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
Maritime traffic between Charleston and various ports in the Spanish-speaking Americas was once an important part of the local economy. Prohibited by British law for most of South Carolina’s colonial century, commerce with Cadiz, Havana, Vera Cruz, and other ports blossomed after the independence of the United States. The presence of a Spanish and later a Cuban consular office in Charleston between 1795 and 1959 provides framework for tracking the rise and fall of forgotten trade routes that brought Latin flavors to the Lowcountry.
In September 1973, a group of preservation activists coined the term “French Quarter” to describe a single block of urban Charleston that was slated for demolition. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places that same month to deter redevelopment, and the new name soon became part of the local lexicon. Residents and visitors have embraced and expanded the concept of Charleston’s “French Quarter” over the past half-century, but few recall the curious circumstances of its creation. On the next episode of Charleston Time Machine, we’ll review the events that inspired the name and explore its historical pedigree.
Patriots Point is a well-known landmark on the east bank of the Cooper River in the Town of Mount Pleasant, but its modern name obscures a much deeper history. Known as Hog Island before 1973, the site has been radically transformed by nature and humans over the past three centuries. Its evolution from a tiny but habitable island to an expansive, vacant marshland, to a thriving community atop a mountain of dredge spoil, illustrates the shifting dynamics of tidal forces and human engineering that have reshaped the local ecology.
Champneys’s Row was a conspicuous anomaly at the time of its construction in 1781, the only civilian edifice adjacent to the brick curtain wall defining the eastern edge of East Bay Street. The building’s height and novel placement violated provincial zoning laws, and the Champneys family persevered against community opposition to protect their investment. Details of the modification and eventual acceptance of Champneys’s Row in the 1780s illuminate an important moment in the history of Charleston’s built environment.
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