Today my friend Catherine is going to take you on a tour of Charleston’s historic homes! The Preservation Society’s home tours have always been on my bucket list, but I haven’t had the chance to go on one before. She went on 3 tours over the last few weekends with her husband and I just loved following along and asked her to share about them in a guest post! Now, in her words..
Over the past couple of weeks, my husband and I were lucky enough to attend a few of The Preservation Society’s Fall Tours. Back for its 42nd year, the tours run October 4-28th and highlight Charleston’s unique homes, history, and architecture. The Fall Tours is the Society’s largest fundraiser and supports their mission “to recognize, protect, and advocate for the Lowcountry’s historic places.”
My husband was a History major at College of Charleston, and I’ve long been obsessed with the amazing homes of the Holy City so to say we were excited is an understatement. Before we dive in to the good stuff, a little run down on the tours. It was our first time and I will admit the set up can be a little confusing. Programming runs Wednesday through Sunday, and there is a different guided or private tour each day. There are about seven homes or gardens per tour and each focuses on a different neighborhood. Docents are stationed throughout the home to tell you more about the history of it and the neighborhood. You can visit the homes in any order but they are only open from 2-5pm.
Sadly, photos aren’t allowed on private property but I did my best to sneak some or shoot from the street, which you will see below. We picked our tours based on our availability (weekends only) and ended up going to The Battery, Ansonborough, and East Battery Tours. Oh and by the way, we were the youngest people by a good 20 years. Where are all of our other young preservationists?!
The Battery Tour
If you are anything like me, you may have oogled over the beautiful mansions overlooking the Battery at one point or another. Knowing we had limited time, we started with our must see – 9 East Battery. Jim actually lived in the carriage house next door after college so it was such a treat for us to see this home that we had admired for years.
Built in 1838, the Robert William Roper House is one of Charleston’s earliest and finest examples of Greek Revival architecture. The home was incredibly restored to the original era and had an extensive amount of Federal and Empire furniture plus a flying staircase (similar to the one at the Nathaniel Russell House).
Next up was 43 East Battery Street. The George Summers House, c. 1755, lies very close, if not adjacent to the site of the original city wall. You could even see part of the wall in the driveway! The current owners found forks, pottery shards, and other artifacts during a recent renovation and created a mosaic in the garden with their finds. How neat is that?
Next, we ventured in to the garden of 51 East Bay Street, the Caspar Christian Schutt House, c. 1800. Some homes have certain rooms or floors opens, others just the garden. We finished our tours by stopping by 18 Church Street, the Thomas Gadsden House. This was one of my favorites of all the tours! The owners, who are from New York, have done (and are still doing) an extensive renovation of the house and carriage house. It was so neat to see how they took a house built in 1840 and modernized it for their current lifestyle.
Now that we had one tour under our belt, we got an early start the next day to make sure that we could see as much of Ansonborough as possible. We were welcomed into 50 Hasell Street by the lovely ladies of St. Johannes Lutheran Church. The house, built in 1846, is a parsonage for the church for weddings and was decorated as part of a designer showcase a few years ago. I could sit on that porch all day long!
Next up, the Robert Henry House c. 1838, at 5 Maiden Lane. The brick house was built in the traditional Charleston single style and had a beautiful courtyard with a large dining table, that resembled the gate from the Sword Gate house (sword and all)!
We dodged some raindrops and headed to 41 ½ Hasell Street, a former carriage and kitchen house that’s been converted. The owner claims that he is a descendant of William Moultrie! We popped in to the tiny (1,000 square feet) Gardner Kitchen House next. After seeing these huge mansions the day before, it was a stark contrast to spend time in the former carriage and kitchen houses that were the homes and workplaces of the slaves who kept the big houses running.
After popping in to the garden of 65 Anson Street (Bill Murray owns the home next door!), we ended in the garden of the Mary Smith House, c. 1799 at 82 Anson Street. This garden was #goals. A large pond with fountains and koi fish greets you when you enter, and there are sitting areas with hedges that separate the large garden into multiple smaller entertaining areas. The European owner was so cute and even came outside to interact with the visitors. I now have a long list of plants to add to our backyard once we buy a house!
East Battery Tour
Last weekend, we wrapped up our tours by heading back to East Battery. A few of the homes were also included on the Battery Tour so we skipped those and headed to 2 Landson Street, the John Drayton House. Built in 1746, it was constructed at the same time as Drayton Hall and has a lot of similar characteristics. How cute is our tour guide? She is a Charleston Hat Lady!
Next up was 2 Meeting Street, the Carrington-Carr House c. 1890, now a bed and breakfast. We had yet to see any Victorian homes on the tour so this one stood out for its unique architecture including a round dining room and curved piazza. The house also had beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows, that were a wedding gift for the current owner, with Southern flowers including dogwoods, magnolia, and iris.
Next, we jumped on our bikes and headed to 8 Atlantic Street, built in 1805. Once the home of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, the premier artist of the Charleston Renaissance, it still featured some of her artwork throughout. This was the only house that was completely open to the public so of course, I had to do some snooping. We ended up getting caught in another rainstorm and spent 15 minutes waiting it out in the kitchen with the owner, Ms. Montgomery. She couldn’t have been sweeter. We ran outside, hopeful to get in one more house, before the heavens opened up again. We decided to call it a day since we looked like drowned rats.
Even in the rain, we couldn’t help but appreciate the amazing homes we had seen, history we had learned, and new people we had met. It’s so crazy how much history there is in this city! I highly recommend the Fall Tours and hope to do it again. They are a fantastic way to learn about what’s in your own backyard and gain access to otherwise private buildings. There’s one more weekend left so get your tickets before it’s too late!
Thanks to Coastal Kelder for letting me take her readers on a tour of some of downtown’s most unique homes.
Thank you for sharing your tours with us, Catherine! If that doesn’t make you want to spend the day walking around historic homes, then I don’t know what would! We are so lucky to live in a city not only full of history, but also dedicated to preserving it and teaching later generations. I think this is the perfect thing to do next time my mom is in town!