Old Exchange Building + Provost Dungeon|Charleston, SC


DSC03251Last week, we traveled back to Charleston to tour the Old Exchange Building. We’ve walked past it many times and I’ve even photographed it, but we’ve never actually gone inside (it costs money, and we’re not all about spending money). Built in 1767 this building had no doors or windows, but was an open air structure.  Merchandise was carried right off ships and sold from here.

DSC03207I planned this trip because JP’s been studying about Pirates. After he finishes the book he’s currently reading, he’ll move on to Treasure Island. Also, Preston will study the Revolutionary War next year in third grade. We talked with his teacher and decided he would make notes about the trip so he could share what he learned with his class.

DSC02440I was excited about this trip for a few reasons. 1) The history is fascinating, 2) the kids were super excited (well, the youngest was, I’ll get to that in a minute) and 3) who doesn’t love a trip to the Holy City when it’s sunny and seventy degrees?!DSC03249How cute is he? When I told him we were going on this little adventure, he immediately planned his outfit for the day. He took the shirt and vest from his “funeral suit”, paired it with his old baseball uniform pants/belt and topped it off with an eye patch and bandana we purchased in the gift shop. Hello, Megan Runion, have we earned a spot on your blog, or what?!

He is literally THE MOST creative kid I’ve ever been around.

DSC03248Charles Towne Landing was founded in 1670. At that time, 2,000 pirates travelled the seas. Settlers surrounded their new colony with a brick and mud wall. Because of the port, Charles Towne was the fourth largest settlement behind Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

IMG_5005(Note the Treasure Map stuck in the back of his belt) Contrary to popular legend, pirates were held captive in a nearby Watch House and not the Provost Dungeon. There were a few exceptions including the “Gentleman Pirate”. This wealthy plantation owner turned pirate spent a short time in the Dungeon before being hanged at the battery. There’s a reason the grass is so green! 

IMG_4958There are two different scavenger hunts you can take. We will go back this summer for the Pirate one. It’s best with a group and you actually go out into the surrounding areas where pirates were captured and held. This time, we did the hunt inside the building. JP enjoyed it. I gotta tell ya, there were parts I wasn’t able to figure out. Of course, JP completed it on his own in record time. I was proud of him – the perfect history lesson!


DSC03214The hunt was over Preston’s head, so he pretended to look for buried treasure while waiting on the Dungeon tour.

DSC03219Charles Towne fell to British forces May 12, 1780.

DSC03220The Provost became a military prison when the British took it over during the Revolutionary War. British criminals were held here along with Patriot POWs. Fifty to sixty at a time were fed one meal a day. Ladies as well as men spent their time in shackles. Small pox and yellow fever ran rampant among the captives.IMG_4975May 1718, the infamous Black Beard set up a blockade of the Charles Towne port. Four hundred pirates on four ships held captives (later released, minus their clothes) in exchange for needed medicine. Medicine in hand, the pirates left without incident (except a little indecent exposure). With children present, our guide was not able to elaborate on the type medicine Black Beard needed, but let’s just say he was described as a ladies man. And we’ll leave it at that.


DSC03221Our wonderful guide, Carolyn Gray, used a huge model of the colony to explain the history of the Exchange Building. It housed the first Custom House offices that collected import taxes.

DSC03224December 2, 1773, Charles Towne had its’ own Tea Party. Ships loaded with British tea stayed in port for three weeks. Unlike the Boston colonists, Charles Towne Patriots unloaded the ships and stored the tea in the Dungeon. Three years later, they auctioned off the tea and bought muskets for their armies.DSC03234


IMG_4965When the building that housed the South Carolina Delegation burned, all the papers were moved to the Exchange Building. It was here the delegates signed the Constitution May 23, 1788.

DSC03239The upstairs Hall was a plethora of information about the history of our nation and the role South Carolina played. Preston was fascinated with the displays of weapons (not pictured because we did not want to encourage him).


DSC03244Visitors were encouraged to sign a replica of the Constitution. This pirate wanted to leave his mark.

DSC03208As soon as you enter the building there is a really nice gift shop. Not pictured: Melinda Long’s Pirate books (they were arranged in front of a mirror and I didn’t want to be in the photo). You can order your copy HERE. 

I know I’ve bombarded you with lots of words and information. All you really need to know is, The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon is a must see when you’re in Charleston. Especially if you homeschool or your kids are studying the Revolution. We can’t wait to return with our friends for the Pirate Hunt!





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