Disher, Hamrick & Myers is proud to announce we are the presenting sponsor for the 2024 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League (CSOL) Designer Showhouse, as the beloved annual event returns for the first time in 4 years. This exciting partnership between CSOL and DHM highlights our shared commitment to the arts and the vibrant cultural scene in Charleston. We hope locals and visitors alike will take this unique opportunity to explore a stunningly-designed historic home while supporting a worthy cause.
The Designer Showhouse showcases the talents of local designers and raises vital funds to support the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League’s mission. The CSOL plays a pivotal role in promoting and supporting the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and its educational programs, ensuring that music remains an integral part of our community.
This year’s Designer Showhouse takes place at the John Rudolph Switzer House at 6 Montagu Street in historic downtown Charleston. The 1803 double house is one of several in the Harleston Village neighborhood to be lovingly restored by the current owner. Previously divided into apartments, it’s being returned to its original intent as a single-family home. The renovation includes restoring the historic part of the house while adding a 3-story contemporary wing to the back. The grounds and gardens will also be newly landscaped.
The event kicks off February 4th with a “Blue Jeans and Blueprints Bare Boards” party that will give attendees a chance to see the home before it begins its transformation and meet with designers, architects, builder, and landscapers. Then, from March 13 to April 13, visitors can tour the home and experience the creativity and talent of 14 local interior designers. There will also be a popup shop for those looking to take some inspiration home. In addition to the opening night celebration on March 12, special events include an evening of champagne and songs, a St. Patrick’s Day garden party, a Gullah brunch, afternoon tea, and supper club. For more information and tickets, click here.
Disher, Hamrick & Myers has long been a champion of the arts and community initiatives. “We are honored to support the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League,” said Herbert Butler, REALTOR® at DHM. “Their work in promoting music education and appreciation in our community aligns with our own values of community engagement and support.” Broker-Associate Douglas Berlinsky adds, “It’s especially exciting this year to feature a historic home that is being converted from multi-family apartments back to its original purpose as a single-family residence. DHM is proud to support such initiatives within historic downtown Charleston.”
DHM invites you to join us at the 2024 CSOL Designer Showhouse as we champion the power of music to inspire and unite our city.
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
Today 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 United States 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
To this day, it’s a Southern holiday tradition 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 fruits were only available during certain seasons of the year, so receiving 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, try one of these tours. Or if you can’t make it in person, you can watch the Garden Club of Charleston create their annual traditional holiday decorations at the Joseph Manigault House.
FRIED TURKEY, OYSTERS, & PECAN PIE
What 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!
Charleston, South Carolina is a city known for its rich history and beautiful architecture. From opulent estates to charming cottages, Charleston is home to a range of architectural styles influenced by different cultural inspirations as well as years of expansion and development. From the Georgian Revival of the Colonial period, to the Greek Revival and Italianate styles of the early 19th century, to the Gothic Revival of the mid-19th century, Charleston’s architecture provides a window into the city’s past.
As a result, today Charleston is not just an amazing tourist destination, it’s also a great place to call home. Let’s take a closer look at some of the popular architectural styles in Charleston and the distinctive qualities that make them cherished by residents and visitors alike. The next time you’re out walking the charming streets of historic downtown Charleston, keep your eyes open to spy each of these examples. Experience the beautiful way they all fit together to create one of the most magical cities in America.
CHARLESTON SINGLE HOUSE
Emerging in the late 18th century, the Charleston single house remains the most popular architectural style in historic downtown Charleston. These long, narrow, two- or three-story structures are one room wide and oriented perpendicular to the street. A covered porch, called a “piazza,” runs the length of the house. What appears to be a front door instead opens to the piazza, with the main entrance located on the side of the building.
Single houses are found throughout the city, but are most prevalent in the French Quarter, South of Broad. A great way to see a variety is to partake in a First Friday Art Walk, which will wind you through the alleyways and cobblestone streets of this section of town.
Double houses were also built starting in the late 18th century, but never reached the widespread popularity of the Charleston single house. These large, two-story homes are two rooms deep by two rooms wide, symmetrically divided by a center stair hall. Unlike single houses, the long facade of the house fronts the street. Piazzas can be placed on the front or side, and often feature intricate wrought-iron railings.
With its pleasing symmetry and simple, yet opulent embellishments, Gregorian style was prevalent in Charleston throughout the 18th century. Its design harkens back to traditional structures from Greece and Rome. In order to convey flawless cohesion, it stresses equilibrium and mathematical dimensions. Georgian structures typically have a flat facade with symmetrical windows and doors. They are frequently decorated with granite pillars, limestone ornamentation, and ornate cornices. This classic style is seen not only in downtown residences and public buildings, but is also closely associated with antebellum plantation houses.
One of the most famous Charleston Georgian structures is Drayton Hall. This 18th-century brick estate with striking double portico is the only Ashley River plantation house to survive the Civil War. It is currently owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open for public tours. The Heyward-Washington House is another Georgian residence you can visit to see where America’s first president stayed during his visit to the city in 1791.
Another neoclassical variation that blossomed in Charleston is Federal, or Adams style architecture. While also based on the classical ideals of order and symmetry, its decorative details are more delicate than Georgian architecture. Look for a center-hall floor plan, an elliptical fanlight over the front door, also flanked by sidelights, and Palladian windows. The exteriors may include octagonal or oval projections with correspondingly-shaped interior rooms.
Federal style was extensively adopted in Charleston in the decades surrounding the turn of the 19th century. The Nathaniel Russell House, constructed in 1808, is one of Charleston’s (and indeed, America’s) finest examples. It features rectangular, oval, and square rooms on each of three floors. Owned by Historic Charleston Foundation, it has been exquisitely restored to its original condition and is open for public tours. Another Federal home, the Joseph Manigault House, is also available to visit through The Charleston Museum.
Victorian style originated in England during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and immediately became fashionable in the US as well. Victorian homes are marked by ornate and detailed design elements. Many feature asymmetrical shapes, steep roofs, large front porches, and intricate ornamentation such as stained glass windows, decorative ironwork, and ornamental shingles. The use of vibrant colors and bold patterns is another a hallmark of Victorian design. As this style persisted for so many decades, it spawned several subgenres.
Italianate architecture is a variation of the Victorian style that was all the rage in America in the latter part of the 19th century. It is characterized by rectangular structures with wide-hipped, low-pitched roofs. They are often topped with square cupolas. Windows are tall and usually rounded at the top, without shutters. Decorative corbels with ornate brackets and cornices support overhanging eaves. Italian motifs frequently find their way into masonry and stonework.
A fine example of civic Italianate architecture that you can visit today is the Dock Street Theatre. In 1835, it underwent renovations that added a projecting loggia supported by brownstone columns and topped with an ornate cast-iron balcony. Downtown Charleston’s largest private home, the Williams Mansion, is another remarkable example of an Italianate style building.
Another recognizable form in Charleston’s architectural history is Greek Revival. This style uses classical Greek components such as columns, pediments, and friezes, and first appeared in the early 19th century.
The impressive US Custom House, with its stately portico, tall Corinthian columns, and temple fronts, is one of Charleston’s most visible examples of Greek Revival architecture. Another noteworthy instance is the Edmondston-Alston House. This gorgeously maintained home on Charleston’s High Battery is open for tours. Or if you prefer a home that has been preserved without restoration, visit the Aiken-Rhett House. This double house had Greek Revival features added in 1831.
Gothic Revival style draws influence from the medieval era and makes a bold statement on Charleston’s architectural landscape. This style is distinguished by tall towers, rib vaults, elaborate parapets, and a profusion of pointed arched windows. It was commonly used amongst the Holy City’s churches. The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, the French Huguenot Church, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, the Unitarian Church, and Mother Emmanuel AME all make use of Gothic Revival architecture. It can even be found on much less grand scale, in the outbuildings that make up the urban plantation behind the Aiken-Rhett House.
If all this talk of Charleston’s architectural diversity and beauty makes you want to visit, or perhaps even move to our beautiful city, be sure to call Disher, Hamrick & Myers for all your Charleston real estate needs. With over 40 years in business downtown, nobody knows the area and the housing market better. If you’re moving to Charleston from another state and searching for long distance movers, don’t forget to team up with the right pros. You’ll be able to get a start on exploring your new city without an ounce of worry while the experts take care of your furniture and possessions. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy all that Charleston has to offer.
Fort Sumter House at 1 King Street began its existence as the Fort Sumter Hotel, which opened to guests in 1924. Designed by prominent commercial architect G. Lloyd Preacher of Atlanta, GA, the Spanish Colonial-style structure was built at a cost of $850,000. The 7-story building is located along the South Battery, directly adjacent to White Point Garden. At its inception, it was the tallest building, as well as the only luxury hotel on the Charleston Peninsula. A 1929 brochure boasts, “spacious lobbies, sun parlors and terraces, comfortable and luxuriously furnished, overlook the water and offer cordial hospitality in an atmosphere to be found in few hotels.”
The second floor featured a grand ballroom and lounge. The ground level housed a dining room, which for many years was one of downtown Charleston’s few restaurants. From 1954-1973, this eatery was called the Rampart Room. It was decorated with images of Southern Colonels and murals of Charleston scenes. A rarity in its time, it touted air conditioning and “manufactured ice” in its drinks.
The Fort Sumter Hotel has had its share of notable guests. John F. Kennedy, then a young Naval intelligence officer, stayed in 1942. While there, he engaged in a tryst with a suspected German spy that was recorded by the FBI. The ensuing scandal changed the course of history. Playwright Tennessee Williams and Producer Irene Selznick visited in 1947. In fact, Williams hand wrote scenes for “A Streetcar Named Desire” on hotel stationery. Between those dates it served as the headquarters for the Sixth Naval District (prior to its move to the old Navy Base), before being remodeled and returned to hotel operation.
Throughout the 1950s, famed Charleston Renaissance artist Alfred Hutty’s paintings and etchings were on permanent exhibit in the hotel. He even held annual exhibitions there in the hopes of selling this work to the steadily-growing number of tourists in the Holy City. His 1949 mural “Attack on Fort Sumter” occupied a prominent place in the hotel lobby, where a full-sized reproduction still hangs today. (The original can now be found in the auditorium of The Charleston Museum.)
In 1967, Sheraton purchased the hotel for $435,000 and spent half a million dollars on renovations. They would be the last corporation to run the Fort Sumter as a hotel. In 1973, a group of local investors bought the property for $850,000 – the same price as it originally cost to build half a century earlier. The Fort Sumter Hotel closed in 1973 and its 225 rooms were converted into 67 condominiums at a cost of $2 million.
The condo conversion required a change in zoning which then-Mayor Palmer Gaillard said would “have a major significance on zoning throughout the city.” A contemporary marketing piece noted that “Fort Sumter House represents the only high-rise structure of its kind in the historic area of the city, local sentiment and strict zoning dictate that no other structures of this height can ever be constructed.” In 2022, the building underwent an extensive $4.5 million renovation. Today, there are 72 residential units and businesses have returned to the ground floor. Fort Sumter House is one of many notable examples of adaptive reuse in this historic city.
Residents of the building enjoy panoramic views of White Point Gardens, historic Battery mansions, city rooftops and steeples, the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, the Ravenel Bridge, Patriots Point and the Yorktown, and even Fort Sumter and the Atlantic Ocean. The South of Broad location at the corner of King Street and Murray Blvd. can’t be beat. Amenities include on-site security, parking lots, an exercise room, and private palmetto tree-lined pool along the Battery. If you would like to live in this piece of Charleston history, Disher, Hamrick & Myers’s has offered several units for sale in recent years. Give us a call at 843.577.4115 to learn what is available today.
Charleston consistently tops major publications’ “best-of” lists for the most desirable places to live and visit. Full of historic Southern sensibilities, our home exteriors are unique from other areas of the country. To increase the curb appeal of your Charleston home and capture the attention of neighbors and passersby alike, consider these exterior design ideas.
CREATE A LUSH GARDEN
Charleston benefits from a subtropical climate with mild winters, hot, humid summers, and plentiful year-round rainfall. This weather provides the ideal conditions for maintaining lush, green gardens that are a calling card of Charleston, SC homes. Centipede, Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine grasses all thrive in Southern lawns. Magnolia, palmetto, dogwood, and crepe myrtle trees create quintessential Lowcountry charm. Azalea, camellia, and hydrangea bushes add pops of color.
For a place to enjoy a glass of sweet tea or an after-work cocktail, consider a patio or deck. Adding a pergola will give your outdoor space an extra touch of character, plus provide comfort in the Southern sun.
REPLACE THE CONCRETE DRIVEWAY
While concrete driveways are a staple of suburban America, their bland, highly-processed look is not as appropriate in Charleston — especially on the downtown peninsula, which still maintains historic cobblestone streets.
Some of the better alternatives to concrete driveways include:
Brick – This is a timeless choice appropriate for period homes. There are also alternatives to laying a traditional brick driveway. Innovative pavers give the appearance of natural brick, yet come in prefabricated sections that are easier to work with.
Gravel – A gravel driveway is a great Charleston choice, with a look that fits our coastal atmosphere and superior drainage during times of heavy rainfall. Modern interlocking grids hold the gravel in place and prevent the formation of ruts and clumps.
Cobblestone – Cobblestone is a classic driveway material that will make your home’s exterior authentically Charleston. It fits the sensibilities of 19th-century style, plus is extremely durable and resistant to staining.
Hybrid – A combination of classic driveway materials can maximize a Charleston home’s curb appeal. Fill the main bed with cinders or pea gravel to enhance drainability, while lining the perimeter with bricks or cobblestones to create a bold period statement.
CHOOSE COLORFUL SIDING
Charleston is all about colorful homes. In fact, Rainbow Row on East Bay Street, which features homes in various pastel hues, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. However, the best house siding material is about more than just color. To maintain a vibrant appearance in warm, salty air, consider these options:
Composites – Natural wood is a favorite home siding choice, but it does not perform as well in areas where moisture can be absorbed. Fortunately, there are a plethora of composites, such as fiber cement and vinyl, that give the appearance of natural wood. These synthetic siding materials are lightweight and manufactured in a number of colors, keeping a Charleston home’s clean appearance for many years without the threat of moisture damage.
Stucco – As long as you have solid moisture barriers between stucco and its substrate, stucco will last many years in a warm climate. Stucco’s ability to provide a uniform front makes it a particularly strong option for capturing Charleston’s colorful charm.
Brick – While the array of color options doesn’t match composites or stucco, brick is nonetheless a Charleston favorite. Its natural appearance restores the classic beauty of historic homes. Modern brick facade materials offer an increased selection of designs and colors, making it easier than ever to incorporate into a siding renovation.
INSTALL WINDOW SHUTTERS
With well over 200 days of sunshine each year, Charlestonians have to consider this element in their window choices. It’s a good idea to use low-E and double-paned windows to help control solar radiation entering the house. But don’t forget aesthetic when using these modern materials, especially on days when windows are just meant to be open. Six-over-six double-hung windows were particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and remain so today. You’ll also find variations on the number of panes throughout the historic district, along with arches (particularly on Palladian windows), and big bay windows. French doors and sliders are other Lowcountry essentials for easy access to the outdoors and letting in fresh air.
Another classic Charleston exterior design element is the window shutter. Historic homes used shutters to protect expensive glass from strong winds and battering rains. And while window design and installation have improved to make the shutter largely functionally obsolete, its appeal remains as strong as ever. Louver and panel styles maintain an old-world feel, while Bermuda shades are popular on the beaches. Adding shutters to even the most modern residences will give your home a timeless appeal.
Skylar Ross is a contributor to the Innovative Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Skylar focuses on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.
If you’re not from the Lowcountry, you might be curious about those long green planks on rockers that grace the piazzas of many Charleston, SC homes. They’re called joggling boards, and their history and folklore are quite interesting.
CREATION OF THE JOGGLING BOARD
Joggling boards are typically 16 feet long and made of flexible pine painted Charleston green (a tint so dark it almost appears black). Although they are mainly used for decoration or fun seating today, they actually started out as an exercise device. According to legend, the first joggling board was built at Acton Plantation in Sumter County in the early 1800s. The owner of the plantation, Cleland Kinloch, was a widower who invited his widowed sister Mary Huger to run the household. That woman developed rheumatoid arthritis that made it too painful for her to do many activities. Riding in a carriage that was outfitted with a rocking chair was one of the few things she could enjoy. Upon hearing this, the Kinlochs’ relatives in Scotland devised an apparatus that would simulate the movement of a carriage ride and gently “joggle” its occupant back and forth, up and down, providing a little exercise and joint pain relief. The result was the joggling board.
Soon many houses in Charleston and across the state had joggling boards. They provided a fun way to relax on your porch or in your yard as you enjoyed the breezes and took a break from the southern heat. Throughout the 19th century they became so ubiquitous that they made their way into some of life’s most important events.
One of the more colorful stories in Southern lore says that no house with a joggling board on its front porch has an unmarried daughter living there. Back in the days when proper young couples couldn’t be alone together without supervision, the distance of the joggling board was deemed adequate protection. So if the young lady sat on one end and her suitor on the other, they were far enough apart not to require a chaperone. But as they talked and joggled, they’d slowly move closer to each other. If they got so close that his hand touched her knee, her reputation for purity would be ruined and he’d be forced to propose marriage. Imagine a father concerned that his daughter may become a spinster deciding that his best option was to get a joggling board!
Another popular use was to rock babies to sleep. Nannies were often seen soothing fussy infants with the gentle swaying motion.
JOGGLING BOARDS TODAY
In the 20th century, the cost of suitable lumber increased to the point where joggling boards fell out of fashion. Today, however, they are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. One of the first companies to bring them back is based in Charleston. They harken back to a more genteel time and still provide an enjoyable place to sit. Plus they require less space than a porch swing. As not all houses have expansive porches, modern versions are built in various smaller sizes. They are particularly well-loved by children.
The single house is an architectural style found almost exclusively in Charleston, SC. This home plan gives the historic city much of its unique charm. The layout of a single house is ideally suited to the narrow street-facing lots originally laid out in Charleston in the late 17th and early 18th centuries (see Grand Modell). The homes are only one room wide and two rooms deep on each level, with a central hall between. Typically a porch, or “piazza” as it is known in Charleston, runs the length of the house. A public door faces the street, but leads only to the piazza. Visitors must enter the home through this entrance and traverse the porch before entering the central private door into the home. To take best advantage of prevailing breezes, piazzas face south or west.
Public spaces, like an entry or office, inhabit the first floor. Entertaining spaces, such as drawing rooms, withdrawing rooms, or ballrooms, occupy the second floor. This put them above the hustle and bustle (and mess and smells) of the streets. Family spaces and bedrooms are found on the third floor. Each room incorporates more or less decorative detail according to its use. Second floor spaces have the highest ceilings, with intricate and colorful moldings. Those high ceilings, coupled with tall windows, allow breezes to flow through the rooms. In the days before air conditioning, this helped make Lowcountry weather more bearable.
Outbuildings, such as kitchens, stables, and carriage houses, were constructed separate from the main house to the rear of the property. Today, many of these have been converted into separate residences. This gave rise to the unique ½ address that dot the Charleston peninsula. Other outbuildings were later connected to the main residence via “hyphens.” Kitchens were built away from the main house in an attempt to prevent fires – such as the numerous ones that destroyed large swaths of the city – from spreading to the living quarters. This is also why the back wall of the main houses had fewer windows than might be expected for ventilation.
Various decorative architectural styles have been applied to the single house layout, including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian. Two and three-story piazzas often employ the classical order of columns with the ground level being Doric, followed by Ionic, and Corinthian. Formal gardens beautified the side yards to be enjoyed from the shady porches. In fact, upper porches were sometimes used as sleeping quarters on hot, humid nights.
Don’t believe a tour guide who tells you single houses were a reaction to the city taxing street frontage. Instead, “early Charlestonians developed the Single House as an ingenious solution to the various demands of their unique urban landscape: a house that provided privacy, ventilation, fire protection, and social status within the confines of a tightly restrictive public space.” (credit Charleston County Pubic Library)
If this style historic home appeals to you, contact us for a list of Charleston single houses currently for sale.
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 the Charleston Gallery Association’s French Quarter Art Walk. Several times a year, over 40 galleries and shops stay open from 5-8 on a Friday 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.
Architecture 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.
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!
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.
That 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 126 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.
More 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.
Since 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.
By 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.
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!