A Self-Guided Walking Tour in the Historic District of Charleston
Most visitors to the Charleston Historic District explore the famous streets, either casually or by taking a guided tour. Along the way, several historic churches stand out including St. Philips Episcopal Church, the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street and the neighboring Unitarian Church and St. John's Lutheran Church, both located along Archdale Street.
Something most visitors and many residents do not know, however, is that there is a lovely walkway that connects these historic churches. Situated in the historic heart of Charleston and yet quite off the beaten path, Gateway Walk provides a respite from the busy main streets as it meanders through time-weathered graveyards and secluded gardens, much of the way in the quiet shade of moss-draped live oaks.
The first civic project of the Garden Club of Charleston, Gateway Walk opened on April 10, 1930, in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of Charleston. The inspiration of former Garden Club president Mrs. Clelia Peronneau McGowan, following a visit to Paris where she enjoyed the quiet gardens of the city, Gateway Walk is one of Charleston's best-hidden treasures.
Directions to Gateway Walk
Gateway Walk is located within three adjacent blocks Between Archdale Street at the western side, Church Street at the eastern side and Queen Street at the southern side. Street names along the northern border change from block to block. Moving west to east, they are Clifford Street, Horlbeck Alley, and Cumberland Street.
There are several entry points to the walkway. If you wish to walk the full three blocks, it is best to begin on Archdale at the entrance next to St. John's Lutheran Church or on Church Street across from St. Philip's Episcopal Church. If you begin on Archdale Street there are lovely views of the St. Philip's steeple.
Things to See Along the Gateway Walk
- St. John's Lutheran Church (5 Clifford Street at Archdale Street) - Established in 1742, both the church building and the cemetery are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The present Greek Revival style church building, the second church built on the site, was dedicated in 1818.
- The Unitarian Church (4 Archdale Street) - A National Historic Landmark, this is the oldest Unitarian church in the South.
- Charleston Library Society (Cross King Street to 164 King Street) - Founded December 28, 1748 by 17 young men of various professions, Charleston Library Society moved to this building, designed in the Beaux Arts classical style, in 1914.
- Gibbes Museum of Art (135 Meeting Street) - Charleston's only visual arts museum, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened April 11, 1905. The building was designed in the popular turn of the century Beaux Arts style. A lovely garden courtyard is located behind the museum building.
- Circular Congregational Church and Parish House (Cross Meeting Street to 150 Meeting Street) - Organized in 1681, Circular Congregational Church is one of the oldest continuously worshiping congregations in the South. The present church building, the fourth on this site and a National Historic Landmark, was built circa 1892. It is one of the few examples of Richardson Romanesque architecture in Charleston.
The previous and third church building, constructed in 1804 to 1806 and destroyed by fire in 1861, was a circular structure designed by architect and native Charlestonian Robert Mills. At that time, Mills also designed the Parish House, the small Greek Revival structure located on the church grounds. The Circular Congregational Church graveyard is Charleston's oldest burial ground. One of the family monuments dates back to 1695.
- St. Philip's Episcopal Church (146 Church Street) - St. Philip's Episcopal Church, formed in 1680 by colonists of Charles Town, was the first Anglican church established south of Virginia and is home to the oldest congregation in South Carolina. The present church building, a National Historic Landmark, was built between 1835 and 1838. The steeple, which was designed by E.B. White, was added approximately ten years later.
The church graveyard is the final resting place for several famous people including John C. Calhoun (former Secretary of War and Vice President of the United States), Edward Rutledge (signer of the Declaration of Independence), Charles Pinckney (signer of the Constitution) and Dubose Heyward (author and playwright) best known for his novel Porgy and the subsequent opera Porgy and Bess.
- Wrought Iron Gates - In addition to the places listed above, there are ten wrought iron gates along the walkway for which the Gateway Walk was named.