Magic Fireplaces and Fun Flurries

Snowballing on Broad Street, 1899, from the Post & Courier FaceBook page


With western New York at 7 feet and still counting today, this cold snap has us thinking about snow. Here in the Lowcountry, we do see some flurries from time to time--and are thrilled to pieces when we do--but rarely over the course of Charleston's long history has the city been graced with enough snow to build a snowman, much less a snowball. Many of us remember the magical snowfall and resultant white Christmas after Hugo, 25 years ago, and perhaps even the modern record-breaking snowfall in February 1973, which measured up to a grand 7.1 inches (not feet). But over the years, Charlestonians have responded to snow in much the same way; it’s one of those things that just hasn’t changed and likely never will. In anticipation, we tend to light a fire and stay up all night, peeking out the window periodically to check--and then squeal with unbridled delight and shout, “It’s snowing, y’all, it’s snowing!”

The Great Blizzard of 1899

According to Wikipedia, The Great Blizzard of 1899 was an unprecedented winter weather event that affected the southern United States. What made it historic was both the severity of winter weather and the extent of the U.S. it affected, especially in the South. The cold wave started on February 11th, and the snow started falling the next day. The port of New Orleans was completely iced over by February 13th, with ice floes reportedly floating out of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. On February 14th the city experienced its coldest ever Mardi Gras reading of 7 °F. The Krewe of Rex Parade was delayed while snow was removed from the route. The Charleston News and Courier ran a headline that morning that read “IN THE GRASP OF A BLIZZARD: NEARLY 4 INCHES OF SNOW & TEMPERATURE 9 DEGREES”.

Trolley on the corner of Meeting and Ladson Streets in the 1899 snow. From the Post & Courier FaceBook page

The newspaper reported that the trolley was down but the blind tigers were open and did a flourishing business. The article concerning ‘snowballing’ just about sums up how Charlestonians--then, and now--react the day after a great snowfall:

Men, women & children gave themselves up to the joys of snowballing yesterday

Age mattered not, dignity was not in it, sex was no barrier, occupation was hooted, and station cut no figure. It was simply a case as to whether or not your form presented an alluring target, in other words, you make an appearance and the crowd would do the rest.

Snow does not come often to Charleston, and when the “beautiful” does pay a visit, “filling the sky and the earth below” everybody just takes a day off and goes to chunking all he, she or it knows how. Mardi Gras may be great for New Orleans, inauguration of a president may mean much for Washington, the horse show may stack up to some in New York, and Philadelphia may have thought her peace jubilee rare old sport, but even travelers are ignorant of fun until they see Charleston and her people enjoying a snow storm. There is just more fun in this old town when snow is plentiful than there is in six or seven barrels of monkeys. Anyone who was not aware of this fact before, and yesterday found himself at some stage of the game within the boundaries of Line Street and the Battery longitudinally and the two rivers the other way, can now make an affidavit to the fact.

Snowball fight on Tradd Street in 1980 from News & Courier FaceBook page

Fireplace Rituals

A picture from nearly a hundred years later confirms the abandon with which Charlestonians embrace a flurry-full treat. Although the weather is supposed to warm again this weekend, we (as always) hold out hope for some holiday snow. And how can we have snow without a fire? Charleston fireplaces serve the snow ritual not only by burning a bright light of anticipation, but also as a gathering place for thawing fingers and telling tales after a long laughing snowball fight. If you or someone you know wants to play and needs a new place to build a fire, take a look at some of the great fireplaces we have listed on the market now.