Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

Climbing high above the city, Robert Achurch focused his camera on the parallel line between the Washington Light Infantry monument and St. Philip’s Church.

If you’ve stepped outside in Charleston in the last week, you’ve likely encountered some frigid temperatures and a coating of ice on your windshield. Though uncommon for us, significant winter weather in Charleston is not unheard of. With some snow, ice, and arctic chill in the forecast, we thought we would look back at one of the snowier winters The Holy City has seen.

For two weeks in February, 1899, a massive snow storm swept across the United States.  Also referred to as the “Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899,” this storm of snow and ice brought bone-chilling cold from the Arctic that lasted from February 6 – 14.  With an estimated one hundred lives lost nationwide, the blizzard also destroyed countless crops and livestock across the country. Charleston experienced a mixture of snow and sleet February 11 – 12 with reported temperatures of 7°F and four inches of snow.  Undaunted by the weather, amateur photographers Robert Achurch, Franklin Frost Sams, Leila Waring and Sabina Elliott Wells, trudged through the drifts with their heavy cameras to capture this extraordinary snowfall on the peninsula.

“Lizzie in snow.” Elizabeth Gregorie Sams (1870-1941) standing in the yard of the Custom House, with East Bay Street behind her. Photographed by her husband, Dr. Franklin Frost Sams. 

Lined with some of Charleston’s finest homes, the snow covered street of East Battery made a pretty picture after the storm. Photographed by Leila Waring.

Left: Situated next to the Circular Congregational Church, a bicycle rental company is closed for business.  It would seem Charlestonians would rather walk than ride a bicycle on icy streets. Photographed by Franklin Frost Sams.
Right: With St. Philip’s in the background, the empty street of Church, blanketed in snow and untouched by human, horse or motor vehicle, created a stark beauty captured by the camera of Franklin Sams.

A lone figure poses for Sabina Wells on the seawall along East Battery, documenting a very rare Charleston snow drift.

Four inches of snow and 7°F temperature is an unusual event in Charleston but a perfect excuse for ladies to take a leisurely stroll in fur coats and muffs in White Point Garden. Photographed by Leila Waring.

Stay warm, everyone!