, and hurricanes notwithstanding, the early 19th century was a time of growth and development for Charleston. 

In 1835, the steeple of St. Philip's Church burned. Three years later, in the spring of 1838, one-fourth of the city burned. In 1861, eight months after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston was braced for war. It was a very windy night, and embers from a cook fire spread rapidly through the hay stored on the wharf. Within minutes, the fire was out of control. There were no able-bodied men in the city at that time. They were either at war or training in camps outside the city. The Pinckney Mansion was first, followed by the St. Andrews Society, and the Circular Congregational Church, followed by the S.C. Institute Hall, site of the signing of the Ordinance of Secession, followed by the Cathedral of St. John's. Visiting Charleston that night was Gen. Robert E. Lee, who stood on the second floor balcony of the Robert Mills House, as  over 540 acres were destroyed. Over one-third of Charleston lay in smoky ruins. 

In 1865, at the end of the War Between the States, much of Charleston lay devastated. The great fire of 1861, and the four years of Yankee bombardment had nearly reduced to rubble the efforts and accomplishments of almost 200 years. The morale of the city was at its lowest ever. During those 200 years, a planter's system of society and measure of values had developed in Charleston and throughout South Carolina, and when the war ended, that world ended, as well.

In 1885, a hurricane unlike any other struck Charleston. One year later, in 1886, Charleston was struck by an earthquake. Many of Charleston's buildings fell, and most of the others were damaged. Charleston lay in ruins, and the most intensive clean-up and rebuilding ever required was undertaken by her staunch citizens. Seven years later, in 1893, another hurricane struck, its worst, until September 21, 1989, when Hurricane Hugo struck.

Please note:

At the end of The Spirit of Charleston, Part 2, (20:10 into this segment, length 13:52), there is a short video: 

Charleston Preservation: Making the Past Part of the Future

It is introduced by Chuck Smith, and includes an interview with Jonathan Poston, Director of Preservation Programs, Historic Charleston Foundation.  He discusses buildings that were destroyed, which had great historical significance. Will Evans, Chairman of Charleston's Board of Architectural Review, is interviewed. The Historic District is discussed, along with zoning ordinances. Charleston Preservationist, Frances Edmunds, discusses the process, and Elizabeth Young, Charleston Tour Guide, discusses the loss of the old Charleston Hotel. She states that this increased everyone's awareness. Daniel Ravenel, Charleston resident, discusses his family home in the heart of the city of Charleston. John Meffert, Director, Preservation Society of Charleston, discusses historic properties and real estate values. Ed Ball, Charleston Realtor, discusses the change in property values over time, as the demand has grown. Chris Fale, Restoration Specialist, discusses the restoration of properties. 

More in this Series

ETV Classics Classroom / Mary Long's Yesteryear / Spirit of Charleston