"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

April 23, 2016

Charleston’s Rainbow Row

Maritime Center Marina

“If we were meant to stay in one place we’d have roots instead of feet” —Rachel Wolchin

Charleston is full of history…everywhere you look and every street you go down has a story to tell. One of the most photographed areas of historic Charleston is Rainbow Row. This charming row of colorful homes is a perfect example of the old row houses that were very distinctly Charleston.

Rainbow Row was built in the mid 18th century on East Bay Street. At that time, this was the commerce center on Charleston's waterfront, built to serve the wharfs and docks of the very vibrant and busy Port of Charleston. Merchants worked in their stores on the first floor and called the top floors home.

Unfortunately, conditions of these homes were severely deteriorating after the Civil War. In the early part of the 20th century a woman named Dorothy Porcher Legge purchased some of the homes and began to renovate them. She painted these homes pastel pink, for the popular colonial Caribbean color scheme. Eventually other homes in the row were purchased and renovated and their owners followed her example, painting the homes in different shades of pastel colors.

As with any historic area with lots of character, there are many stories as to the reasons for the different paint colors on Rainbow Row. One story says the houses were painted in different vibrant colors so drunken sailors coming from port would know which house they were supposed to sleep in. Other stories tell of merchants who used different color paints so illiterates would know which store to shop at without having to read the sign. Either way, the results are delightful.

Today, Rainbow Row consists of 14 private residences that are part of one of the most famous architectural landmarks in Charleston.
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