32 South Battery
This week we visit 32 South Battery, just a few doors down from last week’s post. Built around 1782, 32 South Battery originally enjoyed a front row view of the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor across what is now White Point Gardens, the first public park in Charleston. The view is still good, and the mansion commanded a huge price when it was sold in 2015: $7.72 million.
32 South Battery was built for Colonel John Ashe, a wealthy gentleman who made his fortune in shipping; appropriately, the framing of the house used wooden pegs similar to those in shipbuilding. The construction is attributed to Mr. Miller of the Miller and Fullerton partnership. Miller’s partner was Scottish master builder John Fullerton whose name is associated with several grand houses in Charleston during this era.
The house is over 8,000 square feet and stands out from its neighbors due to its imposing façade on South Battery, including the double front piazza, third floor balustrade, dormer and cupola. When people see a cupola on a house that at one time had a perfect view of Charleston Harbor, they think the cupola was used to watch for ships. This is rarely the case in Charleston; here, a cupola is primarily constructed for ventilation. Opening the cupola windows and the windows on lower floors, especially with the front piazza, meant that the breeze circulated throughout the house. However, this cupola did double duty and was used at various times as a lighthouse to guide ships.
There are brick dependency buildings behind the house; one is now a guesthouse and the other is the original kitchen which was connected to the main house in the 1930’s during a major renovation.
Next week we will continue to explore Charleston history through her places and people.