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".
For anyone who thinks Charleston is too low in elevation for underground tunneling, think again. In the Fall of 1802, a man by the name of Withers concocted a plan to dig beneath Broad Street to the old South Carolina Bank on the northwest corner of Church Street. The buildig, which still stands, had vaults on the first floor, and Withers' idea was to begin a tunnel in one of the grated street drains to the raised basement. He apparently would enter the drain each morning, pull the grate back over hime and dig, getting food and water from an accomplice who dropped them into the drain, and exit after dark each night. After nearly three months of work, Withers had burrowed under the street, but was discovered after his cohort in crime got to verbose while describing the caper in a local tavern.
Another view from below ground on Broad Street can be seen from the provost dungeon of the Old Exchange. Built as a storage area for the Exchange in 1771, the vaulted brick cellar lies atop remains of gthe old city sea wall, and looking through the opening to BRoad Street, the layers of successive construciton can readily be seen as you stand a full five feet below the Broad Street pavement.
One way streets are very much a fact of Charleston life, and were first instituted in 1949. Begun because larger and more numerous cars were cusing traffic concerns, the initial changes were made on a few east-west streets and other thoroughfares were added over the years.
The new one-way configuration was frustrating to some long-time Charlestonians, most notably the elderly Poppenheim sisters, who, despite being Vassar graduates and very bright, were renowned for intentionally driving the wrong way down the newly-changed streets
Charleston is a great city but like anywhere, there are things to consider before moving:
1/ Charleston is in the South and you will need to accept you will be living in the South. Most folks, escpecially true southerns are friendly and hospitalble people, but they just don't take kindly to people constantly talking abouthow they did things up North.
2/ Don't look for a basement, just accept that your new home will not have one.
3/ Charleston sits in a Hurrincan path, so be prepared with a plan and good insurance.
4/ Palmetto bugs (like roaches) are annoying and a fact of life in the South but can be controlled. Find a good bugman.
5/ Living on the water is great, and convenient, if you are a boater. Do be preared to pay a little extra for the priviledge.
6/ There is traffic and like any other city is inconvenient, but the view is usually better in the LowCountry. Unless you get behind a horse carriage giving a tour. That can be frustrating.
7/ The Charleston area is not lacking for things to do. Golf, boating, shrimping, crabbing, clamming, kayaking, tennis, beach walks, theatre, events, lowcountry boils, dining, sporting events, historical tours, gardens, city walks, shopping and much much more.
8/ Mount Pleasant is Charleston's northern neighbor and yes, you can walk across the bridge. In fact, it is encouraged.
9/ Charleston is a great walking town, so buy good shoes and be careful on the cobblestone.
10/ Charleston is close to Hilton Head, beaches, Columbia and has easy interstate access and great little airport.
11/ It is HOT in the summer.