As one of the oldest cities in the nation, Charleston has an incredibly rich history that over the years has been embellished with captivating local legends. From presidents to pineapples, you can learn a lot about the city’s history through the stories and legends that persist. Here’s part one of Charleston stories and legends.
If Charleston has a signature color, this is it. Charleston Green is an extremely dark, almost black shade of green. No one knows the true history of this color for sure, but the legend goes that after the Civil War, the Union sent black paint to Charleston to help cover up the damage done to the city during the war. Rather than using the “Yankee Black” as it was, Charlestonians added “Confederate Yellow” to the black, turning it a dark green. The color can be found around the peninsula primarily on doors, shutters, ironwork, and trim. The next time you’re wandering around the cobblestone streets of downtown Charleston, keep an eye out for black trim and check if it’s actually the famous Charleston Green.
George Washington’s Tour
George Washington was only two years into his presidency when he made good on an inaugural promise to visit the South. His intention was to help unify the still new and fragile nation. He set out in spring 1791 and visited Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in an entourage that included eight men and eleven horses. President Washington often rode in a carriage but made the canny decision to ride in on his horse, Prescott, when arriving at each stop, well aware that he cut a dashing and heroic figure atop his white charger.
The president and his entourage spent a full week in Charleston, which was then the fourth largest city, with a population over 16,000. His movements were well documented during that week, and he spent it seeing the city, visiting with prominent citizens, and enjoying some well-deserved rest and rejuvenation before getting back on the road. He seemed especially impressed with the ladies here, writing in his journal “Went to a concert where were 400 ladies, the number and appearance of which exceeded anything I had ever seen.” It seems that Charleston was known for Southern belles even back then!
The Pineapple Legend
The pineapple is a common decorative element here in Charleston. The pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park is probably the most famous instance, but you’ll find pineapples all over the city when you start looking. It represents hospitality, a value Charleston (and the rest of the South) is known for. How this tropical fruit, which isn’t native to the US, come to be associated with hospitality? Legend says that it originated from the early days when trade routes brought pineapples and other exotic fruits from the Caribbean to ports in the US and in Europe. Sailors would spear a pineapple on their gate once they returned from their long voyage to signal to friends and neighbors that they were home and open to receiving guests. Hence, the pineapple’s association with hospitality and welcome.
So-called “Rainbow Row” is one of the most famous stretches of buildings in Charleston, SC. It got its name from the colorful paint of the thirteen buildings that make up Rainbow Row, which is located on East Bay Street between Elliott Street and Tradd Street, not far from the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Most were built in the 1790s, several of them replacing buildings that were destroyed in a 1787 fire.
There are a number of legends about why these buildings are painted the way they are in such distinctive colors. One romantic legend says it was so sailors returning from the sea would be able to recognize their homes from a distance by the color. The truth isn’t quite as romantic but it’s still interesting: the buildings got their colors in the 1930s and 1940s when they were restored after having fallen into disrepair over the years. It started when Dorothy Haskell Porcher Legge restored buildings 99-101 and painted them in colors inspired by the Caribbean. Other owners followed suit. Today, it’s one of the most visited tourist spots in Charleston, and one of the most photographed, too.
Buying or selling in Charleston, SC? Let me help you find your dream home
Charleston is a beautiful city with a rich history and a wonderful quality of life. If you’re looking to buy or sell in the area, give me a call. My name is Kenton Selvey and I help people find their dream home in Charleston and the surrounding areas including Daniel Island, Mount Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley, and beyond. Give me a call at 843-806-7222 or email me here. I look forward to hearing from you.