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Monday, 11 March 2019 09:48

2 Amherst Street

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This week, we travel to the other side of the Charleston peninsula as we visit 2 Amherst Street, located on the corner of East Bay and Amherst Streets, completed around 1808 and associated through the years with three old Charleston families. The house is a little different from other Charleston houses; 2 Amherst has a double piazza that crosses the front and then wraps part of the two sides of the house. Even from the exterior, this house exudes a charm of its own.

While I haven't been inside 2 Amherst, the Library of Congress has easily accessible photographs in its collection online. The photographs show a spiral staircase and interior moldings and mantels in the Adam or Federal style.




The house was outside the city in 1808 and situated on land narrowly jutting into the salt marshes on the Cooper River. The original owner called 2 Amherst Street Presqu'ile, which means "peninsula" in French. However, Christian Jacob Belser (called Jacob), born in Charleston in 1781, was of German heritage, not French. His father, also Christian Jacob Belser, was born in Germany and arrived in Charleston around 1774. Jacob, the builder of Presqu'ile, had plantations elsewhere in South Carolina and was a South Carolina Senator between 1812 and 1815. He is the ancestor of the Belser families in Columbia, Charleston, and Edisto Island.

2 Amherst Street is also associated with the Grimke family. Henry Grimke was one of numerous children of Judge John Faucheraud Grimke of Charleston. Henry's siblings included the famous abolitionist sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke. Henry bought 2 Amherst in 1840 and added the large wing at the back of the house.

Presqu'ile was purchased by Arthur Ravenel, Jr. & Co. in 1973, restored and subsequently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Ravenels are an old Charleston family of French Huguenot heritage. Arthur Ravenel, Jr., a realtor, was a South Carolina Senator and a member of the United States House of Representatives. The Ravenel Bridge connecting Charleston to Mt. Pleasant is named for him.

Next week we will continue to explore Charleston history through her places and people.




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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