Visit the Powder Magazine in Charleston

By:Amy Holtcamp


Charleston is so full of great, historic sites that you might be tempted to skip the Powder M​agazine. Don’t be fooled by the impossibly small admission charge ($2) or the fact that the magazine is set back, unobtrusively, behind a small yard on one of the most adorable stretches of Queen Street. The Powder Magazine is a fascinating place, and it is an absolutely central part of Charleston’s history.

Thoughtful displays in the museum provide context for Charleston’s early history – before the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War or the “war between the states.” The Powder Magazine dates back to 1713 when Charleston was a walled city with military outposts protecting the city from foreign invaders and treacherous pirates. From 1713-1770 and for a time during the American Revolution, the building served as a storage facility for gunpowder. Since then it has been used as a stable, a wine cellar, a print shop and the headquarters of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in South Carolina, the present-day owners.

When we visited, our guide, the knowledgeable John Young, was on hand to explain the layout of the walled city (with the assistance of a scale model), reveal the purpose of the building’s architecture and answer any questions. He also offered to lock my husband up in the pillory out in the yard. My husband had recently bought me gelato at Paolo’s ​Gelato, so I let him off the hook. But you can decide for yourself if some time in the pillory is in order for anyone in your party.

In addition to the museum, The Powder Magazine also offers a weekly theatrical offering. In The Gentleman Pirate, actor Rodney Rogers (voted Charleston’s 2009 Best Actor) plays the infamous, real-life pirate Major Stede Bonnet and regales the audience with tales of his encounters with other pirates, like the notorious Blackbeard. The show runs every Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children.

For more information on The Powder Magazine visit www.p​ It’s a great slice of history and one that shouldn’t be missed.

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Completed in 1713, the Powder Magazine was built for gunpowder storage. It is the oldest public building in the Carolinas and one of the few remaining military structures ...

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