The Architecture of Historic Charleston

D800-Charleston Day 5-1679-2014-04-02The architecture of historic Charleston is an aspect of the city that one knows without ever having been there.

So often has it been photographed and filmed that it has become synonymous with the identity of the city and has seeped, unnoticed, into our subconscious.

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The grand antebellum houses; the elaborate wrought iron railings; the ornate carriage lamps; the covered passageways that lead to secret gardens; the lush, carefully sculpted gardens; the elegant palmettos lining flagstone streets: all have coalesced in our minds to constitute our perception of Charleston.

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So it was that, upon first walking the streets of downtown Charleston, I had a strange feeling that I had been here before. It was a comfortable, reassuring feeling: as if I could find my way around without needing a map: I already had a feel for the place.

D800-Charleston Day 5-1890-2014-04-02_HDRThe lead image is of High Battery, an exclusive row of pastel-coloured houses that runs along the waterfront on the Cooper River side on the peninsula on which the old city is built, facing east towards the ocean.

Before sunrise, I had taken up my position on the portico of the swanky Charleston Yacht Club to capture the magical moment when the pale facades of the mansions are bathed by the rising sun in sensuous golden light and their reflections dance on the sparkling waters of Charleston Harbour.

Each one of these elegant houses has its own character, its own renowned architect and, indeed, its own name. There is the Louis DeSaussure House (No. 1, built in 1850), the William Ravenel House (No. 13, built in 1845), the Charles Drayton House (No. 25, built in 1886).

D90 IR 590nm-Charleston Day 1-0777-2014-03-29Each is named after the prominent Charleston resident who commissioned it, among them shipping magnates, army officers and cotton plantation owners.

These houses almost never come on to the market for sale but, if they were to, it is rumored that bidding would start around the $30 million mark.

Walking around the streets of old Charleston, there are so many fascinating subjects to photograph that the day slips by quickly.

And, because the city is laid out in a grid, the streets that run east-west are bathed in light in the morning but shaded in the afternoon, while those that run north-south are in shade in the morning but brightly illuminated by warm sunlight in the second half of the day.

As a result, each subject changes its appearance dramatically during the course of the day, requiring the photographer to return at different times to capture its changing moods.

On four of my seven days in Charleston, I spent at least part of the day photographing the historic district. I could have spent all seven days doing so and not have run out of fascinating subjects.

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(click on an image to enlarge it)

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  1. Karen Messick April 26, 2014 at 3:22 am #

    Beautiful shots Shaun!

    • shaunmoss April 27, 2014 at 2:30 am #

      Thank you, Karen. I always appreciate your feedback and encouragement.

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