This week, we visit South Carolina Society Hall at 72 Meeting Street. This building is another that has played a part in the lives of Charlestonians and visitors for 215 years. When constructed as the home of the South Carolina Society in 1804 by local rice planter, attorney and gentleman architect Gabriel Manigault, there were no columns or portico in front. Those weren't added until 1825 when the exterior was updated in the classical revival style.
Gabriel Manigault was a member of the South Carolina Society, the French Huguenot benevolent organization originally known as the "Two Bit Club" that was formed to rescue Poinsett's Tavern (owned by French Huguenot Elisha Poinsett) from financial difficulties. Each immigrant group in Charleston formed their own charitable organization to help the next group of immigrants find jobs and housing. Today most are social clubs, but they continue to grant academic scholarships to the local youth.
South Carolina Society Hall originally served as the meeting hall for its members while also hosting a school on the first floor for female orphans. Later, the first floor became a school for both boys and girls. Currently, the Hall is used for weekly Cotillion classes where a local Charleston lady still teaches formal dance to those youth enrolled.
Built on a large raised basement, the first and second floors are well-known among Charlestonians. Situated close to St. Michael's Episcopal Church and First Scots Presbyterian Church, South Carolina Society Hall is frequently a venue for wedding receptions and other social events. I've attended many parties, wedding receptions, wedding rehearsal parties, and even a wedding at South Carolina Hall!
My first event at the Hall was the evening before my thirteenth birthday when I attended a party in honor of Amory DeSaussure, my ninth grade roommate from Ashley Hall. Amory was spending Christmas with her elderly grandparents, as her family was in Turkey that year. I was invited to spend the night of the party with her, and I was kindly included in the receiving line with Amory and her grandparents. It was a great party; the Hall was festive with fresh Christmas greens and other decorations, the food was wonderful, and the Hall overflowed with people of all ages. However, neither Amory nor I could have named many of the guests unless they got close to us: we both had terrible vision, but had removed our eyeglasses and put them away before any guests arrived. Ah, the vanity of twelve and thirteen-year-old girls ... fortunately we both started wearing contact lenses the next year!
After sharing 120 posts from my "Diary of a Charleston Tour Guide," I am retiring for awhile, but I encourage locals and visitors alike to explore my favorite city, Charleston!