Tantalizing Tour


For those discovering Charleston for the first time, walking tours provide arguably the most enjoyable, informative way to enjoy the historic city. One of the very best is “Charleston Footprints” with 7th-generation Charleston native Michael Trouche.

  Michael grew up on Legare Street, in the famous South of Broad district, and his family has lived in the historic downtown area since 1793. He is author of two highly-popular books on Charleston – Charleston Yesterday and Today and The Charm of Charleston.

  The Charleston Footprints tour begins in the French Quarter and Michael carries on a lively, detailed description of landmarks, local culture and curiosities as the tour wends its way down enchanting cobblestone streets and into historic interiors. At the famed Dock Street Theater, Michael explains how the stage was recreated from its long-lost colonial origins, and how he was once involved in a hilarious incident on stage during a local theater production. On certain days, the old Huguenot Church is open, and Michael takes guests inside for a look at the grand Henry Erben tracker organ that was being pilfered by Union troops in 1865, only to have the local organist talk them in to putting it back, where it still plays today. Through Washington Park, the tour wanders past giant live oaks, which Michael explains were the foundation for one of Charleston’s most memorable scenes in modern times.

 Crossing into the famous South of Broad district, Michael’s tour enters the scintillating sanctuary of St. Michael’s church, the oldest in the downtown area, opened in 1761. From descriptions of its incredible Tiffany details to details on famous visitors and odd ordinances involving the church, Michael gives visitors an appreciation of what they are seeing and touching that is unsurpassed by any other guide. The church yard at St. Michael’s is still another feature only available to those who walk, and includes the fascinating stories of burial techniques, famous graves (including two signers of the U.S. Constitution), and unique stories of such traditional torments as “stranger’s fever”.

  Drawing attention to otherwise overlooked areas of interest, Michael explains the story of notable hand-made artifacts, such as blown glass, huge columns, picturesque roof tops, carved stones and woodwork, wrought iron, and the African origins of sweet grass basket weaving. With existing buildings and landmarks, Michael gives an intimately-detailed glimpse into Charleston’s past, offering a tangible feel for aspects of life. Where and how slaves lived, alleys once used for rope-making, buildings converted from stables and outdoor kitchens, methods used to sweep chimneys or make bricks, and on and on.

  Down quaint, hidden areas, Michael takes the tour through the heart of historic Charleston to the stunning waterfront vistas of the famous Battery, where people once stood to watch the firing on Fort Sumter that initiated the Civil War. There, Michael explains a waterfront that once was piled high with cotton, rice and slaves, and where unforgettable events occurred that shape South Carolina’s and American history, from the battles that were fought to the curious “Palmetto flag” flying today.

 Michael’s tour is marked by flourishing gardens and statuesque trees, and winds across the bricks of old Church Street over areas that were reclaimed from creeks and still bear colonial artifacts today. Michael remembers sites that were much differently used in his boyhood, such as the beautiful single-family house that was once home to “Pete and Harry’s” grocery, and a front for chicken fights out back. Finishing near grand colonial houses and the mystifying tale of “chevaux de Frise” on Meeting Street, the tour is as complete an introduction to Charleston as can be offered.     


The English Garden

Formal gardens are a long-time tradition in historic downtown Charleston, and for many years, blooming plants were the major attraction for tourists. The idea blossomed in the mid-18th century, as the increasing wealth of the city allowed for more leisure time and more money to spend on it. The hugely-profitable exports of timber, indigo and rice paid for larger homes that proliferated throughout the city from the 1720’s through the 1770’s, typically built on long, narrow lots where there was limited space between them.

What those lot areas did provide, however, was enough room to create a flourishing buffer that enhanced the beauty of the residence and allowed its owners a view of tranquility and relaxation beyond living room windows. Gardening was an art like any other, and dating back to old England, had a large number of skilled professionals who combined botanical knowledge with artistic concepts to make memorable greenspaces.
The “English garden” became synonymous with the concept of an outdoor area planted with symmetrical precision, complete with varieties of growths offering varieties of shapes, colors and scents. To add to the concept that entering the garden was a step into a separate, mesmerizing world, spaces were compartmentalized as distinguishable “rooms”, each entered along curving paths or through winding hedges, and featuring fountains or statuary.
 What was fashionable in England found an ever-expanding audience in the prosperous province of South Carolina, and gardeners advertised their skills in the newspapers and periodicals of Charleston. Just as iron smiths, cabinet makers, an stone carvers immigrated to play their trade, so too many garden experts came to ply their trade in South Carolina’s inviting subtropical climate and healthy soil.
What stood so brilliantly beside many houses for years suffered after the Civil War, when a blighted economy made gardening a low priority. But overgrown spaces and weed-filled walks experienced a Renaissance beginning in the 1930’s, as Charleston’s Emily Whaley teamed up with relocating New York landscape architect Loutrell Briggs. By re-emphasizing the appeal of small, formal spaces next to homes with tantalizing combinations of layout and flora, the two helped Charleston reclaim its traditional position as a gardening Mecca, and today our downtown gardens are some of the most mesmerizing in the world.