Reminiscences of Sullivan’s Island

In 2015 we went for a January vacation at a rental house with two friends on Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. We had good weather, although it was not very warm. Our friends Fran and Mike were at the house when we arrived by taxi. The house was built on stilts to protect the living quarters from high seas which can occur in that area. There was a nice veranda overlooking the street, a large kitchen, great room and four bedrooms. The first night we had pizza, wine, conversation, and some singing.


The island is largely residential, laid out in long avenues of homes, all not far from long public beaches that are accessible by causeways across the wetlands practically every two blocks along the street. Early risers could take a walk on the beach before breakfast.

Beach Bush, Sullivan's Island
Beach bush, Sullivan’s Island

The house itself afforded many charming images, including the shadows on the window shade.


Sullivan’s Island was the site where Edgar Alan Poe set “The Gold Bug”, his famous story in which a treasure map is figured out from a coded message. The tradition is strong at Poe’s Tavern pictured here:

Poe’s Tavern

This was within walking distance of our house.


Sullivan’s Island was also the first landing site for most of the slaves who were brought from Africa during the 18th century. The city of Charleston grew rich in part from this traffic. On the island is a plaque, with a quotation from Toni Morrison:


She wrote that there were no memorials to any of the slaves: not even a bench by the road. Picking up from this, the Toni Morrison Society has placed memorial benches in many locations across the United States:


This memorial is in a park near the fortress museum, Fort Moultrie. It was from this and other forts that South Carolina troops bombarded the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in 1860, marking the commencement of the Civil War. Charleston itself escaped destruction during the war, and thus many of its 18th and 19th century buildings survive today. We visited one of these, the Nathaniel Russell House. Russell (1738-1820) was from Rhode Island, but he moved to Charleston and made a fortune in shipping. He built the house for $80,000 between 1803 and 1808, moving in at the age of 70, and it remained in the family until 1857. This is an interesting tour, well furnished with period pieces and works of art. The house features a free-standing spiral staircase and a circular upstairs parlor.

Charleston City Market, picture from SCIway


We also saw Market Street, where there are long sheds that now house numerous boutiques and shops. In the 18th and early 19th century, slaves were brought to these sheds for sale. Today the market is a major tourist destination.

There are many fine museums, churches, and restaurants in the old city of Charleston, but we did not spend a lot of time in the city. We walked from the Nathaniel Russell House to a park overlooking the harbor, and back to Market Street. But we spent most of our week with our friends, exploring local cuisine and exhibits in the countryside or on Sullivan’s Island. The beauty of the surroundings, and the mild temperature, and our friends combined to make a welcome winter break.






2 thoughts on “Reminiscences of Sullivan’s Island”

  1. What a great idea to go there. The picture of the beach bush I had to work on a bit to get rid of a house in the background. I made a print and it is in our living room now. I am glad you like the pictures! Look forward to seeing you soon…

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