Category Archives: South Carolina

Saint Phillips Island, 1

Saint Phillips is one of a group of barrier islands that sit at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean between Hilton Head Island and Edisto Island, protecting mainland South Carolina from the sea.

In 2017 the State of South Carolina purchased Saint Phillips Island from Ted Turner, who self describes as “founder of media empire, philanthropist, and environmentalist pioneer in sustainable resources.”

He owned the nearly 5000 acre (20 square KM) property for several decades, creating nature trails and building this modest home for seaside get-aways. The state parks department is exploring how to include this treasure as part of Hunting Island State Park (not to be confused with Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet).

Accessible only by boat, I was fortunate to be on one of the first public trips to the island. There was a lot to see and no where near enough time!

Turner House on St Phillips Island
Turner House on St Phillips Island

Our tour included a walk through the house. The screened  front porch facing the ocean was fantastic!

Turner House on St Phillips Island
Turner House on St Phillips Island

When the house was first built there was an expansive sand beach leading down to the ocean. Barrier islands change continuously from the effects of storms and daily wave action and that beach is now gone. At some point this rip-rap was installed to help keep the water at bay.

Turner House on St Phillips Island
Turner House on St Phillips Island

September 13, 2019

Stumphouse Tunnel

The Blue Ridge Railroad was hoping to bore through Stumphouse Mountain for a line extending from Anderson, South Carolina to Knoxville, Tennesee.  Started in the early 1850s, 1,500 Irish miners cut through blue granite with hand drills, hammers and chisels, and black powder in this and two nearby tunnels. Their efforts came to an end in 1859  when no more funding could be procured to complete the work and subsequent efforts to restart the rail project over the next several decades failed.

Stumphouse Tunnel
Stumphouse Tunnel – top

Even though the ceiling was quite high, 20 or 25 feet ( 6 or 7 meters)  right here, I’m not a fan of underground spaces and stayed pretty close to the entrance. Ted was a bit more adventurous. You can go further, but would want better shoes and light, be prepared for bats, and have water protection for your camera.

Stumphouse Tunnel
Stumphouse Tunnel – Ted looking back to the entrance

There was less green growth on the walls just a short distance from the entrance. Two streams of water a few inches deep flowed on either side of the floor and water dripped from the ceiling. The cool air flowing out of the tunnel was welcome on this hot day.

Stumphouse Tunnel
Stumphouse Tunnel – those are Ted’s footprints in the mud

Stumphouse Tunnel is managed by the City of Walhalla, SC as part of a recreation area.

Cross Keys Plantation

The Cross Keys Plantation wasn’t on our list of potential stops on our recent mid-state driving tour. However, we made a quick u-turn to check out this unexpected sight.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

The property is owned by the Union County Museum but wasn’t open so I only took images from the road. The white plaque at the gable peak has the build date of 1812 along with two crossed skeleton keys.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

The other end of the house has just one chimney, partly hidden by a tree.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

The intricate brick work is fascinating, especially in the chimney.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

The bricks varied in colors and the top several rows on the front of the house appear to be of a different era.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

Click on any image for a larger view. 

Cross Keys, Union, SC

Rose Hill Plantation

The plantation home is the centerpiece of Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site in Union, SC. Four Magnolia trees thought to be over 200 years old screen the front of the building from the road. This is in contrast to many of the southern plantations that had tree-lined entrances designed to impress leading to the homes.

Rose Hill Plantation
Rose Hill Plantation

The ornamental front gate opens into a formal boxwood garden.

Rose Hill Plantation
Rose Hill Plantation

Once through the gate a visitor would be wowed by the porches and size of the home. The portico on the right side of the home was probably the more likely entry point for a visitor arriving by carriage.

Rose Hill Plantation
Rose Hill Plantation – Road side

At its peak in the 1860s the plantation covered over 5000 acres with corn and cotton as the primary crops and about 180 enslaved individuals.

Front Porch, Rose Hill Plantation
Front Porch, Rose Hill Plantation

There certainly is a lot of symmetry going on, if not a front to back mirror image. I regret not taking the inside tour.

Rose Hill Plantation, Back
Rose Hill Plantation, Back
From the SC State Park website:
Gist family members lived in the mansion from about 1811 to 1889. It remained untouched during the Civil War as there were no battles, retreating armies, military quarters or skirmishes in the area.  From the 1890s to the 1930s, the mansion deteriorated significantly. In the 1940s, it was purchased and restored by Clyde Franks, who sold it to the state in 1960.
This State Historic Site interprets the family life and political legacy of William Henry Gist, often called South Carolina’s “Secession Governor,” serving from 1858-1860. With its mix of Georgian and Greek Revival architectural styles, the former family mansion stands as a fine example of an antebellum home.

Cypress Gardens: First Visit

Cypress Gardens, a 170 acre preserve in Monks Corner, was on our list of places to visit when we first visited South Carolina in January 2016. Unfortunately, it had been completely destroyed in October 2015 by the “thousand year flood.” Promises to reopen over the next three years were changed as setbacks to repairs came with Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Tropical Storm Irma in 2017 and the January snowstorm of 2018.

Water depth marker
Water depth marker – during the Thousand Year Flood of 2016 water rose to between the top two white marks on the pole

At long last Berkeley County has overcome the weather and bureaucratic delays, reopening the park in April. After giving them a few weeks to work out the kinks we’ve now had our first excursion there and fittingly, it started raining as we pulled into the parking lot.

Not deterred we started with a guided boat ride through the black water swamp to get a feel for the park layout. It was neat being down close to the water surface and another time I’d take the self-guided (paddle yourself in a small flat bottom boat) so I could stop where I wanted.

Water Lilies in Black Water Swamp
Water Lilies in Black Water Swamp

Plants are being allowed to come back on their own but the management actively is removing the thriving duck weed and creating compost from it.

Water Lily in Black Water Swamp
Water Lily in Black Water Swamp

We saw a few alligators including some under a year old, snakes and song birds. Hopefully wading birds and other wildlife will return  as the landscape heals.

Reflections in Black Water Swamp
Reflections in Black Water Swamp

A few small islands throughout the swamp had cultivated flowers. I don’t know if these somehow survived all the weather events or have been recently planted.

Gladiola
Gladiola

Walking trails around the swamp and into the woods, a butterfly house, a combo aquarium/reptile center, and numerous gardens round out the attractions.

Ravenel Bridge Across the Marsh

Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge is part of the landscape seen from the back of Magnolia Cemetery. The Cooper River runs under the bridge and creates the marsh that edges the cemetery, which is just barely above the level of the river.

Ravenel Bridge, Charleston
Ravenel Bridge, Charleston

A storm was predicted for the morning I was there but the clouds drifted higher before anything dramatic looking happened.

Ravenel Bridge, Charleston
Ravenel Bridge, Charleston

May 3, 2019

Pond Sunrise

It had been our intention to be at a different pond when the sun came up but between getting out the door a few minutes late and a truck ahead of us that was indecisive that didn’t happen. I don’t think our original destination could have been any prettier than this. Unless there was a bird, or two, in the water.

Sunrise Over Marsh Pond
Sunrise Over Marsh Pond

Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, SC
Taken 10/14/2018

Grove House: Rear

Like many plantation homes in the south the front of Grove House faces the water where all traffic would have originated when the house was built in 1828. This is a view of the back of the plantation house, taken from the Live Oak lined drive.

Grove House
Grove House – rear

The pond where I photographed the water lilies in yesterday’s post sits in the circular turn of this drive, just in front of the ground floor entry arches.

Grove House Rear Entry
Grove House Rear Entry

Below are the Live Oaks lining the driveway leading away from the back of the house.

Live Oaks Leading Away from Grove House
Live Oaks Leading Away from Grove House

Today Grove House is home to the offices of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.