The French Quarter of Charleston is a section of Downtown Charleston, considered to be bounded by the Cooper River on the east, Broad Street on the south, Meeting Street on the west and Market Street on the north, and was settled as part of the original Grande Modell of Charles Towne in 1680. The area began being called the French Quarter in 1973 when preservation efforts began for warehouse buildings on the Lodge Alley block. The Lodge Alley Inn at 195 East Bay Street is now a lovely place to stay in the middle of the area. Daughter, Hadley, and I stayed here for a few days during Spoleto a couple of years ago. We could walk out into the small alley from the rear of the complex and enter the quieter area of art galleries and restaurants and charming cobblestone streets. The name French Quarter recognizes the high concentration of French merchants in the area’s history.
My own Aunt Elizabeth Blanche Smith Torrans lived at 36 Queen Street in the 1700’s. She and her sister, Catherine Smith Gordon, were two of the daughters of Mary Het Dubois Smith of New York, whose parents had come from New Rochelle, France, to America, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Their grandmother’s name was wonderously, Blanche Dubois, like the character in Tennessee William’s great play, A Streetcar Named Desire. Charleston’s French Quarter is home to many fine historic buildings, among them, the Pink House Tavern, built around 1712, and the Dock Street Theatre, arguably the first site of theatrical productions in the United States. The French Huguenot Church, a beautiful Gothic-style church which houses the sole-surviving French Calvinist Congregation in the United States is on the corner where Aunt Elizabeth lived, near St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, the first congregation in Charleston, whose current building dates to 1835.