"Meet me on Meeting Street in front of the Old City Market." Who hasn't said these words when meeting friends or relatives in Charleston, South Carolina? And who hasn't been photographed with the Market as the backdrop in this historical city? However, many tourists and shoppers are not aware of the history of this beautiful landmark.
After the American Revolution, the Pinckney family set aside the land for a public market with the stipulation that it would be returned to the family if it were used for any other purpose. It was never a slave market. The building erected on this site in 1841, after filling in the low ground and creek, has the look of a Roman temple with a frieze of bull's and ram's heads as an appropriate decoration. Stringent ordinances, set by the city government, regulated the quality of its products. Produce could not be brought back to sell a second time, butcher's cuts and weights were constantly scrutinized, clean white aprons were an absolute must, and even the hours of operation were regulated.
Brown turkey buzzards, sometimes called "Charleston Eagles", were part of the Market's sanitation crew. They lined the rooftops and strutted the streets. They were so effective in removing the meat scraps butchers threw in the street that, in 1826, the city imposed a fine of five dollars [which doubled in 1882] for hurting or killing these winged disposal systems.
For a more appealing painting, Werner substituted sea gulls for the ominous buzzards, but included other historical details such as cadets from the Citadel, The "News and Courier", and the tall sailing ships at the end of East Bay Street. The large and varied crowd represents the visitors and residents who still come to this popular meeting center to this day.
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