There’s a whole lot to love about Charleston, but one of my favorite parts of our trip was walking the neighborhoods and admiring all the pretty southern homes.
No matter the size, they all followed the same details: ornate wrought iron fences with creeping vines; old gas lamps that lit up the front door; a brightly colored wreath on that door, leading to a charming side porch.
The homes South of Broad were so particularly gorgeous, that we found ourselves wandering the most photogenic neighborhood twice. And while you could hop a carriage ride to tour South of Broad, we found that to really appreciate all of the little details that go into these southern homes, exploring on foot is a must!
So we did just that! For both trips South of Broad, we jumped aboard the free DASH shuttle that took us from our Airbnb near King Street, all the way down to the four corners at Broad & Meeting. A good natural starting point for anyone wanting to meander this part of town, we started both days at St. Michael’s Church, located on the southeast corner of Broad & Meeting. Easily one of the most recognizable buildings in Charleston, you can’t miss it’s massive steeple which stands out among the deep blue sky.
Carrying on east on Broad Street, we took a right turn at Church Street and headed south. A good number of Charleston’s most historic homes can be found along this street, such as 94 Church Street, where southern politicians drafted the nullification papers that led to the Civil War in the US.
Lucky for us, the Preservation Society of Charleston has placed such informational placards all over town, so all you need to do is keep a watchful eye while wandering and you’ll have yourself your own self-guided history tour.
Turning left, we strolled narrow Tradd Street, getting up close and personal with the homes South of Broad. You’d almost forget that people actually lived here, but occasionally while photographing a picture-perfect window, I’d actually catch someone on the other side reading the paper or cooking breakfast.
I loved it all. The planter boxes overflowing with flowers; the striking black shutters against the pastel facades. I loved how much care had been given to preserving the original architecture of these buildings, and how much pride there was in each one’s uniqueness.
Two blocks farther and we reached East Bay Street, the main thoroughfare that hugs the east end of the peninsula. But we wouldn’t stay on this street for long. One of the best parts about venturing out on foot meant we could explore the narrow passageways that tourists might miss.
So, of course I made it my mission to take a peek down each one. On Longitude Lane, a dead-end alleyway that is most certainly not stroller-friendly, I meandered down the alley myself to find some rather adorable courtyards on the backside of the homes we’d just passed on Tradd Street.
Back on East Bay Street, the Georgian home below reminded me more of something you’d see in New England rather than Charleston, but I loved the exposed brick and 3 little dormers on top. On my first trip by with Evelyn, I hadn’t even noticed the flowering rose bush that wound up and over the fence.
But Evelyn noticed! She picked up a flower that had fallen off the branch. “Oh no!”, she said, as she picked up the flower and clutched it in her tiny hands as we went on our way. She held on to the flower for the rest of our walk, plucking the petals off one by one until it was down to the nub.
Not too much farther and we had reached Stoll’s Alley, another tiny little walkway that led us through what seemed like a secret passageway before leading us back to Church Street.
There is still lots of renovation work going on in Charleston, not just on businesses and old warehouses, but these historic homes as well. I’d have thought all of this prime real estate would have been bought up and restored by now, but I learned that restoration South of Broad really only started in the 1920’s. And with even the older homes running well into the millions, it’s no wonder that there are still plenty of historic homes in need of love and looking for new caretakers.
Continuing down Church we passed 18 Church Street, a classic Charleston single house (above in white). It was the site of the earliest known deed recorded in Charleston in 1789.
The Charleston single house is the most common style of home we found throughout the city. Long and narrow to suit the lots, they nearly always include a two or three story side porch, or “piazza”. You’ll find that the “front door” is not really a front door at all, but rather leads to the piazza on the side of the home. The true front door to the inside of the home is about halfway down the piazza.
Passing by more Charleston single houses, each with their own unique style, it was only a few more blocks until we reached South Battery and White Point Garden.
At the very southern tip of the peninsula, we walked through the park until we reached Oyster Point, then turned back north along the waterfront walkway of Battery Street. With the sun shining and warm winds coming off the harbor, it was a beautiful day for wandering.
It was a busy Saturday, and several carriage tours passed by as we walked the waterfront. While they are a staple of the Charleston tourism scene, their ethics have come under question in recent years. I can’t speak to the debate personally, but I’d encourage everyone to do their own research on the different carriage companies and support local businesses like Palmetto Carriage Works, which make great commitments to the care of their animals.
Where the battery ends, you’ll find yourself passing a collection of the most colorful homes in Charleston!
Aptly named Rainbow Row, this stretch of homes was among the first to be renovated South of Broad in the 1920’s. After decades of damage caused by fires, Civil War bombardment and neglect, the area around Rainbow Row had deteriorated to slums by the turn of the 20th century.
So in the 1920’s, Susan Pringle Frost and some of her wealthy friends formed the Society of the Preservation of Old Dwellings, buying up the properties to save them from demolition. The organization was later renamed the Preservation Society of Charleston, as they began to focus on preserving all historical structures, not just homes. Today it is most prominent historical society in Charleston, and we have them to thank for much of the beautiful architecture that still stands in Charleston today!
Evelyn was a big fan as well! I couldn’t help but stop and do an impromptu photo shoot with her against the pretty pastel backdrops. When a busy toddler agrees to stop and take photos, you snap away!
Even strangers stopped and offered to take our photo! This stretch of East Bay Street from Tradd to Elliott is seriously the most photogenic spot in town.
Thanks Charleston, for being so picture-perfect. We hope to come again some day!
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