The 2010 version of the Cooper River Bridge run attracted 38,000 participants to run, shuffle and walk across the massive cable-stay span. Only a few hundred ran back in 1978 when the event was begun, and today it is considered among the most prestigious road races in America, drawing international running stars to compete. For most of its history, the run was made across the 1929 John Grace bridge, which was finally replaced by the present bridge in 2003. The Grace bridge was only built wide enough for two cars(1920's size), which made the old run an often clustrophobic affair over the former twin-cantilevered span. Despite the fact that the Ravenel bridge's eight lanes are more commodious, the ascending grade up to the 150-foot high roadbed above Charleston's harbor channel is longer and steeper, so the callenge is a little greater, and for most, the only reward is a t-shirt or a hat at the end of the run.
The idea of many moving bodies struggling to cross a crammed Charleston bridge actually predates the first bridge run by almost 60 years, although the ending the was very similar. In 1918, cattle being driven across the old swing-span Ashley River bridge stampeded into the city, crashing there way down into the commercial area where a few wandered into garment shops and grazed on flower-laden ladies hats. So it seems the cows and runners both ended their prospective runs with essentially the same prize.
Historic Zig Zag Alley has caused quite a bit of confusion in old Charleston over the years, as historians differ on the origin of its name. The name first appears in city directories in the early 1800's, and presumably came from the winding direction of the little lane off Atlantic Street. At the time, however, there were a number of seamstress businesses located on the alley, and by the early 1800's they were using a very popular means of hemming called the Zig Zag stitch. Adding to the confusion today is the fact that the city of Charleston has removed the old Zig Zag Alley sign, and a sidewalk plate lists the alley as Lightwood Street. Lightwood's Alley was actually prependicular to Zig Zag Alley, and down in the next block, so the current plate is wrong in name and location. Such is the nature of Charleston, where local families have answered inquiries for directories over the years by saying, "you can't get there from here".
Many of downtown Charleston's historic homes feature beautiful clay tile roof shingles, that besides being very attractive, afford a cooling method for the entire house. This fashion dates back to colonial tims, when local clays were kiln-baked inside molded patterns that are distinctive by their undulating surface. This uneven, yet symmetrical surface deflects the sun's rays much more effectively than flat tiles, preventing the absorbing of heat during hot hours of the day. Typically these tiles have a thin patina of tar or pitch to prevent water intrusion, and the rounded surfaces patterns allow for passage of air through the roof top, adding to the cooling effect.
Some of the most attractive clay tile roof tops can be found along Tradd Street, in the heart of the historic district, which still boasts the largest concentration of pre-Revolutionary houses in America, with more than 50 on this one graceful street alone.