Main menu: Home Tube Challenge Underground : USA Living in America 50p iPod Music

My Neighborhood : Hampton Park

Ok. Here’s something I’ve been planning for a while. Probably since the first day I got here in fact. And seeing as that’s been over four months now, I think it’s about time.

I can compare candy bars, pick up on the differences in spelling, accent and humor, or whine about things that are different here and what I can’t get that I used to be able to get at home – but one thing that I haven’t really done is to simply say “Look – here’s where I live”. So it’s time to show you round.

So with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I’ve created Charleston Geezer – your local friendly guide who will take you to different areas of the Charleston peninsula over the next six weeks or so. Some good, some bad, some inbetween – I’m merely a guide. I’ll be quite literally getting on my bike and cycling round different parts of town taking photos as I go, and allowing you to make up your own mind about the world where I now live.

I am of course doing this with UK readers in mind, but I’m sure that locals too will find it somewhat intruiging in seeing what I pick up as being ‘interesting’ which to them is something that they probably see everyday.

The added irony is that I’ve had this drafted (but not quite finished) for about the last two weeks now – and I’m just about to paint a nice rosey picture of the area I live in – the day after I blogged about the car getting broken into.

And yes, I did get permisson first.

Monday, September 04, 2006

My Neighborhood

Hampton Park

So I live on the peninsula. Downtown – almost. Look at the map to the right – to left (across one bridge) are areas such as West Ashley and James Island. To the right (across another bridge) is Mount Pleasant. If this regular feature goes well I may extend my ‘research’ to these areas, but in the meantime we’ll stick with the blob of land where I am.

And to start with this week, the area in which I’m currently finding myself living: Hampton Park/Wagener Terrace.

What you have to realise first of all is that there is lots of space here – and I mean lots.

The roads are wide, and the pavements (sidewalks) are too. Everyone has space to park their cars on their drives, although a lot choose to park on the roads anyway.

There is no such thing as terraced housing here – every building is on its own plot of land, and the designs of houses are all quite different.

Most of the houses are made of wood (No obvious “From a town with a history of hurriances? How sensible!” comments, please), but most houses are also built raised above the ground by a couple of feet because Charleston is notorious for flooding.

This actually came in dead handy the time I wanted to run an ethernet cable from one end of the house to another, and spent a sweaty half an hour one Saturday afternoon crawling beneath the house getting filthy dirty by doing just that.

But there are also some brick houses here too – again, all varied in style. The nearest thing to ‘terraced’ housing is what you would call a block of condos or apartments.

A few blocks away and just a few minutes walk from us is the park itself, and it’s something of a novelty in Charleston. There are lots of parks like this back home in England, but whenever I mention to someone where I live, they inevitably say “Ooh, you’re just round the corner from Hampton Park – I drive a long way to go there just to take my dog”. And people do. It seems like there’s nothing else like it on the peninsula.

It’s a big open space, with a bike path – which joggers mainly use – a one way circumnavigable road system (anti-clockwise), a lake with ducks in the middle, a bandstand, and even a fitness course/climbing frame course dotted around. It’s also the place where I discovered my first Geocache a few months ago, hidden under a bush just off of the main path.

On the day I went here, someone had just been having a wedding ceremony – hence the chairs still laid out. The road for cars actually closes on Saturdays so that the cyclists can take over instead.

Overall, it’s a nice beautiful place to go and take your dog for a walk, or sit on a bench and watch the world go by. Or look across to the west to the Citadel which is where we go next.

The Citadel

The Citadel is military school (college) located between the park and the banks of the Ashley River. It’s like a regular college in that you study academic subjects, but you get it in ‘hard’ military style training. i.e. you’re up at 5am each day for morning exercise, you get to wear a uniform, go on parade – are are expecting to study hard as well.

A lot of people do it because they want to have a good education before they join the military proper – but not everyone who goes here wants to be in the forces. Saying that you’ve been educated at the Citadel looks good on your C.V (resume) and is most likely to get you a job of someone of equal standing who hasn’t been there.

For many years, it was just men who could attend. Then, in 1996 they let women if for the first time in its history. The practise of hazing (being mean to the new boys!) had to be toned down then as the female of the species were more likely to complain about harrasment than the blokes were.

Most amusing though to see is when they leave the campus and head downtown – they have to wear their uniform. Smart grey trousers (pants), crisp white ironed short and a flat cap. At least that’s their summer uniform anyway, I have yet to see what they have as their winter garb.

Ashley River

The line of water that divides the downtown peninsular to west Charleston is the Ashley River. The river was named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Lord Proprietor of the Carolina Colony. Charleston was founded on the western bank of the Ashley in 1670 (at Charles Towne Landing), before moving across to its current location a few years later.

Nowadays – if you have a house down on or towards the bank of the river it means either one or both of the following things: 1) You’re quite rich, and 2) You own a boat.

So a tour round this part is taking you through somewhat the ‘posher side’ of things, and thus you get to see some more expensive houses.

There is still a lot of development taking place in this area though – it seems that someone somewhere is always spending money to build a new property, and seeing portable plastic toilets in front gardens with a team of Mexican labourers is not uncommon. There is an area called ‘Longborough’ right by the river, which isn’t strictly a gated community, but it seems like that’s what they’re trying to create.

Wander round these parts, and you forget that a ten minute walk away to the east (away from the river) is a slightly less that salubrious area. (We live on the ‘cusp’ – the line between the nice and the not-so-nice area). Complete strangers round here walking their dogs smile and say “Hello” to you. People driving their cars stop and let you cross even when they have the right of way.

The streets are also very quiet – no one really comes this way unless you live here or are taking your dog for a walk. In the distance you can hear a piano playing, and you stop as you walk past as you peer in through the window of a very expensive house you see a little eight year old girl practiscing away at the ivories. Sweet.

Also in the neighborhood

It’s not all super posh around here though – two blocks down and across from me is an odd patch of land where an old tractor has been left to rust. Graffiti is on the wall of a delapidated structure nearby. It seems out of keeping with the rest of the area, and yet also gives character at the same time. Until a kid cuts their arms on the rusty tractor I suppose and the parent demands that the city clean it up. Makes a change from seeing an abandoned shopping trolley (cart) though I suppose.

Lowndes Grove is also here. It’s a 17th century plantation house that is right on the banks of the river. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a B&B where you can stay, as well as hosting parties, oh and weddings too. *cough*

And don’t forget the flags – not as many houses have them as you might believe, but they’re plentiful enough. Some don’t just hang the stars and stripes, but the South Carolinan flag as well. Designed in 1775, the blue matches the colour of the troops fighting in the Civil War at the time, and features a crescent and a palmetto tree. A lot of companies in the South Carolinan area are “Palmetto-this” or “Palmetto-That”.

Also spotted

There’s a small dock down by the banks of the river, a popular place for people to go to as a target when walking their dogs. When we went there the other day, two dudes were hanging with the fishing rods, waiting for the tide to come in and for the minnows to start floating past again. The sun was low in the sky, and I couldn’t help but hum Otis Redding in my head.

Monday is also rubbish (trash) day in our part of town. And if there’s something that you don’t want and it’s too big to fit in the garbage can – no worries, just leave it out on the grass verge anyway. Hence, Sunday evening becomes ‘scavenger night’, and people can be spotted scourring the neighbourood looking for items (inlcuding couches) that just as one person doesn’t want it, doesn’t mean that someone else doesn’t.

I also discovered that David Hasselholf lives in our area. I couldn’t think of any other reason why KITT would be parked outside on the road.

Signage

Whilst biking round, I can never resist the temptation to take photos of good signs that I see.

Disappointingly, I couldn’t find the “Voted best house in Wagener Terrace 2005” placard that I’m sure I saw down a side street not so along ago, but did pass the church (of which there are six – churches – all within 5 minutes walk from where I live) which promises to be the ‘Soul Saving Deliverance Center’.

Talking of churches – a new restaurant a block down that has been recently built still cannot open fully because it is having trouble getting a license to sell spirits (liquor). Legally you can’t sell strong alcohol if you’re within a few hundred yards of a church. That doesn’t stop them selling hard drugs in a house right next door to a school just a couple of blocks up, but hey – that’s the law for you.

There are plenty of estate agent (real estate) signs up all over the place, but bizarrely – for a country that likes to erect huge and ugly advertising billboards fifty feet off the ground along the freeway, when it comes to plugging a house, they just stick a polite sign in the lawn instead.

There also appears to be a speed limit here on how fast children are allowed to play on the see-saw …

One final thing – a picture of the house where I live, coupled with a vaguely pretentious sketch that I drew of the house where I live.

You’ll note that our house is painted yellow. Other houses nearby are painted green, blue, and red.

Whenever Leigh looks at any picture of housing in England, all she ever says is “It’s all so brown!”. “But that’s because our houses are made of brick”. “But our bricks and brick houses are red, not brown”. The conversation doesn’t go much beyond that.

I’d also like to point out that the house is split into two apartments – we’re not rich enough to be able to have the whole place! Apartment ‘A’ is downstairs (that’s us) and ‘B’ upstairs where someone else lives who has to put up with our mad barking dogs, and me playing music at a very loud level (and – as we all know – often the same song ten times in row).

And that’s where I live. Literally.

Next week: A slightly more dodgey part of town …

Graphfivestats

Number of complete strangers that greeted me: Six
Number of dogs that I saw being walked: Thirteen
Number of new houses that I saw being built: Nine
Number of police cars that I saw: One
Number of funny looks I got when taking a photo: None

fivelinks

The Citadel The Military College of South Carolina: “Established in 1842, South Carolina – acheiving excellence in the education of principled leaders”.

Real Estate in Charleston Come buy a property in the lovely area I live in: Property prices have been increasing for the last four years and are showing no signs of slowing down.

David Hasselhoff The official Hasselhoff Site of Worship: He wasn’t just in Knight Rider you know.

American Flag Display Etiquette Learn how to fly your flag properly and be patriotic!: You can get in trouble if you hang a flag upside down, or if it isn’t clean, or if you’ve abused it in any other sort of way. Americans take their flag seriously.

Lowndes Grove Plantation One of many beautiful plantations in the Charleston area: And like I say, a great place for wedding too. 🙂

ratemygeezer

Thanks Geoff, I’ve found this episode of ‘Charleston Geezer’ to be:

(And the ‘dropdown’ is MEANT not to work before anyone says anything)

Comments below as per normal.

23 responses to “My Neighborhood : Hampton Park”

  1. It’s all strangely familiar, and yet I’m sure I’ve never been there before.

  2. Rich says:

    Like it, please do another one. Though I like your normal style of prose too!
    Seriously, you’ve got DG down to a fine art and it’s nice, yet wierd, to read a familiar format about ‘foreign fields'(although, I’ve noticed a few ‘Geoff-ism’s’ when it comes to spelling – *ducks*). Looking forward to the next installment!

  3. geofftech says:

    Yeah, although I’m re-reading it for about the tenth time just now, I’ve yet again spotted a few more typos. I’m just going back to correct them now …

    And it’s the only place that you can get a grey (gray) background today instead of some ghastly green one … 😉

  4. Heather says:

    Very nice post.

    Geoff, here is your official reminder to look up http://www.convergesouth.com/ Oct 13-14

    Heck, want to be in charge of deciding on a happy hour type meet up for the locals? Just decide when and where. If you don’t make it to that one, well, I just don’t see any hope for you.

    FYI I’d do it earlier in the month as things tend to get pretty busy around Halloween. There’s the fair, the Halloween Extravaganza, fall festivals etc.

  5. Paul says:

    I could do that for where I live but its full of Chavs and there is only so much Burberry handbags I can take! 🙂

  6. Imabug says:

    You missed the dog park! stop by the dog park off Rutledge and Grove and you’ll probably find me there at least a couple times a week between 5:30ish and 7ish.

    I vote Geoff for Happy Hour Gathering planning too.

  7. jj says:

    coolness.

    questions and comments:

    “penninsular”? are you making fun of our accent ’round here? because i do know people who pronounce it that way.

    and i’d say you’re downtown. but i consider anything on the penninsula below the Neck downtown. sure, you’re not S.O.B. or in the business district, but you’re downtown.

    and i know you’re not a car guy, but that’s a C4 Corvette. KITT was based on a 3rd gen F-body Trans-Am. but you had to get a Hasselhoff reference in there somewhere, i guess.

  8. geofftech says:

    #8 – jj. “pennisu… what?”. nah, that’s just my shite spelling for ya. you’ll get used to it.

    “S.O.B” – Que?

    and yes – i don’t ‘do’ cars – as that clearly demonstrates. but it looked a bit like Knight Rider, and as my dad used to say “A bit of Hasselhoff a day never hurt anyway”.

    I made that last bit up.

  9. Stewart says:

    S.O.B. = South of Broad.

    As an aside, I believe the name of your neighborhood is Wagener Terrace.

  10. geofftech says:

    Man, I checked with Leigh and she told me it was “Wagner”… Grr!!

  11. TowerBlock Tina says:

    Good post Geoff, getting quite a little Alan Whicker aren’t we! For the benefit of Non UK persons, Whicker’s world was
    a programme on T.V. in the 70’s where AW went round different places taking a wry look at different areas/people etc.
    A bit like DG but interviewing people in their home environment as well.
    I think S.O.B. means ‘Silly Old Bu**er’ Not too rude in the UK just a reference to someone getting past it and forgetting things etc.

  12. I thought SOB meant son of a bitch. But given how delightful Mrs Celeriac is, I’m sure that’s not the case.

  13. jj says:

    here (charleston), S.O.B. means “South of Broad,” as Stewart said. it’s the posh residential area downtown. traditionally, however, one wasn’t accepted as an SOB unless born to it. old money, as it were. that attitude is still there, but it’s a little more open now.

    that said, S.O.B.’s often are S.O.B.’s, using the pejorative “son of a b—h” meaning of the acronym. (which usage is primarily American).

  14. Jon Allen says:

    Geoff, That is just the coolest thing.
    I have been planning to do something like a “this is my neighbour hood” thing on my blog too.
    The neighbourhood is here in Seoul is sooooo different to yours it’s like a different planet.
    You’ve inspired me. But I don’t think I can manage the DG impression. I’ll see what I can come up with.

  15. geofftech says:

    #15 well that’s very kind of you to say Jon! it does take a bit of effort i have to say! but it’s worth it. i have five more areas of town to cover, and thus more of them will be appearing in the next couple of months.

  16. Very nice post. It’s a quanit, historic place you live. Yes, let’s see part2!

  17. TowerBlockTina says:

    How good of you to flatter me Mr Reason, yes I am a lovely person, wouldn’t hurt a fly, and I can spell, not like Mr Marshall.It hadn’t occurred to me about sonofab….as it’s usually written in trashy novels. Do you know, I’ve never tasted Celeriac, but I like celery!

  18. geofftech says:

    I can guarantee you that ‘Part 2’ is going to be a less nice part of town! Next week, probably. I’ve got to go and photograph it first (probably do that this weekend…)

  19. How about Part3… We also want to see the pirate stuff in town.

  20. geofftech says:

    #20 patience! it’s all coming up. ‘pirates’ get covered with all the other tours you can do in the touristy part of town.

    but first you’re going to hear all about the drugs, crime and prostitution – and that’s just what goes on inside my house.

  21. Amy says:

    Looks charming over there. Lots of nice character buildings and houses, my kind of place..

  22. TowerBlockTina says:

    When you go to the ‘dodgy’ part of town, I’ll hope you will be a bit ‘street savvy’ and not flash the camera about too much, or make yourself too obvious, the druggies might think you’re an undercover cop taking photos for evidence!

Powered by WordPress