Charleston Time Machine
About Charleston Time Machine
The Charleston Time Machine is an imaginary time-travel device created by historian Dr. Nic Butler. It uses stories and facts from the rich, deep, colorful history of Charleston, South Carolina, as a means to educate, inspire, amuse, and even amaze the minds of our community. By exploring the stories of our shared past, we can better understand our present world and plan more effectively for the future.
The Charleston Time Machine is piloted by Nic Butler, Ph.D., an interdisciplinary historian with an infectious enthusiasm for Charleston’s colorful past. A native of Greenville County, South Carolina, Dr. Butler attended the University of South Carolina before completing a Ph.D. in musicology at Indiana University. He has worked as archivist of the South Carolina Historical Society, as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Charleston, and as an historical consultant for the City of Charleston.
Recent Trips in Charleston's History
The Charleston County Public Library opened its doors to the public in 1931, but welcomed visitors unequally and conditionally until the early 1960s. Like nearly every other institution existing in the American South during that era, the Charleston Free Library, as it was then known, maintained separate facilities and unequal collections for two classes of customers identified as either Black or white. This long-standing practice continued until November 1960, when the opening of a new, racially-integrated library on King Street shocked some members of the community and signaled the twilight of a prejudicial tradition.
The recently renovated John L. Dart Library at 1067 King Street bears the name of a pioneering figure in the history of education in Charleston. Born free during the last years of slavery, Dart benefited from the first flowering of African-American schools after the Civil War and attained advanced degrees. He returned to his home town in 1886 as a Baptist minister and devoted the rest of his life to the creation of free schools providing practical, vocational training to African-American children. In the next episode of Charleston Time Machine, we’ll trace the mercurial progress of Rev. Dart’s educational campaign and the enduring legacy of his work.
Nearly a century before Charleston’s municipal headquarters moved to the northeast corner of Meeting and Broad Streets, residents gathered daily at this site to procure meat and other foodstuffs. The city abandoned this so-called “Beef Market” in 1789, following the construction of a new facility in Market Street, and the old market was briefly used for artillery storage. Events associated with the Haitian Revolution triggered its reactivation in 1795, until fire consumed the old Beef Market in 1796 and cleared the site for the present bank building that became City Hall.
The first exhibition game of American-style “scientific” football in the Lowcountry of South Carolina kicked-off in December 1892, when two teams of eleven college boys scrimmaged at Charleston’s Base Ball Park on Christmas Eve. Only few local youths had by that time seen or played the novel game developed up North, but their interest was keen. Furman University brought its record to bear against the first team ever fielded by South Carolina College (USC), battling for the title of state champion and infusing the roaring Charleston crowd with football fever.
Charleston’s venerable newspaper, the Post and Courier, is transforming its headquarters on upper King Street into an upscale mixed-use development called Courier Square. The present twentieth-century structures will soon disappear, exposing a piece of ground with a forgotten claim to fame. A few years before the American Revolution, a Scottish gardener named John Watson developed the site as South Carolina’s first commercial nursery, cultivating both native and exotic plants for sale. The war devastated Watson’s Garden, but the family persevered in the horticultural business until the turn of the nineteenth century.
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