We live in a world where there seems to be as much misinformation as there is truth. At times, it is tough to tell what’s what. We hear terms such as fake news and have come to expect spin doctors to put their interpretation on what we just heard and why we should believe it or dismiss it.
It’s only natural, then, that in a tourist-driven, historical city such as ours that certain myths exist surrounding some of what did or didn’t happen here.
No matter how diligent a tour guide might be or how often an attempt is made to debunk a myth, certain stories are passed along year after year that aren’t supported by facts.
That’s why I’ve called this meeting today. To set the record straight for all the locals, once and for all. We’re the ones who actually know what happened in the town we live, right? We’re the ones who heard the stories and are doing our duty to pass them along to family members and visitors every time we pile into the family SUV for our self-guided tours.
I’ve been around a while. Forty years in local media allows for a certain recall of events. But there’s no truth to my doing a live remote at The Battery when the smoke cleared the morning after shots were fired on Fort Sumter.
The truth, the whole truth
Let’s start with Rainbow Row. The prevailing view is that the various colors were used to distinguish the different stores so that those who couldn’t read would know which merchant was located in which business. Here’s the truth:
Those houses weren’t painted different colors until the 1930s and '40s. The people who were renovating the Georgian row houses chose the pastel colors primarily to keep the interiors cooler during the hot summers.
Here’s another tidbit to add to your personal self-guided tour. Were hangings ever conducted at White Point Gardens? This is actually true.
During the early 1700s, Charleston’s port was quite popular with pirates. In 1718, Stede Bonnet, “The Gentleman Pirate,” died at the end of a rope near The Battery in what is now White Point Gardens and is buried in the nearby marsh. Other pirates were hung there the following year.
As popular a place as The Battery is today, there are still no public bathrooms. Aaarrgh!
What’s the story on the Charleston single house? These long, narrow structures with beautiful covered porches date back to the 1680s. They were not built in such fashion to avoid city taxes, though there was a premium on street frontage space.
One reason the single house was so-constructed was the climate. In an effort to protect from the hot afternoon sun, porches were placed on the south or west. This allowed the breezes to provide some natural air conditioning.
And since we’re talking architecture. There are three structures on Meeting Street known as "Three Sisters." The myth is that the houses were built by a father for his three daughters whom, he believed, were so ugly they’d never marry.
There is no evidence to support this story, but what a horrible way for a father to feel. And if you’re the daughter, what a terrible reason to get your own house.
In reality, this nickname is actually indicative of nothing more than three similar architectural styles. I admit, the other story, though cruel, is certainly easier to remember.
So there you go. Different truths and some not-so truths about your city that more and more people are discovering every day. If you’re gonna be a tour guide, you gotta have the whole truth and nothing but. Otherwise, the relatives along for the ride may want to keep coming back.
Reach Warren Peper at firstname.lastname@example.org.