Friday, February 23, 2007


Charleston, South Carolina, is affectionately known as the “city set in a garden”. It is a walker’s paradise and the small private gardens, most of them set behind elaborate wrought iron gates, bring an Old World charm to the city.

I have been privileged to visit Charleston twice. Strolling down cobblestone avenues, lined with antique shops and boutiques, is a pleasure but I actually prefer the less traveled side streets. That is where you get glimpses of tidy brick-walled gardens set behind lacy iron gates.

Most of the Charleston gardens are private. They are often of limited space and the owners maximize this by the inclusion of protective walls and the creative use of ornamental plants. Many of these gardens are “hidden” behind heavy gates and it is this decorative ironwork that fascinates me.

I did a bit of research and found that the oldest remaining ironwork in the city dates back to the Revolutionary War period. This was wrought iron which a blacksmith would mold and shape into scrolls, fleur-de-lis, leaf and flower patterns, using a forge, anvil and hammer. These would adorn gates, stair railings, boot scrapes and decorative panels.

During the mid-19th century cast iron was more commonplace in Charleston than wrought iron. This was mass produced by pouring the molten metal into molds and it allowed for more elaborate decorations preferred by Victorian tastes of the time.

Although cast iron is less susceptible to corrosion than wrought iron they both need regular cleaning and painting to avoid rust and general deterioration. This must be a lucrative business for someone in Charleston because almost all the decorative ironwork that I saw was in excellent condition.

The wrought iron gates of Charleston and the “secret” gardens behind them are treasures not to be missed.


Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Charleston looks so lovely. I once went into work earlier than usual so I could go take pics of wrought iron work here in Melbourne. Some of the works were of wrought iron on houses, others were actually of gates made as the outer encasement of, would you believe, entrance to over 100 year old public lavertories!!
Those pics are on our old PC that died late last year. I will try to recover them from the hard drive so to post them. Or, maybe I could leave earlier today to go to work and take pics again :)

3:22 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

I love Charleston, SC. It is a great city, as you say, for walking and shopping. I remember seeing some of the iron gates, and I love the patterns on them.

4:02 PM  
Blogger dmmgmfm said...

I've never been very east or south. I'd really like to visit some day.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed Charleston is a lovely city. My last visit there was around 1989 or so and came right on the heels of Hurricane Hugo that had hit the area so it was in some disarray on my visit.

5:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like a place I'd love to visit. Lovely photos.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

A good friend of mine and her husband are very involved in reinactment and things of the 18th century. They teach, work with museums and the like. For work, he runs an authentic forge and besides the everyday pieces he is hired to do, he makes wrought iron gates of the caliber mentioned in your post. The one I saw had tulips all along the bottom, exquisitley turned out, a true work of art.

7:44 AM  
Blogger thailandchani said...

Now that I do remember! Charleston is particularly beautiful! :)



6:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Ginnie,

Another polished and honed post. Any city that encourages walking finds itself at the top of my list of places to see. Now that my knee is heeled, all possibilites shine brilliantly.

I can't help but read a metaphor into this post. We all harbor well-kept gardens behind the gates of our social selves.

I have been absent from your blog for several weeks, due to exasperating inundation at work. But I have thought of you and have missed your polished writing and evocative images.

4:13 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

doh! healed, not heeled.

4:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've also been to Charleston twice and I so's not to be missed.
Like you, I was captivated with those gorgeous iron gates and secret gardens. A delightful place to visit.
And you didn't even mention the amazing restaurants there.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Charleston for the first time two springs ago. It was mid-April and the most gorgeous weather imaginable. I loved the architecture and the history and the beautiful flowers. What a place!

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Iron gates said...

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4:21 AM  

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