Uptown/Downtown in Old Charleston: Sketches and Stories

Uptown/Downtown in Old Charleston: Sketches and Stories

Uptown/Downtown in Old Charleston: Sketches and Stories

Uptown/Downtown in Old Charleston: Sketches and Stories

Synopsis

This is a series of briskly paced renderings of the Holy City's dual identities, written by an acclaimed native son.

Excerpt

When I was a teenager in Charleston, South Carolina, I spent many hours along the Downtown waterfront. in those days, the 1930s and early 1940s, there were not one but two different and seemingly discrete Charlestons. For more than one reason, they could be designated as Uptown and Downtown, and often were.

Downtown Charleston was the old part of the city, with buildings that dated back to colonial times. It was the city that the tourists came to see, and where the “old” Charlestonians lived, the families whose forebears were the antebellum rice planters and merchant princes. Downtown Charleston was a city of narrow, sometimes winding streets with quaint and historical names like Longitude Lane and St. Michael’s and Price’s and Bedon’s and Stoll’s and Do As You Choose alleys and Tradd and Church and Water and Gibbes and Legaré and Lamboll and Orange and East Bay. in church affiliations it was Episcopalian and Huguenot and Presbyterian, with a few Unitarians and Congregationalists and Reform Jews whose tenure often went back to colonial and early federal times.

Downtown people were lawyers and doctors and professors and realtors and bankers and stockbrokers and businessmen and artists and writers and newspaper editors. Black people Downtown were “colorful” and “primitive” and wore bandannas and spoke Gullah, and they went about the streets hawking fish and shrimp and produce, and everyone knew their picturesque vending cries. the women wore uniforms to work and had names like Viola and Evalina.

Downtown was steeped in history, and its residents talked about and some few even remembered the firing on Fort Sumter, and Downtown was . . .

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