Ghosts of Charleston Audio Tour

This map shows the stops on our audio tour which you can purchase here.

If you’d like to add this map to your Google Maps app so you can follow along using GPS, just click the square bracket in the upper right hand corner.

Helpful hint: If you want to use Google Maps without using data, you can download the area as an offline map when you’re on WiFi.

Charleston Carriage Tours

This post compares and reviews all of the different Charleston carriage tour companies operating throughout this beautiful city.

We cover routes, prices, and types of carriage rides available to you. Read more »

Rainbow Row in Charleston

What is Rainbow Row?

This post is about the historic Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina.

We’ll give you the background story, show you how to get here, and explain why they might be painted in such interesting colors.

Let’s get started.


Rainbow Row in Charleston SC


An iconic site in Charleston and visited on our Historic Charleston tour, is Rainbow Row.  

A series of row houses near the historic waterfront painted bright pastel colors, Rainbow Row is rightly named.

The Colors Of The Rainbow In Architectural Form In Charleston

There is a place in Charleston where you will see tourists gathering to take photographs by droves.

This is a unique and historic area that is best known for the 14 houses that are painted in the colors of the rainbow and aptly named Rainbow Row.

The homes are prime examples of the architecture that has made Charleston such an appealing destination for residents and tourists alike.

On Which Street Is the Rainbow Row Located?

Along the west side of East Bay Street, between Tradd Street and Elliot Street, you will find these colorful houses.

It’s the area known as South of Broad Street and not far from the Waterfront Park. 


Where is Rainbow Row


From the Charleston Visitor Center in historic Charleston on Meeting Street, it is a 25-minute walk to Rainbow Row.

Head South on Meeting Street for 11 blocks, left on Broad Street for 3 blocks to East Bay Street and you’ll be at the north end of Rainbow Row.

From the Waterfront Park, you’ll find Concord Street running north-south along the park and you can turn west on Adgers Wharf, Boyce Wharf, Elliot Street, or Exchange Street to dead-end on East Bay Street with Rainbow Row direct in front!

If you’ll be driving through the city, East Bay Street is also Highway 52 headed south to water, you’ll see Rainbow Row on your right once you pass Elliot Street.

The Origins Of Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row dates back to about 1740 and it used to be situated in the waterfront district of the city back in the 18th century.

The homes run from 83 to 107 East Bay Street and they used to belong to merchants who would run the stores on the ground floor and live above them.

This not only saved them money since they owned the entire property, but it also cut down their commute time to nil.

Falling Into Disrepair

After the breakout of the Civil War, the area fell into disrepair, and for a while, this area was little more than a slum.

This all changed, however, when a woman called Dorothy Porcher Legge went ahead and invested in some of the homes on this row and painted them a light shade of pastel pink.

Over time, people started snapping up the other homes within the same row and they too began renovating and painting their homes, often in various shades of the pastel color range.
The Reasoning Behind The Colors Of The Rainbow

These days, people can’t seem to come to an agreement as to why the homes are all painted in different colors.

There are some people who believe that the hues were used to capture the attention of drunk sailors who might not have otherwise been able to find their way home.

Others believe that the colors had something to do with the merchants advertising their wares with the assistance of the hues.

On the other hand, this could have been the result of a more practical concern.

Due to the heat that is often so invasive in Charleston, it is thought that people might have turned to pastel colors to try and lower the temperatures within the properties.

79 to 107 East Bay Street

A look at each of the properties on East Bay Street is enough to tell you that these houses are steeped in rich history.

The two-part building on 79 to 81 East Bay Street is situated at the Southern tip of the row and it dates back to around 1845. It happens to be the most modern building on the row.

Number 83 is known as the William Stone House, and it was constructed in 1784 by one of the merchants who left for England during the American Revolutionary War.

This property was later restored. Number 87 was constructed back in 1778 and it was eventually destroyed by a fire.

It was James Gordon who purchased the building in 1792 and went on to restore it before it was bought over by Susan Pringle Frost in the 1920s.

Number 89 was called the Deas-Tunno House and it was constructed to be used as a commercial building in 1770.

This property is slightly unique from the other homes on the row because it actually has a side yard that separates it from the adjoining home on the south.

Number 91 was purchased by William Greenwood and Peter Leger in 1774 and was destroyed 4 years later.

A merchant called Nathaniel Russell purchased the building in 1973, although it was passed on to Susan Pringle Frost in 1920.

Number 93 is called the James Cook House and it was constructed in 1778 for commercial purposes. Today, it is the yellow house that stands proudly three houses from the left.

Number 95 is one of the mysteries in the row because no one is quite sure who built it. It was purchased by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney in 1779 and was restored by John McGowan, the playwright, in 1938.

Today, visitors will notice it as the green house.

The houses that stand proudly on Rainbow Row aren’t just unique because of their colors; each one has a rich history and can tell visitors a lot about Charleston through the ages.

No tour of this area is complete without a visit to the row and perhaps a picture to commemorate a visit to one of the most historic sites in this area of the world.


The Charleston Single House

One of the first things visitors to Charleston notice is the number of long and narrow homes that display beautiful covered porches.  

The Charleston Single House is an icon of Charleston architecture and their construction dates back to near the origins of the City of Charles Town in the 1680s.  

The single house is identified by the long verandas, or porches, that run the length of the structures and serve as exterior spaces and effectively exterior hallways.  
Charleston Single House
The interiors of Charleston single houses are consistent, usually one room wide and several rooms long.  

It’s the exteriors of the houses that come in many shapes and styles, including Georgian, Federal, Italianate, and many many more.  

Another feature of the single house is the ‘front door’, which actually leads to the ground level porch or patio and to the actual front door. These doors provided added privacy and security for residents.

There are several reasons why Charleston has so many single house structures, but most definitely it is not due to how the city taxed real estate based on the amount of street frontage the building had, a belief certain tour guides and residents often perpetuate.  
The two main reasons pertain to limited space available in the old walled city and climate.  

Early Charleston, like many port cities on the east coast of the USA, developed on peninsulas or islands between two major rivers, locations that are critical for maritime trade.  

To protect these fledgling colonies, the area of city development was very limited and restricted by defensive walls. By laying out the lots long ways, you could maximize the number of lots with street frontage.  

The single house also effectively combats heat and humidity by allowing air to flow both through the house, which was designed to allow the breezes to flow through the house unencumbered and through the porches.  

Due to the grid system of Charleston, homes can be laid out east-west or north-south. You will notice that the porches are always on the south or west sides to protect from the late afternoon sun when Charleston is at its hottest.Charleston Single House Porches

Other issues that have influenced the usage of single houses are fire protection (notice how the walls opposite the porches tend to have few openings?), and privacy.  

It’s quite obvious the level of privacy that such a design affords those who live in these buildings.  

It also seems logical that placing the main entryway into the house adjacent to the side yard as opposed to the street would limit exposure to dust from the unpaved dirt streets of yesteryear.  

For more information on the history and characteristics of the Charleston single house, check out the post from the Charleston County Public Library.

On our Charleston Architecture Tour, we will show you many examples of the Charleston single house and many other features of these wonderful structures.

Charleston Plantation Tours

This post compares and reviews the various Charleston plantation tours available to you.

This way you can choose the best one for you and know what to expect on your visit. Read more »