By Dana Clayton for The Island Eye News
In January, Charleston’s Museum Mile offers a month long pass to 11 historical sites located within a one mile walking distance. The astonishing price is $25 adults/$10 children 12 and under, a savings of $98. The headliner is America’s first museum, The Charleston Museum, founded in 1773. Allow at least 2 hours to meander the halls teeming with historical facts and relics from as far back as 12,000 years ago, leading you through Charleston’s colonization, role in the Revolutionary war, prosperity through the antebellum years, and destruction as a result of the Civil War. Children will be captivated with many of the interactive exhibits including dressing up in colonial attire and the children’s hands-on room putting the history of the low country into a child’s perspective. Closest proximity to the museum are the two strikingly romantic historic homes, Joseph Manigault House and Aiken Rhett House Museum, both cloaked in live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. A third home found on Tradd Street, Heyward Washington House, displays the authentically preserved home of Thomas Heyward, Jr; one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. These homes take you back in time to how wealth and privilege looked prior to the Civil War. Just across Meeting Street, tucked away on Ann Street, awaits more entertainment for the little ones at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. The path of history continues south down Meeting Street to include the Confederate Museum hidden above the famous city market, a great place to step off the path and grab a snack or artwork from a local artisan. The Powder Magazine may be small but worth the stop. It is the oldest public building in South Carolina and tells the story of weaponry in Charleston from colonial times through the Civil War with an added bonus of a local pirate exhibit. Just south, the Gibbes Museum of Art displays an extensive collection of American Art from the 18th century forward. In January, there are two special exhibits: Pan American Art until January 7 followed by Folk Art beginning January 19. Along the way to The Old Slave Mart Museum you will experience Chalmers Street, one of Charleston’s oldest cobblestone streets, lined with beautiful, brightly colored homes with artistically designed iron gates. Aside from museum displays of slavery in Charleston pre and post Civil War, audio recordings tell the personal stories of slave owners, traders, and slaves. Back on Meeting Street, the South Carolina Historical Society resides within the nation’s first fireproof building and houses books, letters, journals and maps spanning Charleston’s 300year history. This organization receives no local, state, or federal funding and operates only on the contributions of its members.
Further south, Meeting Street enters the most expensive and extravagant homes in Charleston, South of Broad. The Nathaniel Russell House at 51 Meeting St. provides the opportunity for pass holders to experience the Federal-style townhouse with its grand gardens and extravagant décor. Only a few blocks south resides the Edmonston-Alston House and its grandiose views of the Charleston Harbor. The interior contains Alston family furniture, art, books from the early 19th century and the vistas from the piazza are a prime example of why so many have chosen Lowcountry living since the 1600’s. The final destination on the Museum Mile Month Pass is The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Guides donning 18th century attire greet visitors and tours are given regularly of the mysterious dungeon where pirates and slaves were held captive. The United States Constitution was ratified here and it is recognized as South Carolina’s most historic building. Sprinkled throughout the museum mile are many galleries, cafes, and beautiful historic churches to satisfy the interests of any age. There are other combination ticket packages including African American Heritage, Best of Charleston Architecture, Charleston During the Civil War, and Revolutionary Charleston. You can get more information at CharlestonMuseumMile.org. Tickets can be purchased online at the website until Dec. 31, afterwards the tickets must be purchased in person at one of three Charleston Visitor Centers.