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Wednesday, 10 January 2018 10:31

138 Wentworth Street - Kerrison Mansion

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Set back from the stret on a huge lot, 138 Wentworth Street quietly stands in grandeur, bright white against the green lawn. Designed by architect Russell Warren of Rhode Island and completed in 1838, this Greek Revival mansion was built for Edwin Kerrison, a dry goods merchant.

The four fluted columns on the portico are each topped with a variation of the Corinthian capital known as the "Tower of the Winds" capital, which was used extensively in the Greek Revival style. Take a look at the photograph and you'll see that these capitals have a row of acanthus leaves below a row of palm leaves. The name is taken from a structure in Athens, Greece known as the Tower of the Winds, built in the first century BC. The structure primarily served as an early version of a clock tower through the use of its sundials.

Another interesting feature at 138 Wentworth is the 20th-century wrought-iron gate designed by the late Philip Simmons. Elegant in its design and scrollwork, this gate is a perfect enhancement to the property at 138 Wentworth. Simmons, who died in 2009, will always be known as a Charleston treasure. He was raised by his grandparents on Daniel Island until the age of 8 when he was sent to live with his mother in Downtown Charleston to attend public school. He found his passion as he passed by the blacksmith shops on upper Calhoun Street and apprenticed to one as soon as he could. As an adult, he purchased the business.

After the carriage trade was rendered obsolete by the rise of the automobile, Simmons repaired gates, window grilles, and other works of iron until he began forging and installing gates of his own design and sometimes the designs of his patrons. It is considered a privilege to have a property with ironwork by Mr. Simmons.

138 Wentworth Street became the home of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina in 1947. The property was sold in 1970, renovated, and returned to residential use.

The original owner of 138 Wentworth, Edwin Kerrison, founded a dry goods business with his brother in Charleston around 1831. The business later morphed into Kerrisons Department Store, a Charleston icon located on King Street that closed in the 1990s. Kerrisons was my go-to during high school for several reasons. (1) It was within walking distance of Ashley Hall where I was a boarding student, (2) my mother trusted the quality of its clothes and other goods, and (3) my parents had a charge account there (obviously the most important point for me).

Check back with me next week as we continue our look at the grand houses of the city.


Amelia Whaley

Amelia ("Mimi") Whaley

Mimi was born in Charleston and grew up on nearby Edisto Island, one of several sea islands settled by planters due to their close proximity to Charleston. In addition to the Whaleys, Seabrooks, Mikells and Baynards, Mimi is also a direct descendant of Paul Grimball, the recipient of an English land grant of over 1,000 acres on Edisto in 1683; he and his family were the first documented white settlers on Edisto. In Charleston and the Lowcountry, it’s common to hear, "Everyone around here is related; it's just whether or not you claim each other…"

Mimi enjoys sharing the history of Charleston and the Lowcountry. A licensed tour guide, she leads historic Charleston walking tours Wednesdays through Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., leaving from Washington Park in the heart of the old city. Reservations are required for these Charleston walking tours which last approximately 2 hours and end in the vicinity of the Charleston Market. Private tours are also available.

Mimi is also an award-winning Charleston artist working in watercolor, oil, acrylic and mixed media. “I’m so fortunate to live in this area and share this special city through touring, writing, talking and painting – all the things I love to do!”

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