Charleston, South Carolina (JFK+50) JFK+50 is back in the Holy City and yesterday we had the opportunity to take a tour of the historic City Council Chamber. Docent Lindsay M.P. Barrios did a masterful job as our tour guide. We also had the great honor of meeting City Councilman and Charleston-born William Dudley Gregorie. More about the councilman later.
Mrs. Lindsay M.P. Barrios
The object in the Chamber that we most wanted to see and photograph is the bust of James L. Petigru. He was attorney general in 1861 when the state of South Carolina seceded from the Union. Upon hearing the news that an Ordinance of Secession had been adopted here in Charleston, he said...
"South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."
Our previous post on Mr. Petigru will now include a photograph of his bust.
Mrs. Barrios related some very interesting information about the Council Chamber. It suffered several artillery hits from Union cannon balls during the Civil War. One of them caused some damage to the ceiling to floor portrait of President James Monroe. That damage has been gracefully repaired.
There is a full length portrait of President George Washington, which dates back to 1791 and is located behind the podium. This portrait by John Trumbull was commissioned in honor of the President's week-long visit to Charleston.
Another portrait, located in an adjacent smaller chamber, is of the famous Confederate General Pierre GT Beauregard. What is particularly fascinating to me is that below the portrait is the actual sword owned by the General. The sword was presented by the ladies of New Orleans in 1861 and was left to the custody of the City of Charleston by his will.
Sword of Pierre G.T. Beauregard
The smaller chamber also houses portraits of President Zachary Taylor and John C. Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun lived in Charleston but, according to Mrs. Barrios, for some strange reason detested the city. Despite that fact, a major street in town is named in his honor.
Charleston City Council Chamber
The Council Chamber is the second oldest such chamber in continuous use in the United States. It houses 27 black walnut desks made for council members in 1818.
There are two beautiful chandeliers hanging above the desks which date back to 1850 and around the perimeter of the ceiling are the original Thomas Edison electric bulbs which burned until 1983.
The Chamber also displays a smaller portrait of civil rights activist Septima Poinsette Clark painted by Dorothy B. Wright in 1997.
Septima Poinsette Clark
Now back to William Dudley Gregorie. He told us that he was born on the Peninsula here in Charleston and left the city to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C.
After graduation, Mr. Gregorie went to work for the Department of Housing and Urban Development where he remained for 32 years. For the following 8 years he worked at the Columbia Field Office of HUD and in 2009 was elected to Charleston City Council.
William Dudley Gregorie
JFK+50 will also do a future post devoted exclusively to Councilman Gregorie, who by the way was selected as Mayor Pro Tem in 2013.
All photographs other than the one of Mr. Gregorie that appear on this post were made as per the rules of the Chamber without benefit of flash.
When you visit Charleston, and I highly recommend it, be sure to give Lindsay a call at (843) 724-3799 and schedule a tour. Be sure to tell her JFK+50 sent you.
"A Tour of Charleston City Council Chamber," conducted by Mrs. Lindsay M.P. Barrios, Docent, January 8, 2015.
William Dudley Gregorie, City Councilman, Mayor Pro Tem, Charleston, South Carolina, January 8, 2015.