Charleston’s Top 5 Most Haunted, Terrifying, Creepy, Eerie Locations

For a city so steeped in history, it is no surprise Charleston, SC is known as one of the most haunted cities in America.  Founded in 1670, Charleston has survived fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and war.  With such an eerie and dark past, it should no surprise that almost every building in Charleston has a ghost story. Some of the places are obvious, others are not.  Below is a list of the top 5 places you don’t want to find yourself alone at night.  Even our tour guides are scared to be alone in some of these places.

Old City Jail – 21 Magazine Street

Built in 1802, Denmark Vesey is believed to have spent his final days locked in one of jail's towers before his execution in 1822.
Built in 1802, Denmark Vesey is believed to have spent his final days locked in one of the jail’s towers before his execution in 1822. 

Another famously haunted location is the Old City Jail on Magazine Street where it is said that over 13000 people lost their lives. Home of Charleston’s most notorious criminals during the 1800s and early 1900s, the Old Jail is now said to be haunted by prisoners who were executed on site.  The Old City Jail has been featured on every major ghost program on TV and is considered the most haunted building in Charleston.

Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon – East Bay Street at Broad Street

Now a National Historic Landmark, the Exchange and Provost served as a British prison during the Revolutionary War.
The Exchange and Provost served as a British prison during the Revolutionary War. 

Built in 1767, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is one of the most haunted locations in Charleston. The dungeon housed Revolutionary War POWs and pirates (Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet) and it is said that their spirits remain tethered to the building.  Underground, the dungeon kept pirates, slaves, and war criminals shackled in abominable conditions. Many prisoners are said to have suffered terrible deaths while locked in their chains.

Poogan’s Porch – 72 Queen Street

Legend goes the building's former homeowner continues to haunt the Queen Street building long after her death. (Photo credit: Bulldog Tours)
The building’s former homeowner is believed to haunt the premises long after her death. 

Another well-known haunt is Poogan’s Porch restaurant.  The legend goes, Poogan’s Porch is haunted by Zoe St. Amand, a school teacher who called the building home until her death in 1954. Witnesses have seen her creeping along the restaurant’s porch and sneaking up behind guests in the ladies bathroom, revealing herself in the mirror.

Circular Graveyard – 150 Meeting Street

The graveyard at the Circular Congregational Church is said to be haunted by ghosts of the Revolutionary War. (Photo credit: Bulldog Tours)
The graveyard at the Circular Congregational Church is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of the Revolutionary War. 

Located next to the Circular Congregation Church, the graveyard was built in 1681.  Many visitors have seen a ghostly figure walking through the graveyard before disappearing in the shadows.

Unitarian Graveyard – 8 Archdale Street

Construction began on the Unitarian Church in 1772, making it the oldest Unitarian church in the South. (Photo credit: Bulldog Tours)
The Unitarian Church dates back to 1772, making it the oldest Unitarian church in the South.

The graveyard at the Unitarian Church is one of those places that look terrifying, even in the daylight. Many claim the Unitarian Graveyard is haunted by the ghost of Annabel Lee, a Charleston woman who is said to be the subject of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “Annabel Lee.”

Not-So-Famous Locations
Some haunted locations will surprise you, though.  Places that are seemingly harmless, including the Dock Street Theatre on Church Street, City Hall, and The Library Society building on King Street.

The Library Society is haunted by a man in a bulky coat. Several staffers report seeing him, plain as day, before he disappears from sight, he also reportedly plays with the microfilm during the day.

The Dock Street Theatre on Church Street was originally the Planters Hotel.  There are several ghosts said to haunt the Dock Street, but Nettie is the most frequently spotted. Nettie lived in the 1800s and was a prostitute who frequented the Planters Hotel. She is usually seen floating on the second floor of the theater wearing a red dress.

Charleston City Hall, located at 80 Broad Street, is said to be haunted by General P.G.T. Beauregard. Beauregard was a General in the Confederate army during the attacks on Fort Sumter. Many have reported seeing the General’s ghost overlooking the city council chambers from a second-floor balcony.

Join Bulldog Tours for one of our many Charleston Ghost Tours…if you dare!

Show Us Your Squad Photo Contest

Welcome to the 2018 Bulldog Tours “Show Us Your Squad” Summer Photo Contest!

Here’s how it works:
• Take a picture of your family or friends at a Charleston location. This includes the surrounding beaches and plantations.
• Send your photos to us via Facebook Messenger only.  You can submit up to 3 photos.  We will move photos sent to us via Messenger into the Facebook album called “Bulldog Tours Show Us Your Squad.”
• Use the hashtag, #showusyoursquad2018 when sharing your pictures to get “likes.” PLEASE DO NOT POST PHOTOS IN THE COMMENTS OF THE POST!

The photo with the most “likes” will win a FREE trip to Charleston, which includes:
• Two nights at the HarbourView Inn.
• Dinner at Lowcountry Bistro ($50 gift card).
• Two FREE Tickets to each of our walking tours (Food, History and Ghost Tours).

The 2nd and 3rd place winners will also receive free tickets to one of our walking tours.

The voting will end at 8pm on August 13th and winner will be announced at 8pm on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.

For more information, call 843-722-8687 or email theresa@bulldogtours.com.

DISCLAIMER:  Winners must adhere to the details on the gift cards for the hotel and the restaurant, including expiration dates and black-out dates.  This promotion is for a limited time and is in no way sponsored by Facebook. We reserve the right to refuse a photo for any reason and we reserve the right to use your photo for one year after the contest.

Don’t forget to vote for us as Charleston’s Best Tour Company in the Post and Courier’s Charleston’s Choice Contest.  Voting end July 25th. 

 CLICK TO VOTE!

Bulldog Tours Launches a New Heyward-Washington Tour!

Introducing the newest historic Charleston walking tour, the Heyward-Washington House.  This 2.5-hour combo walking tour takes you through Charleston’s charming historic district where cars and carriages can’t go. The tour also includes a 30-minute guided tour of the Heyward-Washington House.

Once the home of Thomas Heyward, one of South Carolina’s signers of the Declaration of Independence, the house also played host to President George Washington during his week-long stay in 1791 in the “Holy City.”  The house has since become known as the “Heyward-Washington House.”

Built in 1772, this Georgian-style double house features a superb collection of historic Charleston-made furniture including the priceless Holmes Bookcase, considered one of the finest examples of American-made colonial furniture.  The property features the only 1740s kitchen building open to the public in Charleston as well as formal gardens featuring plants commonly used in the South Carolina Lowcountry in the late 18th century.

The Heyward-Washington House is Charleston’s first historic house museum, and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

Tours Available Friday and Saturday
9:30am – 12pm
$45 per person

Top 7 Cocktails You Must Try When in Charleston, SC

In anticipation of Kentucky Derby weekend, we have compiled a list of the top 7 southern cocktails.  Try one of these iconic drinks while cheering for your horse, on your next dinner date, or on a Tuesday.

Mint Julep
Perhaps the most recognizable Southern cocktail, the Mint Julep conjures images of seersucker suits and outrageous Kentucky Derby hats. Made with muddled mint, sweet bourbon and simple syrup, packed with crushed ice, this thirst-quenching drink will give you reprise from the heat in no time. The Mint Julep is easily the most popular cocktail at Churchill Downs.

Beleive it or not, for the past 13 years, Woodford Reserve has sold $1,000 mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby.  These cocktails are served in highly-coveted limited-edition cups, raising money for charity.

Sazerac
This drink is a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and sugar, although bourbon whiskey or Herbsaint are sometimes substituted. Some claim it is the oldest known American cocktail, with origins dating back to pre-Civil War New Orleans.

Ramos Gin Fizz
The Ramos Gin Fizz is the ultimate shaken, not stirred cocktail.  No cocktail inspires more ire from bartenders than the labor-intensive Ramos Gin Fizz, which requires dry shaking for a full 12 minutes to create a pillowy blanket of egg white froth.  Be patient when you order this drink and be sure to thank your bartender.  Its worth the effort and the wait.

Hurricane
The Hurricane is made of a mix of dark rum, passion fruit syrup, fresh lemon juice and a sprig of mint for garnish.  The punch-red drink was a necessary creation in the ’40s when more desired liquors, like whiskey and bourbon, were hard to come by and bar owners were forced to load up on cases of rum to get their hands on the brown stuff.  

Grasshopper
A Grasshopper is a sweet, mint-flavored, after-dinner drink. The name derives from its green color, which comes from crème de menthe.  This cocktail consists of equal parts green crème de menthe, white crème de cacao, and cream—shaken with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass.

Rum Runner
This cocktail was invented in the Florida Keys in the 1950s. The bartender had some extra inventory lying around and wanted to make room for new bottles on the shelves. He mixed together everything he had and the Rum Runner was born.  It was named after the bootleggers, “Rum Runners”, who smuggled booze during Prohibition.

The recipe is meant to be flexible to suit your individual taste, but the main ingredients should remain the same.

  • Dark rum, blackberry liqueur, crème de banana liqueur, orange juice, grenadine, and crushed ice in a blender.
  • Blend until slushy and pour into glass.
  • Kick back and enjoy a sip paradise.

Seelbach Cocktail
Mixed on a base of bourbon with a little Cointreau, a healthy dose of bitters and an indulgent splash of Champagne.

A Guide To Your First Charleston Food Tour Experience

You’ve just booked your first food tour.  Now what? Here’s what you need to know to act like a pro.

bulldog-tours-of-charleston-scOn our walking food tour, you will walk, talk, and taste your way through historic downtown Charleston, SC.  You will enjoy new dishes at new restaurants and make new friends along the way.  Use this quick guide to make the most out of your first tour.  You’ll be a foodie in no time.

Don’t Eat a Big Lunch or Snack Prior to the Tour
You’ll want to leave room for as much delicious food as your stomach can hold. And if your stomach is growling prior to the tour, it will make everything taste that much better.

bulldog-tours-food-tours-of-charleston-sc

A Charleston Walking Tour = Blister Potential (just kidding)

But seriously, you should wear comfortable shoes, clothes, etc and leave large bags/purses at home.  This is not a formal event and whoever has the highest heels is not the winner.  Remember, you will be walking everywhere, and each tour will visit a variety of restaurants and specialty shops, so make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Don’t Drink Too Much During the Food Tour
The focus of our food tours is the food but feel free to order an alcoholic drink if you like.  Might not want to get sloshed on the tour because alcohol will dull the taste of everything and fill you up.  If sport drinking sounds like more fun than food, check out our amazing Pub Tour.

Prepare Your Hashtag Game
We all love taking photos of beautifully prepared dishes and posting to social media. Do some research beforehand and find a few popular foodie hashtags, either locally, nationally, or tour company specific (#bulldogtours). Always take a photo before you eat (see photo below). No one wants to see a pile of half eaten food on your plate. Don’t forget to bring your phone fully charged.

walking-food-tours-of-charleston-south-carolinaFood Allergies
Please let us know the day before your tour if you have any food allergies or mobility issues.  We will do our best to accommodate all requests.

A Charleston Food Tour IS a Social Event
Most folks bring a partner on a food tour, but food brings people together, even strangers.  Casual conversation around the dinner table will make fast friends.

Lowcountry-Food-tour-of-Charleston-South-CarolinaTipping Etiquette is Important
We take pride in having the best trained, most knowledgeable and friendliest tour guides in town.  If you loved your tour, a gratuity is always appreciated (but not required).

And last but not least, you are going to have more fun you and thought possible. Food tours are a great date night activity and you didn’t have to lift a finger.

Bon Appetit!

Charleston’s Top 10 Instagram Posts of 2017

With fall approaching, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year in Charleston. We poured over thousands of posts to compile the 10 Top Instagram Posts from 2017, ranked by the number of likes. Warning: You may become very hungry. Enjoy! #bestofcharleston

#10.
A donut for a bun? Yes please!

#9.
Spero restaurant

#8.
More from Spero restaurant

#7.
Charleston’s favorite resident

A post shared by RutledgeCabCo (@rutledgecabco) on

#6.
Who doesn’t love a good group photo?

#5.
Friday happy hour. Time to unwind with Charleston’s newest bartender.

A post shared by RutledgeCabCo (@rutledgecabco) on

#4.
“Sitting on the dock of the bay…”

#3.
Santi’s Restaurante Mexicano

A post shared by Foodcoma843 (@foodcoma843) on

#2.
You can’t find a better sunset.

#1.
Classic architecture from the iconic Queen Street.

We Take You There!

Meet us at Charleston’s most haunted building, the controversial Old City Jail on Magazine Street, where ruthless criminals, pirates, murderers, rebellious slaves and Union prisoners of war were incarcerated. It is said that over 10,000 men, women, and even children suffered horrible deaths inside its decrepit walls before its federally mandated closure in 1939. Our Haunted Jail Tour will take you among these tabby walls that held some of the city’s most notorious convicts. None have been vindicated by history, but rather remembered as monsters. For some, like Lavinia Fisher, their guilt is subject to debate even today.

Backed by over 140 years of evil history, locals believe that spirits roam the halls at night, falsely declaring their innocence and demanding release from its torments.

Backed by over 140 years of evil history, locals believe that spirits roam the halls at night, falsely declaring their innocence and demanding release from its torments. Our unique tour gives you exclusive night time access to this American horror story, where you will discover the hidden tales of the Holy City’s most infamous landmark. This place has a dark history off the hook!

As you enter the jail, dimly lit halls will pull you headlong into perdition. You will mount stairs to the second floor and, on glancing back, just as you enter one of the gang cells of the main block, you will be overcome with the undeniable feeling that you have been watched the whole time. Winding passages will lead you up to the third floor where you will pass through grated doors secured with heavy bolts. Then, on the ground floor you will pass by the morgue, rooms set aside for solitary confinement and torture, and finally, a place guides call the “Dark Room” known for its heightened paranormal activity, including encounters with an insane inmate known only as “Animal”.

In 1820, Lavinia Fisher had been imprisoned here along with her husband John. According to legend, she was America’s first female serial killer. In a city that prides itself on firsts, Charleston proudly claims this gorgeous innkeeper and tavern owner as its own homegrown mass killer, accused of murdering countless wagon men traveling to Charleston to trade their furs. Tales of the Fishers include poisonous oleander tea, trap doors, multiple stabbings and burial of victims’ bodies around Six Mile Wayfarers Inn. According to legend, Lavinia was hanged in February 1822 wearing a white wedding dress. And her last words to the citizens of Charleston; “If any of you have a message for the devil, tell me now because in a moment I’ll be seeing him.”

In 1822, another notorious inmate, Denmark Vesey, a freeman who purchased his freedom from a Dutch slave trader after winning the local lottery, was held in the tower of the jail after unsuccessfully staging a slave rebellion. Afterward, free black seamen were incarcerated here, locked away until their ship set sail because such sailors, even if foreign born, were considered a threat by Charleston’s plantation elite.

During the Civil War, captured soldiers from the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry were quartered in the jail after the failed attack on Battery Wagner in July 1863, along with hundreds of other Union soldiers. During its use as a POW camp, mosquitos, ticks, flies and lice took turns piercing the flesh of Union soldiers, who said that the ground around the jail visibly seethed with vermin.

George Rogers Clark Todd, the brother-in-law of Abraham Lincoln, served as a Confederate surgeon and treating physician to the Union soldiers. He was regarded by both sides as a profane, obscene and brutal man, torturing them by having them buckled and gagged until they died.

William Marcus was imprisoned here in 1906 and hanged in the yard shortly thereafter. Marcus was a railroad worker who stabbed his wife 42 times with an ice pick, leaving her body on a nearby beach.

Daniel Duncan was hanged in the yard in the summer of 1911 after being convicted of the murder of a King Street merchant, Max Lubelsky. Duncan allegedly crushed his skull with a board, but he maintained his innocence to the very end.

In 1913, a ten-year-old boy named Alonzo Small was imprisoned among the general inmate population for murder. Small and a group of his friends had commandeered a parked trolley car for a joy ride before colliding with another trolley, killing a passenger.

Sgt. Charles Long was held here until his execution in 1932. While serving at Ft. Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, he hacked his wife and children to death with a hatchet, and then attempted suicide by slashing his throat and wrists.

Both on regular tours and during paranormal investigations conducted after midnight, guides as well as visitors have claimed that they were touched.

Do the dead prowl its halls and cells? Are apparitions visible in the dimly lit hallways? Do specters reveal themselves as circles of light in photographs? Do the dead create cold spots, make eerie noises and leave footprints in the dust on the jail’s floor? Both on regular tours and during paranormal investigations conducted after midnight, guides as well as visitors have claimed that they were touched. Some were tapped on the shoulder. Others claimed that two hands pressed against the sides of their faces as if someone were trying to keep them from entering a room. Doors close on their own accord, followed by footsteps. Some have seen a jailer with a rifle on the third floor, passing through the walls and heading towards them before vanishing in the shadows. Others have heard a mechanical dumbwaiter passing from floor to floor, even though it has not been operational for nearly a hundred years. For some, jewelry has vanished and then mysteriously reappeared before they leave the building. Unseen forces have knocked glasses off their faces. Cell phones call unknown numbers and batteries drain only to immediately and inexplicably recharge. A few have even experienced choking and shortness of breath. This tour is not for the lighthearted. It is definitely NOT recommended for children.

Charleston on a Budget: 5 Must-Do’s that Cost Nearly Nothing

chas-on-a-budget

A visit to Charleston can be daunting no matter your budget — so much to experience in so little time! So what should you prioritize and what’s — let’s be honest — free to see? We have a list of tried-and-true must-sees both on and off the peninsula that we recommend to any visitor! And it’s all for the cost of nada.

Meditate in a downtown graveyard – Walk to several gorgeous downtown graveyards and stroll through them in peaceful meditation — and they’re free! We love the historic Unitarian Church and St John’s Lutheran Church on Archdale Street with their beautiful, overgrown, flowery gardens. Also in walking distance are the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street and St Michael’s Church on Meeting and Broad. Take a drive to downtown’s stunning Magnolia Cemetery off Morrison, on Cunnington Drive, for many a noble final resting place. If you have a few bucks to spend, though, let Bulldog Tours walk you through our Ghost and Graveyard Walking Tour so you can learn as you go!

2. Have a picnic at Angel Oak – It’s a sin to come and go from Charleston without getting a glance at one of our — literally — biggest treasures, the Angel Oak. Located on Johns Island (15-minute-or-so drive from downtown), the sprawling live oak is alive indeed after at least 400 to 500 years. The park is totally free, too, and there are several picnic tables there to provide shade aplenty for a picnic. Regardless, there are plenty of photo opps here, and you’ll never, ever forget this incredible sight for the rest of your days. We promise!

3. Take a beach stroll at the Morris Island Lighthouse – While you’re out at the Angel Oak, you may as well drive to the beach when you’re done with your picnic. Who could come and go from the coast without a glimpse of the sea? Regardless the time of year, you’ll love a stroll to the Morris Island Lighthouse, which is accessible from Folly Beach. Park at the end of East Ashley Avenue, and enjoy the relaxing quarter-mile walk to this peaceful pocket of the beach full of driftwood and a super-close-up view of the lighthouse. If you’re hungry when you leave, stop by the bohemian, amazingly casual Bowen’s Island Restaurant (between Folly and James Island) for another killer view and fresh, delicious seafood for a price you can definitely live with.

4. Get a sweetgrass rose – Those sweetgrass baskets sure are pretty, but not everyone has the budget for an expensive souvenir, though we do agree that the craftsmanship equals the price tag. To bring home a small souvenir that really says Charleston, why not grab yourself a super-reasonably priced sweetgrass rose to display in a skinny vase back home? Stroll through the market and take in all the excitement — the smells, buskers playing music, vendors selling local goods — which comes free, and remember your trip always with a darling memento. It’s the perfect, pretty reminder that you don’t need a big bank account when you can stop and smell the sweetgrass roses.

5. Hide your car keys – We also advise you to, while exploring downtown, to leave the car parked. Walk around, and read about significant homes and sites by finding the historical markers. Rent a bike or bring your own, and navigate your way around the city’s one-way streets so beautifully shaded with live oaks and Spanish moss. Take your time admiring the wrought-iron work and peering through closed gates at the many gorgeous gardens and mansions. Take a rickshaw bike ride back to the hotel after dinner, and enjoy the shortcuts and back alleys taken by local drivers. Put your phone away, and get lost South of Broad. Walk along the battery, and let the sea breeze lighten your load. Whatever you do, don’t miss all the magical moments happening all around you that cost absolutely nothing.

5 Amazing Churches in Charleston

st-michaels

Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City for its beautiful, steepled skyline. But there’s a lot of history behind those holy walls, too. Here are five of downtown Charleston’s most storied, iconic churches.

Cathedral of St. John the BaptistThe Cathedral of St John the Baptist
120 Broad Street
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, stands like a majestic giant on Broad Street. Built between 1890 and 1907, the breathtaking cathedral is active as ever. Although the first brownstone cathedral burned to the ground in the 1861 fire, today the church seats 720 people. The Cathedral is renowned for its stunning hand-painted stained-glass Stations of the Cross and neo-gothic architecture. You can attend Saturday vigil mass at 5:30 p.m., Sunday family mass at 9 a.m., Sunday solemn mass with a choir at 6 p.m., or daily mass Monday through Friday at 12:05 p.m.

circular-churchCircular Congregational Church
150 Meeting Street
The Circular Congregational Church is one of the most iconic in the city, with its gorgeous Greek Revival architecture, seven great doors, and 26 windows. The congregation of the church was founded with Charles Town between 1680 and 1685. The current structure was constructed in 1890 after its previous form, built in 1804, was destroyed in the fire of 1861. Though the church and congregation has gone through tremendous challenges and changes, it thrives today as one of the most liberal places of worship in the city, championing the progressive, inclusive values of United Church of Christ, like civil and LGBT rights. All are welcome for worship services on Sundays at 10 a.m. Join them at any one of their many calendar events as well, including Buddhist meditation groups, film discussions, and theology book groups.

strolls-St-michaelsSt Michael’s Church
80 Meeting Street
A few steps away on Broad Street, at the Four Corners of Law, is St Michael’s Church, representing ecclesiastical law. It’s the oldest surviving religious structure in Charleston and certainly one of the most iconic. The national landmark was built between 1751 and 1761 on the site of St Philip’s original structure, which was ruined by a hurricane in 1710 and demolished in 1727. Its picturesque two-story portico featuring Tuscan columns was the first of its size in colonial America. Visitors are welcome inside for Sunday services or in the graveyard, where two signers of the US Constitution are buried along with many other historical figures. When you hear the bells chime, know that both the bells and the clock date back to colonial times, and that St Michael’s is the oldest tower clock in North America.

unitarian-churchUnitarian Church
8 Archdale Street
Another beautiful graveyard to wander through is located on Archdale, parallel to King Street in the antique district, at the Unitarian Church. The second-oldest church in the city, the perpendicular gothic-style church was constructed in 1772, designed by Francis Lee — though it has seen a lot of damage and reconstruction due to hurricanes as recent as 1989’s Hurricane Hugo. Its stained glass windows and vaulted ceiling with fan tracery make the sanctuary hands-down the most beautiful and awe-inspiring  one in the city. Services are on Sundays at 11 a.m., though in June through September they begin at 10 a.m.. Visiting hours are often held on Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Visit the graveyard 8 a.m.-6 p.m. in the summer and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in the winter.

steeple-emanuel-methodist-churchMother Emanuel AME
110 Calhoun Street
Infamous for last summer’s tragic events inside the church, Mother Emanuel AME is the oldest, most storied AME in the south. The Free African Society formed the Bethel Circuit in 1791 and reorganized in 1865 to erect the present structure in 1891. It was the first independent black denomination in America and one of the oldest black congregations south of Baltimore. Mother Emanuel has survived unimaginable pain, discrimination, and physical damage throughout its existence, including numerous raids by local officials. In 1822, it was burned to the ground by angry whites and again destroyed by an earthquake in 1886. Dr Martin Luther King Jr spoke at the church in 1962, and in 1969, King’s widow Coretta Scott King led a march of 1,500 demonstrators to the church in support of local hospital workers on strike. Today, the church is a symbol of resilience, strength, grace, and kindness. All are welcome to worship there on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

The History of Summerville, SC

Summerville, SC history

Similar to much of the Lowcountry, Charleston’s neighbor to the north, Summerville, SC has a rich history.

Located about 30 minutes from Charleston, Summerville’s reputation is recognized with its nickname, “Flowertown in the Pines.”  The town was first visited in the late 1700s as it attracted the residents of the Lowcountry with its cool breezes and pine trees, which provided shade and refuge from the heat and disease of Charleston summers.

Not the trees: In the early 1800s, the railroad arrived to Summerville, which required many trees to be cut down. The village knew they needed to protect their biggest asset, the trees, so they helped introduce a law that prohibited the cutting of certain-sized trees without permission. Any that broke that the law faced a hefty fine of $25. Today, the ordinance is still in effect in Summerville, making the law one of the oldest of its kind in the United States.

Good for your health: In 1888, the International Congress of Physicians in Paris declared Summerville one of two most healthful places in the world. The town’s mild climate and piney fragrance greatly benefited the ill, especially victims of lung disease. As word spread, the town became a major health retreat for the infirmed and was also a refuge from harsh winters of the North.

Summerville not only attracted patients with its beauty and tranquility but also famous visitors from afar. Grand inns and guesthouses became populaly frequented from the likes of presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who stayed at the Pine Forest Inn. During the Golden Age,  celebrities were known to retreat to Summerville, its tall pines, and its healing air.

Still today, the town attracts tourists for its spring blossoms and flower festivals. Summerville’s first annual Flower Festival was held in 1941 and has continued every April since.

A city that has thrived on heritage and natural beauty from the beginning, Summerville still displays many of the same traits that made it such a popular destination in the first place.

What do you love about Summerville?  Never been? Ask our experienced walking tour guides about this little gem, and they will point you in the right direction. It is only a short, 30 minute drive from Historic Charleston.