69 Church Street | The Capers Motte House

69 Church Street is one of the finest properties in Charleston and is packed with history. This Georgian double house was built between 1745-1750, at which time Charles Town was the fourth largest port in America and possibly the wealthiest.

The brick house covered with soft pink stucco is 7,513 square feet, and the property is .29 acres. This large property has five exquisitely landscaped garden rooms, a pool and a kitchen house connected to the main house by a Charleston "hyphen" (a modern term used to describe the connector built to join two structures). Although the photograph does not show it, the ceilings on the third floor are the same height as the first and second floors.

The gardens are a delight; the present owner hangs her orchids from trees that line the high wall separating 69 Church Street from First Baptist Church. Camellia bushes are large and abundant. The secret garden is small and exquisite. The farthest garden from the house, dominated by pomegranates and citrus, is situated where the original stable was.

The house was built by either Richard Capers or Jordan Roche, two early owners of the property. Jacob Motte, the treasurer of Charles Town, leased the house from Roche in 1761. Motte's wife was Rebecca Brewton, Roche's niece.

69 Church went through different owners over the years, and during the Civil War, the house suffered extensive damage. Eliza Middleton Huger Smith, a widow, purchased the damaged property in 1869 and restored it. Her son, Daniel Huger Smith, was a historian and genealogist; this was his residence as well as that of his daughter, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. Together, they documented the architecture of Charleston in their book The Dwelling Houses of Charleston, published in 1917.

Alice, who died in 1958, remains one of Charleston's most renowned artists. Known especially for her watercolors, she captured the beauty and romanticism of the Lowcountry landscape. Her love for Charleston and the Lowcountry is evident in her artwork, and, through a series of watercolors, she documented much of the rice culture at Middleton Place. Alice frequently spent time sketching and painting at Middleton Place. After all, her great-great grandfather was Arthur Middleton, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

As one of the leaders of the Charleston Renaissance, a cultural renaissance between 1915 and 1940, Alice was perfectly situated at 69 Church Street. DuBose Heyward, author of Porgy, which was later adapted into the American Opera Porgy and Bess, lived less than a block away. Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, another noted artist active in the Charleston Renaissance, lived at the next corner.

Join me next week as we continue exploring Charleston history through her structures.