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The Charleston Insider

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Diary of a Charleston Tour Guide

Diary of a Charleston Tour Guide

“Local history, occasional anecdotes, personal reflections of a Charleston tour guide.”

Monday, 22 January 2018 13:28

1 East Battery - Louis DeSaussure House

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1 East Battery was built around 1858 by Louis DeSaussure, a wealthy businessman of French Huguenot ancestry. Three stories high and built of brick covered with stucco, this house had an eye view of the Civil War. Approximately two years after the house was completed, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union, and for the next several years, the occupants of 1 East Battery lived with the constant bombardment from the Union ships that made up the blockade behind Fort Sumter.

Monday, 15 January 2018 14:26

64 South Battery - Gibbes House

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64 South Battery was built in 1772 by a wealthy shipping magnate, William Gibbes. A wonderful example of a Charleston double house (two rooms wide and two rooms deep) in the Georgian architectural style, 64 South Battery had a pristine view of the Ashley River. Today that view is gone, and it is difficult to imagine the original view with the landfill and houses that now stand in front of 64 South Battery.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018 10:31

138 Wentworth Street - Kerrison Mansion

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Set back from the stret on a huge lot, 138 Wentworth Street quietly stands in grandeur, bright white against the green lawn. Designed by architect Russell Warren of Rhode Island and completed in 1838, this Greek Revival mansion was built for Edwin Kerrison, a dry goods merchant.

The four fluted columns on the portico are each topped with a variation of the Corinthian capital known as the "Tower of the Winds" capital...

Wednesday, 03 January 2018 11:52

4 South Battery - Villa Margherita

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4 South Battery was built in 1895 by Andrew Simmonds for his young wife, a New Orleans debutante who was given eight names at birth (but everyone just called her Daisy). Andrew, the president of First National Bank in Charleston, constructed this South Battery mansion on the site of an earlier house. As you can see from the photograph, we are not talking an "intimate little cottage."

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 14:20

16 Meeting Street - Calhoun Mansion

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16 Meeting Street is one of the grandest Victorian mansions in Charleston and was built in 1876 for approximately $200,000 by George Walton Williams, a successful merchant, wholesale grocer, blockade runner, and banker. The house became known as the Calhoun Mansion because one of the Williams' daughters married Patrick Calhoun, the grandson of John C. Calhoun, U.S. Senator, Vice President of the United States, and Secretary of State.

Monday, 18 December 2017 14:30

149 Wentworth Street

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The Rodgers Mansion is right down the street and around the corner from the Mikell House that we visited last week. Built at a time when money was scarce in the south and most Charlestonians had embraced the "too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash" reality of life here, Francis Silas Rodgers gave Charleston one of its grandest homes.

Frank Rodgers was born in Charleston in 1842 and went into the cotton factoring business with his father. A factor was simply a broker or middleman; most cotton planters used cotton factors located in major ports like Charleston to sell their exports. Even after the Civil War, sea island cotton was a viable export in the South until the early part of the twentieth century when the boll weevil came along.

Monday, 11 December 2017 12:58

94 Rutledge Avenue - Isaac Jenkins Mikell House

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94 Rutledge Avenue is one of the truly grand houses in Charleston. Built in 1853 by Isaac Jenkins Mikell for his third of four wives, this house is the epitome of a planter's town house. Mikell was a wealthy planter of sea island cotton on Edisto, and I've heard local author Richard Porcher say that there was no finer cotton in the world than the sea island cotton grown on Edisto Island before the Civil War.

Monday, 04 December 2017 11:29

70 Tradd Street - Judge Robert Pringle House

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70 Tradd Street was built in 1774 by Judge Robert Pringle. It is difficult to see the depth of the house and later piazza due to the high gate in front of the driveway, but the house is on a double lot, ensuring enough property for a long driveway and garden to the side. The bay window, added to the front of the house in the Victorian era, adds to the interest of the street façade of 70 Tradd. As you can see from the photograph, the house invites passersby to stop and look.

Monday, 27 November 2017 09:24

102 Tradd Street - Another Grimke-Fraser House

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At 102 Tradd Street, the two-story wooden house built around 1760, we again meet the Grimke and Fraser families. The first time we ran into them was at 55 King Street, the Grimke-Fraser tenements built around 1762 and later used by artist Charles Fraser as his residence.

Originally owned by Frederick Grimke, who built the tenements at 55 King, 102 Tradd became the home of the Frasers; Grimke's daughter Mary married Alexander Fraser and they lived here with their children. One of their sons, Frederick, scratched part of his name...

Monday, 20 November 2017 09:59

106 Tradd Street - The John Stuart House

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106 Tradd is a single house -- but one with a difference. Yes, it's still one room wide, but it is one of the few early residences built with a side hall. As you can see, the front door is not a false door leading to a piazza. This front door opens into the side hall. The typical single house built before 1800 had its main doorway on the side, usually in the center.

The house at 106 Tradd Street was built around 1772 by Colonel John Stuart. Stuart, originally from Scotland, became an important man in Charles Town before the American Revolution; in 1762, he was appointed the King's superintendent...

Monday, 13 November 2017 09:42

126 Tradd Street

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As we continue exploring Tradd Street, we’ll visit number 126 (next door to the Humphrey Sommers House we visited last week), which was built around 1732 by Alexander Smith. In 1790, Dr. Peter Fayssoux and his wife Ann became owners of the property. Dr. Fayssoux, born in Charles Town, was of French Huguenot heritage; he was one of many Huguenots in Charles Town who rose to prominence and served his city and community well.

Monday, 06 November 2017 09:05

128 Tradd Street

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Tradd Street spans the width of the peninsula; if there weren't any houses, you could probably stand in the center and see the Ashley River at one end and the Cooper River at the other end. Seeing 128 Tradd and the surrounding area today, it is difficult to imagine that when the house was built in 1765, it would have overlooked a creek and the marshes of the Ashley River.

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