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The Charleston Insider

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Thursday, 13 June 2019 08:20

20 South Battery

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This week we simply go around the block to 20 South Battery, an 1843 mansion.  When built, this grand house had a front row view of the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor across what is now White Point Gardens.

In 1843, 20 South Battery did not look at all like the photograph you see today; the house was built as a large Charleston single house by Samuel Stevens, a factor or “broker,” and later purchased by Charleston merchant John Blacklock right before the Civil War. In the 1870’s, Colonel Richard Lathers, a South Carolina native who became a New York millionaire, purchased 20 South Battery and employed the architect who would later design the Federal Post Office at the Four Corners of Law, John Henry Devereux, to remodel and update the house in the Second Empire style.

Among other things, Devereux added a ballroom, fourth floor and mansard roof to 20 South Battery. The mansard roof makes the house significantly higher, and in the iconic photographs of these South Battery houses and/or rooftops behind White Point Gardens, the mansard roof at 20 South Battery adds an element of interest and importance to the images.

In Charleston, people are sometimes referred to as “well-connected,” meaning blood or marriage ties to the old, elite Charleston families. We could certainly say that 20 South Battery is “well-connected.” The Pringle family owned this house during the first part of the 20th century; in fact, the Preservation Society of Charleston was founded in the ballroom here in 1920 by Susan Pringle Frost. Around the same time the Pringles converted the rear portion of the property into a motorcourt for tourists known as the “Pringle Inn,” and which now is the Battery Carriage House Inn. The Drayton family of Magnolia Plantation owned the property for many years and sold it in December 2018 to another Charlestonian, who will continue ownership of 20 South Battery as a private residence with the Battery Carriage House Inn in the rear.

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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