Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



Get hauled off to the dungeon in Charleston

Posted 1/13/2011 10:25:00 PM

There are lots of great historic buildings in Charleston, but only one offers to lock unruly children up in the dungeon at their parents’ command.

OK, so I doubt any kids have actually been locked up while touring Charleston’s Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, but the tour guide did offer. I doubt that children are ever that unruly there; the place is one of the most kid-friendly historic sites in the Holy City.

Why? One word: pirates.

In 1718, Stede Bonnet, the so-called “Gentleman Pirate,” and his crew were held prisoner in a guardhouse near the site of the Old Exchange (the existing dungeon hadn’t been built yet). The crew was eventually hanged and their bodies left hanging on the Battery as a warning to other pirates.

Today, when you visit the Provost Dungeon, animatronic characters -- the Deputy Collector, Mister Mate and Tom the Stockman – tell the story of Charleston’s pirate history. (Note: on my most recent visit, the animatronics were out of commission, but the guide said they would be up and running again shortly. When I’ve visited in the past, the animatronics have proved to be high quality and a real hit with young visitors.)

The costumed tour guides at the Provost Dungeon make the tour engaging and entertaining for adults and children, providing insight into the location’s architecture and importance during the American Revolution.

Upstairs, there is a more adult-oriented, self-guided section of the tour that lays out more about the history of Old Exchange, which served as the Customs House. There also is a wonderful exhibit of dresses, waistcoats and other items from the everyday life of Revolutionary era Charleston.

The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for students and children ages 7-12. Children 6 and younger are admitted free.

Click here for more information on the history of the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon or for help planning your visit.