Historical Cities – Charleston, South Carolina, is now available on Google Maps

Charleston is located on the southern end of ‘The Neck’, a strip of land extending from the Bay north to the crook in the Ashley River.  In Charleston, it was important to live ‘below Broad Street,’ and outsiders believed that to live on, or to claim relationship with one who lives ‘on the Battery,’ is a Charlestonian’s prime distinction.  Where the Ashley River and Cooper River meet to form the waterfront was noted even in Europe for its beauty.  Since the War of 1812, it has been called ‘The Battery.’  The high east seawall was built before 1820 of ballast rocks from trading vessels.  This replaced an earlier wall built of palmetto logs which were swept away in 1804.  Between 1848 and 1852, the south wall was added.

Charles Town, as it was originally called, was settled in 1670 by English pioneers who established themselves on Albemarle Point, westward across the Ashley River from the present location.  Oyster Point was higher and better adapted for defense, and was selected for the site of the ‘great port towne’ laid out in 1672 by instructions of Lord Ashley-Cooper, one of the Lords Proprietors.  The colony, increased in the meantime by settlers from Barbados, England, and Virginia, moved across the river in 1680 and Charles Town became a ‘City-State.’  For many years, its history was the history of South Carolina.  It was the center from which colonization radiated and the capital of the province until 1786, when Columbia was founded for that purpose.  Provision crops, naval stores, and the Indian trade gave the colony its start.  Rice and later indigo brought the settlement its wealth, and Charleston became a flourishing urban center for opulent planters, who maintained ‘county seats’ on Low Country rivers.

The influx of French Huguenots and of French Catholics from Acadia in the late 1600’s gave the city a cosmopolitan atmosphere.  They were followed by the arrival of Scots and South Germans.  In the 1800’s, North Germans and Irish immigrants arrived.  A writer of this last period described Charleston as ‘owned by the Germans, ruled by the Irish, and enjoyed by the Negroes.’  The different races and nationalities represented added breadth as well as variety to spiritual and intellectual life.  A public library, the first in the colonies, was established in 1698.  It was succeeded after its decline by the present Charleston Library Society in 1748.  A free school opened in 1710 and a theater in 1735.  The first newspaper, the South Carolina Weekly Journal, was founded in 1730 by Eleazer Phillips, Jr.  It was followed by the South Carolina Gazette, with Thomas Whitmarsh as editor and printer.  Whitmarsh died of ‘strangers’ (yellow) fever in 1735.  The following year, Benjamin Franklin sent Lewis Timothy, one of his printers, to take charge.  In 1738, Timothy was succeeded by his widow.  Later, her son Peter Timothy assumed the editorship until 1775.  The paper was suspended for two years, only to be revived by Peter’s son, Benjamin Franklin Timothy, as the Gazette of the State of South Carolina.  It continued under that name and management until 1792.  Its successor in 1803 was the Courier, the antecedent of Charleston’s present paper, the News and Courier.

Because if their affiliation with the Mother Country and its traditions, many leading Charlestonians found it difficult to sever their British allegiance at the onset of the American Revolution.  However, the first Provincial Congress of South Carolina, meeting at Charleston in 1775, secured strict loyalty to the American cause from most citizens.  Christopher Gadsden, John Rutledge, Henry and John Laurens, and other local leaders were active in the affairs of the new Nation.  A British attack upon Charlestown on June 28th, 1776, was repulsed by William Moultrie’s brilliant defense of the palmetto fort on Sullivan’s Island.  In 1780, the city fell into the hands of the British and was held for two and a half years.  The relationship of Charlestonians and the enemy was not that of conqueror and conquered.  Even in these circumstances, Charlestown remembered its manners.  It was not until December of 1782, when General Nathaniel Greene and other partisan leaders had cleared the rest of the State, that Charlestown was evacuated by the enemy.  The next year, the city’s name was changed from Charles Town to Charleston.

The post-revolution period was characterized by a vigorous democratic spirit.  With the removal of the capital to Columbia, the planters, lawyers, and merchants of Charleston found their control threatened by the small farmers of the interior.  Realizing a need for a stronger government to protect trade and invested money caused Charleston leaders to join heartily in the support for a new Federal constitution.  Years after the rest of the State had gone over to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic Party, the city remained stiffly Federalist.  Charleston’s prosperity increased during the great plantation era, and the city became noted in Europe and America as ‘a flourishing capital of wealth and ease.’

The embargo on trade accompanying the War of 1812 was a temporary setback.  When developing transportation deflected commerce to Savannah, however, Charleston launched the bold experiment of that pioneer among early steam railroads, the South Carolina Railroad.  The South Carolina Railroad was built from Charleston to the Savannah River, opposite Augusta, from 1830 to 1833.  Coincident with the construction of the railroad was the establishment of the world’s first department store in a mammoth building at the corner of King Street and Market Street.

Charleston, along with the rest of the State, enthusiastically entered into the War Between the States, hosting the convention that passed the Ordinance of Secession.  The long siege of the city abounded with dramatic incidents.  Beginning with the Union defense of Fort Sumter, the port was constantly active with blockade running.  Submarine warfare was first introduced here in 1863.  After Union General William Tecumseh Sherman had demolished Columbia in February of 1865, Charleston was evacuated.  Sherman had insinuated his intention to destroy Charleston, but later plans turned him in another direction.  Union forces had heavily bombarded the city, however.  Public buildings and homes were badly damaged, particularly in the lower sections.  Charleston was left poverty-stricken.

Charleston return to prosperity was interrupted by the earthquake of 1886.  After the cataclysm, weakened buildings were strengthened with tie rods running between the floors from wall to wall, still visible in surviving brick structures.  Other natural disasters have followed, including tornadoes in 1938 and numerous hurricanes.  Despite Mother Nature, the important shipping trade returned.  In 1880, work began on the construction of jetties with Federal funds.  One jetty extends from Sullivan Island and the other from Morris Island.  This closed all channels except one, causing an increased flow with a consequent increased depth.

Historical Cities-Charleston, South Carolina, now on Google Maps

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Historical Cities – Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is now available on Google Maps

Although Norsemen, the French explorer Champlain, and the Dutch all are said to have visited Boston harbor, and Captain John Smith left us a map of it, no actual settlement was made until the 1620’s.  Boston’s first settler was William Blackstone, a recluse of scholarly and probably misanthropic mental cast, formerly a clergyman of the Church of England.  He had built himself a hut on the western slope of what is now Beacon Hill, planting his orchard on what later became Boston Common.  At that time, the wilderness occupied the peninsula, which was about one-third the size of today’s Boston peninsula.  Almost an island, it jutted out into the bay, joined to the mainland by a long, narrow neck like the handle of a ladle.  It was a mile wide at its widest, three miles long, and the neck was so narrow and so low that at times it was submerged by the ocean.  Blackstone’s realm was bounded on the west by a mud flat (the Back Bay); on the north by a deep cove (later dammed off to make a mill pond); on the east by a small river which cut off the North End and made an island of it, and by a deep cove (later known as the ‘Town Cove’); and on the south by another deep cove.  Here, the disillusioned clergyman read his books, farmed a little, traded a bit with the Indians, and breathed air uncontaminated by any other white man.

His idyllic solitude was rudely shattered after four or five years, however, by the arrival of John Winthrop with a company of some eight hundred persons who settled in what is now Charlestown.  Their miseries were many.  The water at Charlestown was brackish, and their settlement could not easily be defended against Indian raids.  Blackstone visited them and was melted by the spectacle of their plight.  He invited them to come across to his peninsula and the company eagerly accepted his hospitality.  This occurred in 1630, the year of the birth of Boston.

Winthrop’s settlers called it ‘Trimountain,’ possibly because of three hills later known as Beacon Hill, Copp’s Hill, and Fort Hill.  The first year familiarized the Englishmen and their families with the rigors of the New England climate.  It was too late to plant crops and more than two hundred died of starvation and exposure.  The following spring, a ship laden with provisions, long overdue, dropped anchor in the bay, and a famine was averted.  Fisheries were established, and fir and lumber created an export market.  Within four years, more than four thousand Englishmen had emigrated to Boston and its vicinity.  Twenty villages developed out of the peninsula town to form a Puritan Commonwealth.

The settlement soon became the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, governed by a theocracy which rigidly dictated to citizens in matters of religious dogma and private conduct.  Dissenters were persecuted.  Roger Williams and his Quaker followers were driven out, as were Anabaptists and Antinomians (latter led by indomitable Anne Hutchinson”.  When Quakers returned, they were severely punished.  In 1659 and 1660, three men and one woman were executed on Boston Common for thus offending.  Nevertheless, culture and education were valued by Puritans.  In 1635, General Court established the first free school in Boston.  About the same time, Harvard University was created in nearby Cambridge.

Never much of a farming community, the city prospered greatly as a port and trading center.  In 1631, a Boston-built vessel, the tiny Blessing of the Bay, was launched, and from then on shipbuilding continued as an important industry until the American Civil War era.  After the Stuart restoration in England in 1660, Boston, which had actively sympathized with the regime of Oliver Cromwell, became the scene of monarchical reprisals.  In 1684, the Court of Chancery, sitting in the Town Hall, voided the original colonial charter.  Governor Andros, sent by King James II, established a virtual dictatorship.  He attempted to break down the religious and political monopoly of the Puritans by widening the franchise and establishing the right of free worship.

Boston put on a curtain-raiser to witchcraft hysteria in 1688, but suffered the ravages of the persecution less than neighboring towns.  That was largely because, when an epidemic broke out in full force in 1692, sinister accusations were leveled at the wife of Governor Phipps.  Phipps, naturally enough, thereupon bore down on witch baiters.  By this time, Boston’s population had grown to 7,000.  The city’s trade boomed mightily with the development of the Rum-Slave-Molasses traffic triangle.  By 1666, 300 ships, mostly Boston-owned, piled out of port.  In 1691, a royal governor was sent.  In 1733, the Molasses Act was passed, but the Colonial merchants had virtually free trade until 1764.  That year, Grenville began the vigorous enforcement of the mercantilist measures.  From then on, friction increased rapidly and the Colonies developed a burning sense of grievance.

The Boston Massacre (1770) on King Street (now State) occurred in the shadow of the old State House.  News of the British advance on Lexington and Concord was semaphored to Paul Revere by the glimmer of a lamp which swung from the belfry of the Old North Church.  The rafters of Faneuil Hall rang with the impassioned oratory of champions of liberty.  The Old South Meeting House was the point from which fifty men disguised as Indians rushed to Griffin’s Wharf where British merchantmen rocked idly in the harbor, their holds crammed with East Indian tea (1773).  It was the Boston Tea Party which confronted the British cabinet with the choice of capitulation or force, replied to by the Port Act, which marked the beginning of a policy of coercion and led swiftly to open warfare.  The battle of Bunker Hill in nearby Charlestown was one of the early engagements of the war.  Boston was regarded by the British as a most important objective, and the failure of the siege and the evacuation of the city by the Redcoats was the first serious blow to Tory confidence.

The American Revolution left Boston with its population reduced from 25,000 to 10,000 and its commerce ruined.  The discovery of new trading possibilities in the Orient offered an opportunity which enterprising Yankee merchants were quick to perceive.  The development of the China trade and the exploitation of the Oregon coast rich in sea otters restored Boston to its former eminence.  Wealth poured into the coffers of merchants, traders, and shipmasters.  In 1780, 455 ships from every quarter of the globe docked in Boston Harbor, while 1200 vessels engaged in coastwise traffic out of Boston.

Boston’s maritime prosperity was stimulated by the wars between England and France which followed the accession of Napoleon.  However, the Jefferson Embargo and the War of 1812 seriously crippled the city’s maritime development.  Although she recovered, and the era of the clipper made Massachusetts famous throughout the world, the War of 1812 really marked the beginning of the end of Boston’s maritime supremacy.  Thereafter, manufacturing and industry gradually supplanted commercial interests.

boston_1903            In 1822, Boston became a city.  Railroads were built from 1830 and played an important part in urban development.  The first horse car line, connecting Cambridge and Boston, was built in 1853.  Between 1824 and 1858, the Boston peninsula was enlarged from 783 acres to 1801 acres by cutting down the hills and filling in the Back Bay and the great coves with the excavated gravel as a basis for reclamation.  The Neck, which William Blackstone could not always cross on foot because of the tidewater, was raised and broadened, so that what was once the narrowest part of Boston proper is now the widest.

During the era between the American Revolution and the American Civil War, Boston ideas underwent a parallel transformation from the provincial to the urban.  Stimulated by European currents of thought and the philosophy of the frontier, Boston began to revolt against the theology of Calvin, a revolt typical of the democratic spirit of the nineteenth century.  Unitarianism threatened to dissolve the entire system of Puritan Congregationalism.

Nowhere was the reforming spirit more active than in the anti-slavery movement.  William Lloyd Garrison had no respect for the interests of cotton, whether expounded by planters or manufacturers.  He invaded Boston and founded the Liberator in 1831, and was rewarded in 1835 with physical violence at the hands of a mob partly composed of Boston gentility.  Boston played a less important role in the Civil War than in events preceding it.  Unable to meet the prescribed quota of soldiers by voluntary enlistment, the city fathers first employed the draft in 1863, precipitating the Boston Draft Riots.  The poorer classes, irritated when their rich neighbors purchased immunity from compulsory service for the sum of three hundred dollars, objected so strenuously that the militia was called out to quell the disorders.

Although some Bostonians had indicated a reluctance to support the Northern cause during the war, the celebration of peace left little to be desired.  A coliseum seating 30,000 people was erected near the site of the Copley Plaza Hotel housing an Angel of Peace, thirteen feet high, together with an extinguished torch of war, frescoes, doves, and angels, medallions, emblems and flags, as well as the largest bass drum in the world, constructed for the occasion.  By the end of the nineteenth century, Bostonians could boast of other things in addition to a thriving industry and commerce.  Boston had at least two much-touted claims to fame: John L. Sullivan, the greatest fighter of his time, and the first passenger-car subway in America, a two-mile stretch from Arlington and Boylston Streets to the North Station.  The last horse car was discarded in 1910.  An elevated railroad pushed into the suburb of Forest Hills in 1910.

Historical Cities-Boston and Cambridge, MA on Google Maps

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Historical Cities – Los Angeles, California is now available on Google Maps

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The history of the Los Angeles area abounds with the gargantuan, the fantastic. Settled more than sixteen miles inland from a shallow, unprotected bay, it has made itself into one of the great port cities of the world; lying far off the normal axes of transportation and isolated by high mountains, it has become one of the great railroad centers of the country; lacking a water supply adequate for a large city, it has brought in a supply from rivers and mountain streams hundreds of miles away. In little more than half a century, lots listed at a tax sale at a price of 63 cents apiece have increased in value to the point where they are worth more than that price to the square inch. It is not surprising that a city of such incredible achievements should become the home of fantasy; the film industry could not have found a more stimulating environment.

Much of the historical text of this travel guide has been provided by LOS ANGELES, A Guide to the City and Its Environ, a book in the American Guide series compiled by the workers of the Writers Program of the Work Projects Administration in Southern California.  The guide was sponsored by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and published by Hastings House, New York in 1941.  The text has only been slightly edited, usually only where an adjustment to the passing of time was required.

Using the original guide as its foundation, this travel guide updates the previously mentioned time references and includes additional historic sites and landmarks from various sources.  Most importantly, provides updated location information for all listed sites with accompanying latitude and longitude coordinate data.  Over the past 70 years, the significant growth of the Los Angeles area has included the requisite street and highway designation changes, as well as the unfortunate elimination of some important historic locations.  This Historic Cities guide takes into account all of those changes, so the traveler of the present day can enjoy what was once there, and what is still present.

Historical Cities-Los Angeles on Google Maps

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America’s Lost Highway – Illinois’ U.S. Highway 66 now available on Google Maps

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Before the creation of Interstate 55, U.S. Highway 66 was the most heavily traveled highway in Illinois.  It cuts diagonally across the State between the great populations centers of Chicago and St. Louis.  Along its course are the State Capital and multiple State institutions.

Illinois’ U.S. Highway 66 on Google Maps

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Historical Cities – Savannah, Georgia now in Google Maps

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Google Map Guide to Savannah

The most heavily traveled road in Colonial America passed through here, linking areas from the Great Lakes to Georgia. It was laid on animal trails and Native American trading and warrior paths. Treaties among the Governors of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia and nineteen chiefs of the Iroquois League of Five Nations in 1685 and 1722 opened the colonial backcountry for peaceful settlement and colonization in Georgia. The Indian Path had two branches from Carolina, the western branch to Augusta and the eastern to Savannah, formed to find salt and game. This later became part of Great Philadelphia Wagon Road. 

 

The plan of Savannah was based on a sketch in Villas of the Ancients by Robert Castell, who died in one of the English debtor prisons that Georgia was founded to relieve. From this sketch, James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of the city, and Colonel William Bull, the leading engineer of the Carolina colony, designed Savannah on a plan to which later builders have adhered. After the landing of the first settlers on February 12th, 1733, Oglethorpe began to lay out the town on a square tract of 15,360 acres to accommodate 240 families. He named the town Savannah, which is believed to be derived from the Sawana or Shawnee Indians, who once inhabited the river valley. Because the Spanish word sabana means flat country, some historians declare that this term was applied to the entire coastal plain by Spanish explorers who preceded the English settlers by two centuries.

 

Savannah became the seat of government when Georgia was made a Royal Province in 1754, and two decades of commercial growth and improved trading conditions followed. At the beginning of the American Revolution, the town had many unyielding Loyalists, but the hot-headed younger men set up a liberty pole before Tondee’s Tavern, shouted approval of the Lexington victory, and organized a battalion headed by Colonel Lachlan McIntosh. When two British war vessels and a transport anchored off Tybee Island, at the mouth of the Savannah River, in January of 1776, the Royal Governor, Sir James Wright (1714-1786), escaped on one of them to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was celebrated riotously, and in the following year Savannah became the capital of the new state. On December 27th, 1778, Colonel Sir Archibald Campbell landed 2,000 British troops a few miles down the river to besiege the town, which was defended by General Robert Howe and 600 men. Failing to guard a passage through the surrounding marshes, Howe, on December 29th, lost the town and more than half of his men. For this, he was court-martialed and forever divested of military prestige. Following the British occupation, Governor Wright returned. In September of 1779, a long siege was begun by Count d’Estaing’s French fleet, assisted by American forces under the leadership of General Benjamin Lincoln. Their grand assault of October 9th, however, was a disastrous failure, with more than 1,000 casualties. It was not until 1782, when General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s American forces struck, that the British at last evacuated the city.

 

After the Revolution, there was another period of expansion. The city’s first playhouse was built in 1785. The city was incorporated in 1789, and after Eli Whitney’s invention of the gin four years later it sprang into eminence as a cotton center. Tobacco, shipped down the river from Augusta, made Savannah a market for this commodity. The growth of surrounding plantations and the disposal of Indian lands were other factors in its expansion. 

 

For the defense of the city during the War of 1812, Fort Wayne was strengthened, and Fort Jackson was built two miles downstream. In May of 1814, the U.S. sloop Peacock captured the British warship Epervier, brought it into the harbor, and confiscated $10,000 in specie aboard the British ship. The half century following the War of 1812 was an era of rapid development in transportation. In 1816, the steamboat Enterprise carried a Savannah party upstream to Augusta.

 

In 1819, maritime history was made when on May 22nd, 1819; the City of Savannah was the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, sailing into Liverpool, England. The successful use of steam in coastwise vessels inspired William Scarborough and several Savannah merchants to organize the Savannah Steamship Company which was formed on December 19th, 1818. The Savannah, equipped with adjustable paddle wheels, was constructed at Corlear’s Hook, New York, and reached Savannah on March 28th, 1819. President James Monroe made a trip to Tybee aboard this vessel. After arriving in Liverpool, the steamship continued on to St. Petersburg, Russia and then returned home. So expensive was this expedition that its sponsors declared the vessel impracticable for commercial purposes, and it was converted into a sailing packet that plied the coast of the United States until it was lost off Long Island in 1822. In the National Museum in Washington D.C. are the log book and a cylinder of this ship, in honor of which President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 proclaimed May 22nd as National Maritime Day. 

 

To lower transportation costs between the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers, the Ogeechee Canal was opened in 1828. In 1843, the Central of Georgia Railway was completed from Savannah to Macon. During this period, Savannah, because of its harbor, was the greatest port on the southern seaboard for cotton and naval stores.

 

The Mexican War of 1846 brought prominence to two Savannah men. Colonel Henry R. Jackson (1820-1898), later minister to Austria and to Mexico, served as commander of Georgia’s regiment. Josiah Tattnall (1796-1871) distinguished himself at Vera Cruz in command of the Mosquito Division of the United States Navy. During the period prior to the War Between the States, Savannah developed a sectionalism that made it respond instantly to the war cry in December, 1860. Now there were no Whigs and Tories to divide the city. Upon adoption of the Ordinance of Secession, Savannah men seized Fort Jackson, and in March of 1861, the Confederate flag floated over the customhouse. On April 10th, 1862, the 400 defenders of Fort Pulaski, occupied before secession by order of the fiery Governor Joseph E. Brown, were forced to surrender to Union soldiers. Although Fort Pulaski became a Union military prison, Savannah itself did not fall until 1864, when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman marched through Georgia to the coast. On December 13th, Sherman took Fort McAllister and on the 17th, demanded the surrender of Savannah. Confederate General W.J. Hardee and his 10,000 troops continued to skirmish three days longer before they evacuated the city by means of a new pontoon bridge to Hutchinson Island. On December 21st, 1864, Union troops occupied Savannah. 

 

With the abolition of slavery and the collapse of the great plantations, the port ceased to function. But for all the poverty of Reconstruction and an appalling yellow fever epidemic in 1876, there was progress. With the establishment of the Naval Stores Exchange in 1882, Savannah became the leading turpentine and rosin port. During the First World War, boom prices caused shipyards to be hastily built along the waterfront, but a cataclysmic fall in business followed the boll weevil’s destruction of cotton in 1921. By 1926, control of the cotton pest had caused the port to regain much of its former activity. 

 

Along Bull Street, which forms the central axis of the city, are five squares that, in the original city plan, were designed as centers of defense against Spanish and Indian invasion. With all its commercial and cultural successes, Savannah gains its individual charm from its atmosphere of the past. 

Historical Cities – Oakland, San Jose, and the South Bay

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American Auto Trails – Oklahoma’s U.S. Highway 70

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