Colorful Landscape Staples that Keep Charleston Beautiful

Spring has sprung in Charleston, as evinced by all the beautiful blooms sprouting in area gardens and parks. When planning your own landscape design, be sure to include plants that are well-adapted to the area. They not only blend well aesthetically with other local flora, but more importantly, thrive in the environment.

The South Carolina Lowcountry is conducive to many plant types, from massive Live Oak trees adorned with Spanish moss that add a canopy of shade, to Southern Pines, to a number of spectacular ornamentals and unique grasses. Here are a few excellent choices for plants that not only do well in the Charleston-area climate, but also add beauty to your home.

 

CAMELLIA

These moderately tall shrubs boast colorful flowers that bloom in the winter. One of the most appealing attributes of the camellia family is that they are evergreen. In the Lowcountry climate, the leaf portion of stays green year-round.

While there are more than 3000 individual varieties across the US South, the Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) is most popular around Charleston. It was brought to the New World late in the 18th century by French botanist Andre Michaux and earned the name the “Rose of Winter.”

The camellia proves hardy in hot Lowcountry summers, and supplies a vibrant show of color through the winter months. You’ll see versions in hot pink, to pale pink, to white, and combinations of those colors. Many of the shades are the perfect landscape compliment to the primary colors of azaleas. Camellias also come in varieties that produce double flowers.

If you would like to see thousands of camellias in bloom, be sure to attend one of Middleton Place’s camellia walks. These free guided tours take place in early February each year, when the flowers are at their most spectacular. You’ll even visit the 1786 Reine des Fleurs, one of the first camellias planted in America.

Did you know that tea leaves come from a camellia? The Camellia sinensis also grows well in the Lowcountry. You can even tour America’s only tea producer, the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island. Here, you’ll see fields of the plants growing – and if you come at the right time, even being harvested. While there, be sure to sample some American Classic Tea.

 

AZALEA

The azalea has provided the most popular spring color display in South Carolina for centuries. Each spring, thousands of avid fans across the south flock to Summerville’s Flowertown Festival to see the blossoms at their peak.

While some cultivators across Charleston are indigenous, others were imported from the Orient. The azalea finds an ideal home in the shade under native Live Oak trees. The pH soil levels in the Lowcountry are also next to perfect for growing massive clusters of azaleas.

The shallow root systems of nearly all azalea varieties are excellent for providing quick moisture from minimal rainfall. In isolated landscape planters, some irrigation can be helpful during long dry spells. They rarely need pruning, except in situations where shaping or containment are desired.

 

CREPE MYRTLE

The crepe myrtle is a flowering shrub that can also grow to heights classified as a tree. Like the camellia and azalea, Lagerstroemia indica has a number of cultivators, many brought to the US from parts of Asia.

The name is indicative of the crepe paper-like bark that covers the tree’s trunk. As a crepe myrtle grows more mature, the light and dark spots on the trunk become an important part of its visual appeal. The pink, purple, or white flowers are equally as breathtaking.

Frequently, crepe myrtles are cut back in the late fall and allowed to winter over with virtually no top portion. During the next spring, shoots of limbs multiply. As the smaller crepe myrtles grows into trees, they provide a color spectacle that can last the better part of the Lowcountry summer.

 

DOGWOOD

Another species of flowering landscape foliage prevalent in the Lowcountry is the dogwood tree. Many native species grow wild in surrounding wooded areas. The two most common colors of its flowers are pink and white. Old dogwood trees often have an under layer of azaleas augmenting their spring display. The dogwood’s flowering is a signal of spring.

While not quite as visible as the bark of the crepe myrtle, the dogwood also has a unique texture to its trunk. As the trees mature, definitive bark grain begins to help foretell the years the tree has been alive.

Many historic homes in and around Charleston are as known for their fantastic gardens as they are for the actual house. Next time you are strolling through downtown Charleston, be sure to notice these popular landscape trees. Together with annual and perennial flowers, they keep Charleston blooming in vibrant color.

 


Enjoy a Taste of Charleston at the Wine & Food Festival

The 2020 Charleston Wine & Food Festival is taking place this Wednesday – Sunday, March 4-8. If you are a foodie, you won’t want to miss this premier event! Charleston is known around the world as one of the most cultured cities in the south. From our beautiful historic homes to our rich southern history, visitors from around the globe can’t get enough of our unique character and culture. But Charleston is also recognized a top culinary destination and you won’t get the full Charleston experience if you aren’t sampling our local cuisines. The first weekend in March is a special opportunity to celebrate our culinary distinctions, taste our southern fare and toast to everything that makes Charleston the gem of the south!

Charleston Wine & Food Festival signThe backbone of the Charleston Wine & Food Festival is the Culinary Village located in Marion Square. Here, you can sample local food and spirits, meet purveyors and chefs, watch cooking demonstrations and purchase goods. More than 100 other events are also planned throughout the week. Highlights for festival goers include:

  • Dinners
  • Workshops
  • Excursions
  • Parties
  • And More

Most events are conveniently located in downtown Charleston within walking distance of Marion Square. Others are throughout the surrounding areas and have shuttle service to the venues.

Charleston Wine & Food Festival sampleAll festival events do require tickets, which fit a variety of budgets. There are even hotel packages to help you plan your full weekend. Note that this event is for adults only – no children under 21 or pets are allowed – so be sure to secure a sitter. Locals can receive discounted tickets to the Culinary Village on Sunday, March 10. Those who want to participate behind the scenes can sign up to volunteer by filling out this form. Find more information including a full calendar, event details and tickets by visiting the official Charleston Wine & Food Festival website at charlestonwineandfood.com. See you there!

Special thanks to Slather Brand Foods for the festival photos.

 


Have Your Best Valentine’s Day in Charleston

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Now is the opportunity to pamper your loved ones – and yourself – with some of the best that Charleston has to offer. Here are our real estate agents’ recommendations for the most romantic spots to celebrate your Valentine’s Day in Charleston. Just click on each name to be linked to the individual businesses’ websites for more information.

 

MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANTS IN CHARLESTON

  • Fulton Five – Consistently rated the Most Romantic Restaurant in Charleston, this cozy Northern Italian eatery located down an alleyway off of King Street earns its marks.
  • R. Kitchen – Chef Ross Webb creates a new four-course menu every night for the 16 lucky guests who sit at the counter in his kitchen in Cannonborough-Elliotborough.
  • Middleton Place Restaurant – Once the daytime crowds have left, enjoy strolling the moonlit pathways of Middleton Place gardens before or after your traditional Southern meal at the restaurant. Don’t miss the Huguenot Torte for dessert! To top your evening off, book a romantic room in the Middleton Inn where you can enjoy champagne and chocolates in a soaking tub or beside the wood-burning fireplace.
  • Zero Restaurant + Bar – Located in a boutique hotel in Ansonborough, this small fine dining spot is the reason why Zero George was named one of Conde Nast’s Top 5 Foodie Hotels in the World.
  • Circa 1886 – Tucked in the former carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion, enjoy the seasonal menu or splurge on the 5-course tasting menu. After dinner, be sure to tour the Wentworth Mansion. If you are lucky, catch a glimpse of the city at twilight from atop their cupola.

 

BEST CHOCOLATES:

Charleston Valentine's Day chocolates & flowers

  • Christophe – Treat yourself to handmade traditional chocolates as well as delicious pastries from French Artisan Chocolatier-Pâtissier Christophe Paume.
  • Market Street Sweets – If chocolate alone isn’t your thing, indulge your sweet tooth with warm pecan pralines and fresh Bear Claws. Originally from River Street in Savannah, this shop also has locations on the Market and King Street. I dare you to walk by the smells wafting out of these shops without stopping for at least a sample!

 

BEST FLORIST:

  • Lotus Flower – Since 2000, the owners have been making some of the most creative arrangements in Charleston.
  • Tiger Lily Florist – The converted service station on Spring Street has become one of downtown Charleston’s premier flower shops, plus they deliver throughout the area.
  • Charleston Flower Market – This long-time shop on Maybank Highway on James Island advertises “uniquely creative” cut flowers and arrangements.

 

BEST SPA:

  • The Spa at Charleston Place – This European-style retreat is located in the Charleston Place Hotel in downtown Charleston. Guests have access to a rooftop pool with retractable glass ceiling. After your appointment, enjoy a poolside lunch. Or have a mommy and me day, treating your daughter to a “Lollipop Manicure.”
  • Earthling Day Spa – Another stalwart of the downtown spa scene, Earthling also houses a Pilates studio.
  • Woodhouse Day Spa – This luxurious spa across the Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant receives rave reviews. They have also recently opened a second area location in the new WestEdge development on the peninsula.

Remember when two people love each other, anything can be romantic! And if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, why not pamper yourself?

How will you spend your Valentine’s Day in Charleston? What are your suggestions for the most romantic spots? Let us know in the comments.

 


4 Things to Look for in a Senior-Friendly Home

While not every senior is in the market for a new home, you may find that it’s one of the best options for aging in place. Whether you currently own a home or are renting, there are ways to ensure your comfort and stability well into your golden years. Here’s what to look for in a senior-friendly home—whether it’s a purchase or renovation.

 

ENOUGH SPACE (BUT NOT TOO MUCH)

When contemplating a home purchase, your primary concern should be space. You want enough living space to be comfortable, but not so much that you spend all your time cleaning or going up and down the stairs. This means, by default, your ideal home will likely have less square footage than where you’re currently living. Because many older adults have mobility challenges, a single-level home may be your best option.

Senior Couple Living in Charleston, SCWhen preparing to move to a smaller home, downsizing your belongings might be next on the list. Downsizing can help eliminate your home’s need for upkeep and reduce your expenses each month. But if you have items that you’re not sure you want to part with, the process can be tough.

Short-term storage offers a convenient way to clear out your home without giving up prized possessions. You can rent a storage unit while considering what to do with those belongings. It’s easy to find affordable temporary storage units in Charleston. While the cost varies by size, the average price per month is only $91.

 

ACCESSIBLE FEATURES FOR AGING IN PLACE

Part of your retirement plan likely involves living at home for as long as possible—or even forever. Therefore, looking for accessible features is crucial when buying or renovating a home. Unfortunately, more than 95% of homes lack accessible features, which means you’ll either need to buy an adapted home or make changes on your own.

Features like low countertops for seated access when using a wheelchair, wide doorways to accommodate mobility issues, and grab bars in the bathroom may be crucial for the safety and enjoyment of your home. But also consider less noticeable elements, such as ground-level entry and doorknobs that don’t require significant grip strength.

In many newer homes, universal design elements are friendly to people of all abilities—not just seniors. Pulls instead of knobs on drawers, under-the-counter appliances, and varied-height countertops are a few highlights. A newer construction property may check all the boxes for your home accessibility needs.

 

PROXIMITY TO COMMUNITY

Whether you’re moving across town or the country, finding a community is vital for older adults. Especially if you’re single or widowed, being near friends and family can help keep you connected.

Senior Couple Living in Charleston, SC

Research has shown that seniors with strong friendships and community ties are healthier than those who spend more time alone. Conversely, seniors who experience social isolation and loneliness may develop or worsen health issues. Happily, Charleston and its suburbs have numerous public activities and volunteer opportunities to keep retirees busy.

Think about what features you want in your community—such as a senior center, fitness facility, parks, or shops, and then center your home search in areas that suit. Fortunately, Charleston has recently been named the #6 city in the US for longevity. Our walkability, gyms, sports opportunities, dog ownership, and healthy food options all help you live a longer, healthier life.

 

THE RIGHT LOAN TERMS FOR SENIOR HOMES

Wherever—and however—you decide to move, buying a home can be a stressful experience. But the rewards are greater than the drawbacks for many seniors. Owning a home provides security and comfort that renting or even senior community living simply can’t—making it an excellent choice for many older adults.

If you are considering a home purchase, think about using a VA loan. For example, PennyMac VA Loans are an excellent benefit for senior veterans. These loans require little to no down payment, they don’t charge private mortgage insurance (PMI), and the rates are often superior to those of conventional loan options.

Other loan types—including down payment assistance programs and special purchase credits—are also available for seniors. And in some cases, a first-time homebuyer program may be appropriate. Speak to a knowledgeable real estate agent to determine the best choice for your financial situation.

 

Disher, Hamrick & Myers offers a variety of senior-friendly housing options. In-city condos (such as those at Dockside Condominiums) are perfect for those looking to achieve a more maintenance-free lifestyle, yet remain close to everything downtown Charleston has to offer. Many of our listings also include accessibility features, one-story floor plans, or elevators to help you age in place. No matter what type of retirement living is right for you, our team of local real estate agents will help you find the perfect place to call home in your retirement years!

 

Author Jim Vogel is founder of elderaction.org.

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Southern Holiday Traditions

How do you celebrate Christmas in Charleston and where did those traditions originate? The South is rich in history, and Charleston is no exception. Did you know that Southern states were the first to adopt Christmas as a legal holiday? (Alabama in 1836, followed by Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.) Over the years, it’s no surprise that many regional Southern holiday traditions have spread around the country.

CHARLESTON’S POINSETTIA ROOTS

Southern holiday poinsettiaToday we hail the poinsettia as the official plant of the Christmas season. Did you know this is thanks to a South Carolina gentleman by the name of Joel Robert Poinsett? Poinsett was in the US House of Representatives and also served as the Minister to Mexico. While on a trip to Mexico in 1925, he discovered the festive red-colored flower. He brought it home to Charleston and introduced it as a holiday adornment. The rest is history. Today, throughout the South and the nation you will see these beautiful flowers displayed on the inside and outside of homes during the Yuletide season.

CITRUS FOR THE SEASON

Southern holiday citrus decorationsIt is a Southern holiday tradition to this day for Santa to leave some citrus fruit in children’s stockings. No, it’s not a gimmick to take up space. Years ago, finding citrus in your stocking in the middle of winter was a luxury. Citrus was only available during certain seasons of the year, so to receive an orange at Christmas was a special and expensive treat. Decorating wreaths, trees and holiday decor with different citrus fruits is still a tradition today. In fact, take a tour around Downtown Charleston or visit one of the museum houses to see citrus and evergreen decorations on the outsides as well as interiors of historic Charleston homes. To view some beautiful examples, visit The Charleston Museum’s blog showcasing the Garden Club of Charleston’s traditional holiday decorations at the Joseph Manigault House. They will be on display to the public through December 31.

FRIED TURKEY, OYSTERS & PECAN PIE

Southern holiday oystersWhat would a Southern meal be without any of these delicacies? Fresh oysters are popular during the holiday season because their harvest is best during the coldest time of year. (Remember the old adage that oysters are good during months that have an “R” in their names.) Deep frying as a preparation for turkey also originated in the South. And don’t forget the pecan pie for dessert. The documented history of this recipe dates back to the 1880s. Legend says the French in New Orleans made a version of it after Native Americans introduced them to the pecan tree. Today this gooey, delicious Southern treat has spread across the country and is a staple this time of year. Visit Southern Living for a variety of delicious pecan pie recipes and other traditional Southern holiday foods.

What holiday treats and traditions does your family celebrate? Please share in the comments. Disher, Hamrick & Myers wishes HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all!


If this discussion of Southern holidays makes you yearn for a home in beautiful Charleston, SC, give us a call at 843.577.4115. Disher, Hamrick & Myers has been a leader in Charleston real estate since 1984. From historic downtown to the islands, we will help you find your dream property!

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French Quarter Art Walk

Disher, Hamrick & Myers is proud to be located in the heart of the city’s original commercial district on Broad Street in the French Quarter of historic downtown Charleston. And one of our neighborhood’s favorite events is coming up tomorrow, Friday, December 6: the Charleston Gallery Association’s French Quarter Art Walk. This will be the last Art Walk of the year. Over 40 galleries and shops will stay open from 5-8 in the evening to welcome art lovers and guests. Many serve wine and light refreshments and host artists and exhibit openings. USAToday named the Art Walk one of the  10BEST “Free Things to Do” in Charleston.

ART WALK INSIDER TIPS

All the participants are within walking distance and maps can be picked up at any location. You may start at any one and visit as many as you wish at your own pace. Strike up a lively conversation with a gallery owner or artist. Discuss your reaction to a painting or sculpture, and maybe even find a piece to add to your own collection. Art prices are very accessible. Prints and original pieces are available for under $50. Larger pieces of fine art and jewelry are priced up to the tens of thousands of dollars. There is truly the opportunity for everyone to find something they can afford and enjoy.

French Quarter art walkArchitecture buffs should be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see inside and behind the buildings normally only glimpsed from the street front. To make the most of your experience, venture off the beaten path to shops and galleries that are located in alleyways or on the second or third levels of buildings. The streets will be bustling with locals and visitors of all ages.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF DECEMBER 6, 2019

This Friday’s Art Walk includes special events at the following galleries:

After the Art Walk, treat yourself to a cocktail or dinner at one of the French Quarter’s restaurants, like the upscale Oak Steakhouse or Disher, Hamrick & Myers’ neighbor, the Blind Tiger Pub. The weather should be pleasantly warm and sunny, presenting the perfect opportunity to stroll the historic streets of downtown Charleston. Beautiful weather, art, architecture, food, drink, and company – what more could you ask for on a Friday evening? We look forward to seeing you all there!

 


Advice for Downsizing Seniors to Help Decide the Fate of Their Home

Are you or someone you know looking at downsizing your home? At times, moving can seem more like an onslaught of decisions than an exciting transition. Even after you’ve decided on a new home, you’re still left with the fate of the old property. You could sell it to boost your savings, rent it out to earn a monthly income, or hand it over to a family member for safe keeping.

While each option comes with positives and negatives, the best choice will depend on your unique situation. Let’s dive into some of the details of each scenario to give you a better perspective on what’s best.

 

SELL IT TO BOOST YOUR SAVINGS

The natural process of moving usually sees the owner of the home sell their previous house and put the earnings towards the purchase of their next home. This tried-and-true option usually yields the smoothest transition. Downsizing seniors are particularly fond of this choice. If the current home is paid for, they often don’t have to worry about taking out a loan or managing another mortgage. They can simply sell their old house to pay for their new one.

Before placing your home on the market, it’s important to scan local listings for some information. You need to note the average cost that homes are selling for, and think about what your own home might be worth. For example, Redfin notes the average home in Charleston is selling for around $325,000. Make some comparisons, and if the price is something you’re comfortable with, you can move onto the next step of hiring a real estate agent and preparing your home to sell.

 

Downsizing Seniors in Charleston, SCRENT IT OUT TO EARN MONTHLY INCOME

It’s no secret that living on a fixed income can be challenging. When you’re in this position, renting out your old home can be a great way to enjoy some passive income. Just be sure the rent you charge is sufficient to cover the expenses of ongoing homeownership – such as property taxes, upkeep, and utilities – and still enough to pad your nest egg.

Don’t forget that having a rental property is an investment and a business. You have to front costs for updates and renovations to make the home more appealing to potential tenants. You also have to be proactive about finding reliable renters with clean records and little-to-no debt. If you’re interested in the income but don’t want the hassle of managing the property, you can hire a professional property manager to handle all of the details.

 

TRANSFER IT TO A FAMILY MEMBER

For some seniors, no amount of money or monthly income can convince them to let go of their beloved home. Too many good memories and meaningful experiences are tied up in the house to simply give it away. If this is how you feel about your old home, you don’t have to sell it or rent it when downsizing. Instead, you may wish to hand it over to a family member for safe-keeping.

Bear in mind, transferring a large asset like a house can have some complex tax ramifications. It’s best to discuss this option with an elder law attorney before jumping in.

On the upside, having someone living in the house ensures it will be maintained. Also, an empty property is more likely to fall victim to theft or vandalism, so you avoid those concerns as well. What’s more, if it’s left empty for long, insurers may void your policy.

It’s not easy to decide the fate of an old home when your circumstances require a downsizing. To help make the decision easier, take note of all your potential options and weigh the pros and cons of each. Once you sort your options, you’re sure to find the best choice for your circumstances.

 

Author Jim Vogel is founder of elderaction.org.


A Tale of Two Charleston Live Theatres

Charleston is home to many firsts, including America’s first museum, first golf course, first regularly-scheduled passenger train, and of course the first historic district. But did you know we also had the first theatre – which predates America itself?

That’s right, New York’s Broadway isn’t the only place famous for offering live stage performances. To this day, Charleston, South Carolina continues to present many different entertainment options, making it an enticing place to live or visit.

Two Charleston theatres are DHM’s neighbors in the French Quarter neighborhood of downtown Charleston. Each has its own place in our nation’s dramatic history. Here are their stories.

 

THE DOCK STREET THEATRE

The oldest and most famous place to experience live theatre in Charleston is the historic Dock Street Theatre. It is located on the corner of Church Street and Queen Street, which was previously named Dock Street. The original structure on the site dated to 1736 and was the very first building in the colonies constructed exclusively for live theatre.

Its first production was of George Farquhar’s rather risqué play, The Recruiting Officer. This popular 18th century script was also the first to be staged on Broadway, and continues to be performed contemporarily. The first opera recital in America, Flora, also took place at the Dock Street.

Iron Balcony at Planters Hotel, Docks Street Theatre, CharlestonThat original building was probably lost along with many of its neighbors in the Great Fire of 1740. Roughly 70 years later, in 1809, the current building was erected on the site. It operated as the Planter’s Hotel for the next 136 years. In 1835, a balcony trimmed with exquisite iron railings was added. That balcony still exists above the current entrance.

Unfortunately, the Civil War destroyed much of the rest of the hotel. It stood in disrepair until the Great Depression, when it was slated for demolition. However, in 1935, the building was purchased by the City of Charleston and renovated as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The interior of the existing hotel was retrofitted to return the building to its original purpose as a live theatre.

Stage at the Dock Street Theatre, CharlestonMore than 100 years after its first opening performance, the restored Dock Street Theatre held a second grand opening in November 1937. Following historic precedent, it staged a revival of The Recruiting Officer. The revitalized theatre enjoyed decades as Charleston’s primary venue for stage performances. It earned recognition on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

But by the 21st century, the stage was showing its age. Dated facilities and uncomfortable seating drew from its appeal. This time, the City of Charleston undertook a state-of-the-art renovation. Completed in March 2010, it leaves the Dock Street well-equipped to enter its fourth century at the heart of Charleston’s artistic community.

Dock Street Theatre, Charleston, SCSince 1978, Charleston Stage has been the resident theatrical company at the Dock Street. They produce more than 100 performances each year. Today, you can experience live theatre in America’s first playhouse, as countless residents and visitors alike have over the years. The current schedule is available here.

 

THE QUEEN STREET PLAYHOUSE

While the Dock Street is the oldest physical theatre in Charleston, the Footlight Players are the longest existing theatre company in the city. Formed in 1931, they originally acted on various stages around Charleston, including the Dock Street. In fact, they are the troupe who performed at the 1937 second opening of the Dock Street Theatre. They remained in residence there until 1941.

Queen Street Playhouse, Charleston, SCBy that time, the Players realized the need for their own performance space. They had purchased a c. 1850 cotton warehouse at 20 Queen Street back in 1934. That facility initially functioned as storage and scenery construction space, but soon proved an ideal location for their needs. Volunteers remodeled the building into a true community playhouse.

Over the next few decades, the Footlight Players regularly performed at their own theatre as well as the Dock Street and other locations throughout the city. In 1986, they moved exclusively to the Queen Street location. However, it was more than 30 years later, in August 2018, that the current name was adopted. Today, the Footlight Players host dozens of live performances each year at the rebranded Queen Street Playhouse.

 

OTHER CHARLESTON THEATRES

There are plenty of other live theatre venues in the Charleston area. Light-hearted comedy, mystery, magic, and musical shows make for a fun night on the town. Pure Theatre and the Woolfe Street Playhouse are more contemporary spaces, while the grand Gaillard Center and the North Charleston Performing Arts Center bring in national and international artists and productions. And don’t forget our local college and university drama departments. Even with all these choices, the Dock Street Theatre and Queen Street Playhouse retain their own revered places in Charleston’s dramatic history.

 


DHM Proudly Sponsors the Fall Tours

Disher, Hamrick & Myers Real Estate is proud to sponsor The Preservation Society of Charleston’s 43rd Annual Fall Tours of Homes, History, & Architecture. This year, the tours take place from October 3 – November 2. This highly-anticipated event is The Preservation Society’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Founded in 1920, the organization’s goals are to recognize, protect, and advocate for the Lowcountry’s historic places.

If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the grand historic estates in downtown Charleston, this is your chance. Volunteer homeowners open their doors to you and welcome you into their homes. Each tour includes 6-8 properties within walking distance, with guides stationed to help you navigate your way, as well as docents in each home to tell you more about its history, architecture, furnishings, and art.

In addition to the ever-popular house tours, there are garden tours, which let you peek behind the gates into private oases. Each Thursday, a curated tour of gardens is led by industry professionals, for those who desire a deeper dive into Charleston’s horticulture.

Then on Fridays, professional and amateur photographers alike are invited to attend a 3-hour walkabout that will teach them how to take stunning architectural photographs for their own collections. Be sure to bring a camera or phone to capture your masterpieces.

And early birds can take a morning history walk through downtown’s streets. While these strolls do not include admission into private homes or gardens, they are a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our beautiful city. Topics vary and include ironwork, the Grimke Sisters, architecture, and even our graveyards.

So put on your walking shoes and join DHM in supporting the Preservation Society for the 2019 Fall Tours!

 

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The History of Row Houses in Charleston

Row houses are a distinctive part of the architecture of many of the oldest cities across the United States. The style first appeared in Europe at the Place des Vosges in Paris, early in the 17th century, concurrent with the founding of America. It followed settlers across the Atlantic to the colonies, where early cities were founded near the water or on peninsulas. These connected homes make the most of limited land. Accordingly, they are prominent in port cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

 

WHAT IS A ROW HOUSE?

A row house is a single-family dwelling of at least 2 stories that shares one or both walls and roofline with a neighbor. While this definition also applies to townhouses, they differ in that row houses are very similar in architectural design and the facades are aligned. Townhouses, on the other hand, can be staggered from the street and may differ vastly in style.

Brownstone row housesOne well-known example of a row house is a New York brownstone, named after the reddish-brown color of sandstone on the exterior. Throughout Europe, row houses are called terraced houses. But across the US South, “row house” is a more generic term referring to any long contiguous group of residences. While there are a few brownstones in Charleston, row houses are more common along our historic streets.

 

CHARLESTON’S ROW HOUSES

A number of streets in downtown Charleston are adorned with beautiful row houses that date to the city’s earliest residents. Many of Charleston’s row houses have balconies with elaborate iron railings.

One such row has earned worldly distinction: Rainbow Row. This stretch of 13 homes is located on East Bay Street, just South of Broad. The collection of different pastel colors used on each individual residence led Robert Ripley of “Believe It Ot Not” fame to coin the term Rainbow Row.

While Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed areas in downtown Charleston, it has not always been that way. The homes were built in the middle of the 18th century as modest residences. Merchants working Charleston Harbor could conduct business downstairs and live upstairs.

99-101 East Bay Street Row HousesAfter the Civil War, the area was so rundown it was deemed a slum and stayed in disrepair for almost a century. Then in 1931, Judge Lionel Legge and his wife Dorothy purchased a block of the homes. It was Dorothy’s idea to paint the homes in colorful pastels, to reflect the city’s Colonial Caribbean affinity. She painted their primary residence at 99-101 East Bay Street pink.

Eventually, the entire row was repainted in various pastels. There is a longstanding legend that the homes were painted different colors so that drunken sailors could find their way to the proper front door. However, since the homes receive a generous amount of sunshine, it is more likely Legge’s motivation was to make the houses cooler in the hot South Carolina summers.

Whatever the original reason, these charming Charleston row houses have captivated the imagination and love of locals and tourists alike.