The architecture of Homes and Buildings in Downtown Charleston
Among the many reasons for Charleston's universal appeal is the
historic architecture of its downtown neighborhoods. The
extent of classic Georgia, Federal, Adamesque, Greek Revival,
Italianate, and Victoria homes is unparalleled anywhere else in
America, but is featured block after block throughout the
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Discover more about the
Charleston's finest homes.
SOUTH OF BROAD
The most famed
and exclusive architecture appears in homes on Charleston's lower
peninsula, south of Broad Street. Along East Bay Street,
world-renowned Rainbow Row is an excellent example of 18th-century
Georgian townhouse construction,
featuring a variety of brick and stucco exteriors painted in a
spectrum of pastels. Arched doorways, gambrel roofs and quoins on
some Rainbow Row exteriors are matched in beauty by paneled
wainscoting and architrave moldings inside. Number 95 was once
owned by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, signer of the U.S.
harbor along East Battery Street is famed Battery Row, a line of
towering waterfront mansions that represent the heyday of
Charleston's visual splendor. Homes here range in origin from 1809
to 1920, and display a mix of styles from Italian Renaissance
Revival to Art Deco. On rooftops supported by an assortment of
Ionic and Tower-of-the-winds columns and pedimented pavillions,
Charlestonians stood watching the firing on Fort Sumter that began
the Civil War, and in still imbedded in a dormer room at number 9
East Battery are remains of a Confederate cannon that exploded and
landed in the house.
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Church and Meeting Streets are dominated by the colonial-era
single and double houses for which Charleston
is so well known. The single house features a multi-story
construction, one room wide, usually with gabled roof, sideways to
the street. Along the southwest face of the house is a full-length
columned porch, or piazza, which is entered by a door on the
street, and from the piazza, a center door leads into the house.
This construction was intended for no other purpose than keeping
the house cool, as prevailing southwest winds would sweep the
house end-to-end, while the piazza roof would shade windows from
The double house
faces the street at full-length, and is characterized by a central
entrance hallway running through the house, with drawing and
living rooms on either side downstairs, and bedroom upstairs.
The Col. Robert
Brewton House at 71 Church Street is one of the earliest surviving
examples of the Charleston single house, dating to 1721, while the
Elliott-Huger House at 34 Meeting is a fine example of an early
double house. Both are brick
structures covered with a layer of ornamental stucco, another
common architectural technique in colonial Charleston which
helped reduce the absorption of water from rain and humidity.
West down South
Battery and up King, Meeting and Legare Streets are some of
Charleston's finest examples of historically decorative
architecture. The John Ashe House at 26 South Battery is built in
the exquisite Italian Villa style, with arcades, bracketed
cornices and round-headed windows. Atop the house is a domed
cupola, which legend says was an early lighthouse, but whose
classic purpose is to draw heat from the rooms below.
At 51 Meeting
Street, the Nathaniel Russell House is one of the city's most
splendid house-museums. Built of brick with white stone trim, the
1811 Adamesque marvel boasts a three-story, rising spiral
staircase, oval drawing rooms and a balustered parapet. A block
away at 27 King Street, the Miles Brewton House is considered
perhaps the finest example of Georgian-Palladian architecture in
existence. With ornate marble steps and platform and elliptical
fanlight, the building's most remarkable feature is its extensive
wrought iron barrier of "cheveaux-de-frise" which was added in
1822 after reports of an attempted slave uprising.
On Legare Street,
stunning wrought iron gates and fences are the rule rather than
the exception, and include the famed "Sword Gates" were added to
the house at number 32 in 1838, while down the street are the
equally-famed "Pineapple Gates" bordering the Adamesque brick
house at number 14.
wooden architecture is no less compelling, and on Broad Street
stand the Edward Rutledge House at 117 and the John Linning House
at 106, both famed 18th-century constructions. Over at number two
Meeting Street is an outstanding Queen Anne style wooden house,
now serving as an Inn, that legend says was built as a wedding
gift in 1892 with $75,000 left on a satin pillow.
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