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Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a city that is full of a rich history and extremely interesting buildings. Charleston’s long history provides for a large discrepancy between the districts of Charleston as the city grew over the years. This difference in building ears provides for some very interesting areas in the city. One of the most interesting to visit is the area known as Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina.

About Rainbow Row in Charleston

Rainbow Row is the name for a series of thirteen colorful historic houses in Charleston, South Carolina. It represents the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States. The houses are located north of Tradd St. and south of Elliott St. on East Bay Street, that is, 79 to 107 East Bay Street. The name Rainbow Row was coined after the pastel colors they were painted as they were restored in the 1930s and 1940s.

History of Charleston, SC’s Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row was originally fronted on the Cooper River, but that land was mostly filled in. Merchants constructed the commercial buildings with stores on the first ground and living areas above. Most of these buildings do not have interior access between the first floor commercial space and the above residential area. After the Civil War this area of Charleston devolved into slums. In the early 1920s, Susan Pringle Frost and the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings bought six of the buildings. She lacked the funds to restore them, so she sold them off to new owners. The first owner painted the home pink, and the other owners followed suit to create a rainbow as you follow the street. The coloring of the houses helped keep the houses cool inside as well as give the area its name. By 1945, most of the houses had been restored.

Common myths concerning Charleston include variants on the reasons for the paint colors. According to some tales, the houses were painted in the various colors such that the intoxicated sailors coming in from port could remember which houses they were to bunk in. In other versions, the colors of the buildings date from their use as stores, the colors were used so that owners could tell illiterate slaves which building to go to for shopping. Of course the real truth is less exciting, but they have become a tourist destination nonetheless.

If you are visiting the area, a trip to Charleston, SC’s Rainbow Row is a great piece of local history and makes for some amazing photo opportunities. Check out even more attractions in Isle of Palms, SC by following the links below:

(Image by Melizabethi123 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)