Here’s a conundrum I’ve been struggling to decipher for several years: how can we reconcile the fact that water once flowed from the Cooper River, across East Bay Street, into Dock Street (now Queen Street), with the fact that there was supposedly a solid brick “wharf wall” along the eastern line of East Bay Street? After a lot of head scratching and research, I think I’ve found the answer. Prior to the early 1740s, South Carolina’s colonial legislature made a special exception in the law empowering the brick “wharf wall,” which allowed a “breach” in the wall to exist at the east end of Dock Street, to permit the flow of water. This authorized exception is first mentioned in a 1714 law authorizing improvements to the wharf wall, and it seems to have continued until the “water course” in Dock Street (renamed Queen Street in 1734) was finally obliterated in the the 1740s.

Charleston Time Machine

It’s Spoleto season in Charleston, and each day of the festival the Dock Street Theatre is crammed to the rafters with amateurs of chamber music and opera.  This “historic” venue opened in November 1937 on the site of the site of a much smaller 1736 theater that was briefly known by the same name.  Visitors will be excused for expressing some confusion when they are directed to find the Dock Street Theatre at the southwest corner of Church and Queen Streets.  The inevitable question, “What happened to Dock Street?” is routinely met with the curt answer, “the watery street was filled and renamed Queen Street a long time ago.”  The details are obscure, and you won’t find very much at all about this topic in any book about the history of Charleston.  Behind this seemingly arcane matter, however, is a much larger and much more interesting story that tells us much about the early development of…

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