The Wet, Sad History…Present…and (Maybe) Future of Flooding In Charleston

Posted By Bill Payer on Apr 19, 2023 | 0 comments

Our Tuesday night speaker, Christina Rae Butler, brought energy, wit and optimism to recounting 350 years of flooding in Charleston. Charleston’s location was important militarily in the 17th century but the topography rarely made sense as a place to build a city. Efforts to overcome tides and marsh proved inadequate over the years.

One example Butler talked about was the difficulty in driving pilings….you tended to hit water about three feet down! Another problem was the lack of rock or other solid materials to use as fill. So Colonial Charleston…and even later…relied on garbage, dung and animal corpses.

Butler cited what she says is one of her favorite examples of real estate optimism and some truth in advertising you probably wouldn’t get today! See her slide below of a sales pitch ad in the South Carolina Weekly Gazette, August 23, 1783.

That was in the 1780s….today the area is known as Harleston Village, has many historic houses and is the location of the College of Charleston Campus. To see Butler’s entire slide presentation, check out the gallery below.

Christina Rae Butler Bio:

Christina Rae Butler is professor of Historic Preservation at the American College of Building Arts in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Charleston in the Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program. She has an M.A., College of Charleston and a B.A., College of Charleston.

Her publications include “Lowcountry at High Tide: A History of Flooding, Drainage and Reclamation in Charleston, South Carolina”, “Italians in the Lowcountry: Sunny Italy’s Charleston Colony” and “Charleston Horse Power: Equine Culture in the Palmetto City” (release date August 22, 2023.

The video of Cristina Rae Butler’s presentation on the history…the present…and the future of flooding in Charleston is now available at

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