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55 Laurens Street - James Jervey House

 

Another structure to escape the fire of 1838 in Ansonborough is 55 Laurens Street. Fortunately, Laurens Street is on the north side of Ansonborough, and most of this area was not affected by that fire.

Built in 1818 by James Jervey, this imposing brick mansion retains much of its Federal style ornamentation inside; the exterior brick is laid in Flemish bond (alternating header and stretcher on each row). 55 Laurens is a large double house with a raised basement; the original kitchen building and another dependency building are located on the rear portion of the lot. From the outside, you would never guess that the building is now made up of condominiums and has been sin e the 1980s. In any event, walking among the primarily single houses on this street, 55 Laurens certainly stands out and makes a statement. The house is also reflective of the owner's prominence in the community.

James Jervey, born in Charleston in 1784, was an attorney. His grandfather David Jervey arrived from Scotland before 1738; his father Thomas was an American officer in the Revolutionary War. Following the family tradition, James Jervey established himself as an important member of the Charleston community. In addition to his law practice, Jervey was a member of St. Michael's Vestry and served as Clerk of the United States Court for the District of South Carolina, President of the State Bank in Charleston, and Chairman of the Commissioners of the Charleston Orphan House. He was also an active leader in one of Charleston's benevolent societies. Jervey died in 1845 and is buried in St. Michael's Churchyard.

There is a legend about 55 Laurens Street that says that several kegs of gunpowder were put in the basement of the house in case the fire of 1838 spread north. If the fire turned in that direction, the gunpowder would have been ignited in order to blow up the house to stop the fire from spreading further. Looking back on Jervey's service to the community, I am not surprised that he and his family would have sacrificed their home if necessary to save others from being destroyed. Fortunately for them and for us, the fire did not spread north and 55 Laurens Street continues to stand proud on this lovely and quiet street in Ansonborough.

We will continue our journey in this neighborhood in the next post.

 

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