9 interesting facts about the Holy City

Aerial View of Charleston
Downtown Charleston | Photo by @charlestonspired

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Charleston is chock full of history, southern charm, amazing food, and basically anything you could want for your neck of the woods. No wonder it has been ranked number one again + again.

For a city bursting with personality, it’s no shock the Holy City boasts a few unusual traits as well.

As a fan of the quirky + unconventional, I put together a list of some of the most unique facts about this city. Maybe you’ve lived in Chucktown for all of your life, and you know some of these– or maybe you’ll learn something new.

Here are 9 interesting facts about CHS:

1. Charleston is almost identical in layout to Bridgetown, a town in Barbados. This is because CHS was originally formed as a colony of Barbados. British settlers landed on the Caribbean island in 1627and after running low on resources– they set sail looking for land to expand their sugarcane operations, ultimately landing in Charleston. You can still see the Barbados influence in the Holy City, from the architecture to familiar, local names. Read more about it here.

2. How did Charles Town come to be renamed Charleston? Charles Town was originally named after King Charles II. After the Revolutionary War, however, it probably wasn’t popular to have towns named after British RoyaltyI wonder why…  So, Charleston was appropriately renamed in 1783. Read all about the Holy City’s names + nicknames here.

Image of Fort Moultrie
Fort Moultrie | Public domain image

3. One of history’s most mysterious + eerie poets– Edgar Allan Poe– was stationed at Fort Moultrie while serving in the Army under a false identity. It seems odd that someone who writes stories as dark + creepy as Poe would find inspiration in sunny + warm Sullivan’s Island– but this is exactly where his short story, The Gold Bug, takes place. To read more about Poe’s time in CHS, click here.

Image of the historic Old City Jail in Charleston
Old City Jail | Image by @designedbymaresca

4. The Holy City is being credited with housing America’s “first female serial killer”– Lavinia Fisher. Lavinia Fisher and her husband John Fisher spent some time in the Old City Jail after they were arrested for unspeakable crimes. They were eventually hanged at the jail and, according to legend– Lavinia’s spirit never left.

Over the past couple of years, new theories have surfaced which suggest she may never have actually killed anyone, and her arrest may have been a setup. Click here to find out if the Fishers were innocent.

An image of a blue painted ceiling of a Charleston piazza
Haint blue porch | Photo by @lowcountryrevival_chs

5. Many of the ceilings of the piazza’s on historic Charleston homes are painted a light blue. This is due to the Gullah Geechee descendants of the enslaved African planters thinking that soft, blue-green paint would keep the “haints”– or evil spirits– away. The color was chosen to represent water, which residents believed haints were unable to cross. The blue ceilings were to trick any spirits that might try their luck in entering the home. In today’s era, you can even find paint companies selling colors within the “haint blue” spectrum.

Image of a panama mount on Sullivan’s Island | photo by @abcnews4

6. If you’ve ever taken a stroll along station 30 at Sullivan’s Island after a particularly high tide, maybe you’ve seen a strange-looking structure out in the sand. That structure is actually a “Panama mount” which is a kind of gun turret that dates back to World War II. It was visible just a couple of weeks ago after a crazy high tide.

7. Prior to the advances of modern medicine, the Holy City was rampant with disease. In the 1750s, a doctor + longtime CHS resident named John Lining was able to closely study sicknesses– writing the first account of yellow fever in the country.

Image of an alleged Gray Man sighting
Image of an alleged Gray Man sighting | photo by Gresham M.

9. Pawleys Island has a friendly neighborhood ghost called ‘The Gray Man.’ Legend has it the Gray Man was a gentleman from Charleston who died in a storm on his way to see his lover. Now, he shows up before major hurricanes to warn the locals a dangerous storm is coming. He’s been spotted before each of the five major storms which have hit the SC coast.

9. While we’ve all come to observe the New Year on January 1, this was not always the case in Charleston (or the rest of the Palmetto State). Originally, South Carolina observed the mark of the New Year on March 25, and it was not until 1752 that the date changed to the first of January. Technically the year 1751 was the “shortest year in history,” since it only consisted of 282 days– beginning on March 25 and ending on January 1.