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.