3 tourist sights that are just off the beaten path

Hat Man on Broad Street.


Ever play tour guide when visitors come to town? Are there certain sites the entire family has seen a hundred times and probably have heard the story that goes with it even more?

I’ve got three “got-to” spots that combine the visual with the historical guaranteed to make all those in the minivan feel that they’ve experienced a down-home slice of Chucktown.

And it’s an experience they might not get just anywhere else. Wonder why that is?

We’ll start in West Ashley along U.S. Highway 17 (also known as Savannah Highway). This landmark was put in its present place in 1959. It has endured hurricanes and tropical storms as well as zoning ordinances and vandals.

Even when the company it represented moved, this object stayed. In the ’60s, high school students and Citadel cadets often would “ride” it. When the company closed, the community raised enough of a ruckus to keep it from being moved or demolished, so it still stands today.

If you need directions to a bank or a church or to get a hot doughnut or flat tire repaired ... all those directions start with “just go to the Coburg Cow and turn left or take your next right.”

It’s just one of the fixtures that makes that part of town “mooove.” To celebrate Spoleto, this week the landmark’s wearing a tutu.

Must-see item No. 2: the Folly Boat. It washed ashore after Hugo left us in 1989. The only thing thicker than the pluff mud where it rests is the coat-after-coat-after-coat of paint that continues to build up on its hull.

The boat is the unofficial welcome sign to Folly Beach. It’s perfectly positioned along Folly Road so that it serves as a daily beacon for messages to all those who pass by.

What kind of messages? That depends on the people who show up with their cans of paint and brushes. Everything from birth announcements to graduation, weddings and anniversaries are painted from stem to stern.

That’s not all. Family reunions, elections and thank-you’s to the military show up in various hues.

Current events might even appear. Recently, the boat proudly proclaimed that “Charleston loves Boston.” During late December, a greeting in green and red stated, “Have a Folly Jolly Christmas.”

It’s a sunken treasure that captures the funky, feel-good Folly spirit. The town doesn’t really have any jurisdiction over the property, but they do provide three rules: park in the grass, take your paint cans when you leave and don’t paint the road — it’s unsafe and illegal.

There’s no guarantee how long the latest piece of art will be on exhibit. Sometimes a new group with a new message and new cans of paint are not far behind.

The best advice when painting is done? Take a picture.

This is my personal favorite. No trip to downtown Charleston with people from “off” is complete without stopping at Broad and Church streets.

On the side of what once was a haberdashery shop is the image of the Hat Man.

Legend has it that the visage was first painted in 1892.

Here’s the little nugget that just makes everybody in the minivan go “ooohh”: Every portion of the painted man’s body is a type of hat.

The eye is a derby, the nose a sombrero. The ears, the legs, the feet ... hat, hat, hat. It’s worth stopping for a moment to let everybody figure it out.

So there you go, a no-frills, entertaining opportunity to show off your knowledge for the visitors. Leave the stories about the wars, earthquakes and cobblestone streets to the tour guides.

These are three points of interest that probably won’t be discussed during a carriage ride. Glad I could help.

Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or wpeper@postandcourier.com.