N.B. This article was revised 14 July 2019.
As I’ve been working on this blog, I’ve started to get to know a variety of cities and small towns in the South. Among them, Georgetown, SC has become one of my favorites. I met native son and ghost tour guide extraordinaire, William Goins, earlier this year and began to delve into the city’s glorious past and even more glorious ghosts.
The stillness of downtown Georgetown was broken early this morning as flames devoured a block of Georgetown’s history. The block of commercial buildings with residential space above them at the core of the historic district between the Rice Museum and the South Carolina Maritime Museum sustained massive damage. The Rice Museum which is not connected was spared, though the Maritime Museum, according to the Georgetown Times, received some damage to its upper floors.
William Goins’ tour began at a bar, Limpin Jane’s, which is where the fire may have started. That building was entirely destroyed along with Harborwalk Books, located a few doors down, which had a marvelous selection of books on local folklore and ghosts.
Most of these buildings dated to the 19th century and had survived the terrible damage inflicted on the city during Hurricane Hugo, the monster hurricane that slammed into the South Carolina coast in 1989. Downtown Georgetown was flooded by the storm surge.
Like the many of the surrounding buildings in the historic district there, this block did contain some ghosts. During my ghost tour earlier this year, I inquired if Limpin’ Jane’s had any activity and Goins replied that some possible activity had been observed in the upper areas of the building. There are questions as to if the spiritual fabric of a location is damaged during events like this.
Most certainly the fire may create some spiritual fabric itself. People in buildings that have burned may sometimes smell smoke or, even worse, the odor of burned flesh. There may be spirits at the location of those who died in the fire. In the case of the Monumental Church in Richmond, Virginia, the fire’s victims are now believed to haunt the building. The church was constructed to the memory of the victims of the 1811 Richmond Theatre fire. The building stands on the site of the theatre and entombs the remains of the victims.
Thankfully, no one was killed in today’s fire in Georgetown. I fully expect that the block will be reconstructed incorporating surviving original elements and I hope to see the block to return in even better condition.
N.B. The buildings that were gutted by fire were torn down later in 2013. The South Carolina Picture Project has a page of photographs of the fire.
- “A block of history destroyed.” Georgetown Times. 25 September 2013.
- Harper, Scott and Clayton Stairs. “Fire in Georgetown: History up in flames.” Georgetown Times. 25 September 2013.