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143-145 Church Street aka "The Pirate House"

 

143-145 Church Street with its hipped roof, dormers and red shutters is a familiar site to Charlestonians. The structure was originally built with brick and Bermuda stone as a double tenement around 1740 by Alexander Peronneau, a wealthy French Huguenot. The double tenement was renovated and converted into a single-family residence in 1928, at which time the buildings in the back were constructed with brick recycled from Shepheard's Tavern, which had been torn down in 1924.

As long as I can remember, this house has been called "The Pirate House." We have no documentation regarding pirates at this structure. However, various legends abound! It is true that Charles Town had problems with pirates, especially Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet holding hostages in 1718 to trade for medicine. Captain George Anson was even sent from England at the age of 26 with a command to patrol the waters for pirates and protect Charles Town and the surrounding areas during the years 1735-1736, well before the Pirate House was constructed. However, the anchor hanging on the front of the house does nothing to dispel the pirate lore, and certainly the gate into the courtyard with the sign "Pirates Courtyard" doesn't clear things up either.

Sometimes the courtyard gate is open, and people have cautiously explored the courtyard. No pirates have been found, but I would point out that there may be danger regarding the high brick wall leading into the courtyard. When I was in eighth grade at Ashley Hall, my history teacher, licensed tour guide Gertrude Duckett, took our class on a walking tour field trip. Out of everything we saw, the Pirate House stuck with me over the years, probably because she was adamant that we not attempt to touch the top of the brick wall there or anywhere in downtown Charleston. She warned us that many times, the top of the walls had protruding glass and sharp objects to guard against intruders. While most of my class couldn't even reach the top of the wall, simply the thought of glass shards was a great deterrent to us.

Join me next week as we continue exploring Charleston.

 

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