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Heyward-Washington House at 87 Church: Part II

For my second diary post on the Heyward-Washington House, we'll be investigating 87 Church Street's connection to President George Washington and the building's history to present.

During President Washington's Southern Tour in 1791, the City of Charleston leased 87 Church for the President and his retinue (which was far less than the number required to travel with presidents now) for one week. That single week seared Washington's stamp on both Charleston and 87 Church Street. Although he was entertained all over the city (the Mayor even hosted a stag part for him in the long room at McCrady's Tavern), Washington returned to 87 Church each evening.

The President's visit to Charleston in May of 1791 was a much-anticipated event. Elaborate plans were made all over the city for balls and other festivities to honor Washington. Although the war had been over for almost ten years, I imagine that the memories of the British occupation of the city between 1780 and 1782 were still painful, and the honor and excitement of Washington's visit were likely a part of Charleston's healing.

Washington was extremely popular, and men were proud to have served with him in the American Revolution. People wanted to meet him, honor him, and even name places and babies after him. Here in Charleston, we have Washington Park behind City Hall. Also, Hampton Park was originally the site of Washington Race Track, founded by the Jockey Club in 1790. And I am not alone in having "George Washington" forebears, including a fourth-great-grandfather on Edisto Island named George Washington Seabrook, one of whose sisters was named Martha Washington Seabrook.

After Washington's visit, 87 Church saw several different owners, with one of those being Judge John Grimke, father of the famous abolitionist sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke. Having fought as a patriot in the American Revolution, Judge Grimke held George Washington in high esteem.

In the late 19th century, German immigrants owned the house and operated a bakery on the first floor. When the house was later in danger of being demolished, the Preservation Society and the Charleston Museum partnered to save and restore it. 87 Church was the first museum house in Charleston and continues to offer tours for a fee. The house tour also includes the back of the property where several dependencies are located, such as the kitchen house and double privy, all of which date to 1740. Visiting 87 Church Street offers locals and visitors a rare historical perspective of Charleston around the time of the Revolutionary War and its aftermath.

 

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