Charleston, the oldest and largest city in the South Carolina, is a popular destination for tourists in search of great food, lots to do, and a sense of history. Most hungry visitors find their way to Queen Street, home of top restaurants and hotels that feature Lowcountry cuisine, a unique type of Southern cooking famous in the region. Located in the French Quarter, the street was associated with food and entertainment throughout its history. It is fitting inspiration for the Lantern & Scroll’s Queen Street Collection and other hanging fixtures that are often used as kitchen lanterns.
Settling Early Charleston
Founded in 1669 as Charles Town, in honor of King Charles II, early settlements at Albermarie Point on the west bank of the Ashley River dwindled, but a later settlement in 1672 on a peninsula called Oyster Point where the Ashley River meets the Cooper River quickly prospered. Within a few years, the city was laid out in a grid to prevent the development of winding streets common in European cities. One of the earliest streets laid out was Queen Street, which starts at Rutledge Avenue near Colonial Lake and goes west to Prioleau Street near the Cooper River. From 1690 to 1730, part of Queen Street was included in an area bounded by East Bay, Water to the South, west to Meeting to the west, Cumberland streets to the north that was walled to prevent attacks from French, Spanish, and Native Americans intruders.
Within the walled section of Charles Town, the section bounded by Market Street on the north, the Cooper River on the east, Meeting Street on the west, and Broad Street on the south is now called the French Quarter due to a large concentration of French Huguenot settlers who located there over the town’s history. The street and wharves names in the area, such as “Gendron” and “Prioleau,” reminds modern Charlestonians of the many French merchants who set up shop there and build warehouses for ships and merchandise brought into the Port of Charleston. The neighborhood was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
From The North Street To Queen Street
Queen Street was originally referred to as “the north street” in the “Grand Modell” of the town at Oyster Point laid out by surveyors in 1672, who created of grid that contained 300 ½ acre lots and a dozen unnamed streets that ran east-west and north-south. Many disputes arose among residents who wanted to adjust the boundaries of their property. For example, after Edward Loughton received permission to add a dock or wharf on the swamp land on north street, many houses sprang up along the water line instead of staying in grid.
The area was resurveyed in 1721, which led to a redrawing of property lines. Although the west end of the street remained true to the grid, the eastern end of the north street or Dock Street had moved more than 100 feet north of its original course. After much ado, the state legislature relocated the official path of the street in a way that did not disrupt the neighborhood and officially renamed it Queen Street in 1734.
The site of the city’s beef market, Queen Street was for a time the place where all food sales were conducted in sheds and warehouses on the east end of the street that came to be known as the Vendue Range. The area was also the site of auction type sales called “vendue sales.”
The Dock Street Theater
Early Queen Street was the site of America’s first building used exclusively for theatrical performances. The Dock Street Theater opened in 1736 with a performance of the play The Recruiting Officer and then the opera Flora. Unfortunately, the original theater was destroyed by a major fire in 1740. By 1809, the Planter’s Hotel was build on the site. The hotel eventually added a wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns, along with beautiful woodwork and mantels. The hotel, which had many famous guests, fell into disrepair after the Civil War.
Its architecture saved it from demolition and during the depression, as owner Milton Pearlstine donated it to the city, where upon it became a renovation project for the Works Project Adminstration (WPA). A new Dock Theater was constructed within the shell of the old Planter’s Hotel, using local carpenters, native black cypress, and woodwork from area home. The theater reopened in 1937. Renovated again in 2010 to make it a state of the art facility that is seismically secure and shielded from outdoor noises, the theater produces 100 performances annually for 49,000 guests. It is one location for the annual Spoleto Festival USA which features performance by renowned artists and newcomers in the fields of theater, dance, opera, and chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music.
Kitchen Lanterns Inspired By The Restaurant District
Especially since the 1970’s when Mayor Joe Riley spearheaded civic renovation, Queen Street has been an important part of the restaurant district of the French Quarter as establishments such as 82 Queen, Poogan’s Porch, and Husk offer the best in Lowcountry cuisine. The restaurants, along with hotels and bed and breakfasts, galleries, and boutiques on Queen Street and the surrounding area attract visitors to the city and locals who come to Waterfront Park at the east end of the street.
The Queen Street Collection offered by Lantern & Scroll pays homage to the rich history of the street. The hanging copper lights, which are mindful of London street lights, are often used as kitchen lanterns above islands or other work areas, an apt acknowledgement of the street role as a market center in early Charleston and restaurant hub in the restored city.