Monday, December 1, 2014

Catfish Row - A Quaint Spot of Reflection

Catfish Row, formerly known as Cabbage Row, was the inspiration for the novel, Porgy, by Dubose Heyward. Later, Heyward partnered with George Gershwin to rent a house on Folly Beach to create the play Porgy and Bess, where they would travel by boat each day to write the script. The term "Cabbage Row" originated in a slum area off Church Street just past Tradd, where three-storied houses line up to form a row. The name was changed to Catfish Row after the collaboration between Heyward and Gershwin developed into the dramatic play we've come to know so well in Charleston.

Inhabitants would place cabbage and other vegetables on their window sills for sale during these poor times. Black families, descendants from freed slaves, would live together, sometimes 10 families at a time. The main character for Porgy and Bess, Sammy Smalls, was said to have been an angry crippled black fellow who was thought to have murdered several people. There are many myths with regard to his burial grounds. In keeping with black culture during the time, his grave should not have been dug North to South as his was. The tradition of digging from North to South was for those who died accidentally and "rooted", meaning that the person had been "fixed" or turned via Voodoo or witchcraft. With Smalls, this was not the case. As such, his soul was left to haunt an unknown assailant indefinitely. There are mutterings that his soul still inhabits downtown to this day.

Currently, private homes and businesses make up the local market in the area that has seen much change over the past few years. No longer slums, renovations have been made to improve downtown Charleston with the preservation of these beautiful vignettes. If you get a chance, wander through some of the side streets of Downtown, or better yet take a tour with one of the fabulous guides sprinkled throughout the area. There are many historical stories behind discreet little spots such as this. You'll definitely want to take your camera with you.

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