Whether you are fascinated by historic architecture or you want to share the wonders of the past with your children, Charleston is the place to visit. As the oldest city in South Carolina, Charleston’s buildings show the influence of Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Classic Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Victorian, and Art Deco styling. With about 2,800 historic buildings, many accented with outdoor gas lanterns, there is lots to see over the course of several visits.
The Architecture Of Charleston
To get a sense of the different architectural influences, you can avail yourself of the many guided or self-guided tours of the city.
Here are eight examples of different buildings to start with, according to The Culture Trip.
Colonial: Old Exchange Building
Built in Charleston between 1600-mid 1700s, colonial architecture was known for its low foundation that supported two to three levels, symmetrical facades, multpaned windows, entry hall, and pillars and columns. Exchange and Provost, known throughout most of its history as the Old Exchange Building, was built in this style and throughout its history was used as a post office, custom house, market, meeting place, jail, and the site where the state verified the constitution in 1788 before becoming a museum operated by the South Carolina Society of Daughters of the American Revolution. Click for additional examples of Colonial buildings here.
Georgian: Heyward-Washington House
By the 1770s, Georgian architecture became extremely popular in the South, especially as a style used for many plantations. One prime example of Georgian architecture is the Heyward-Washington House, owned by Thomas Heyward, Jr, a signer of the Declaration of Independence in 1772, and rented to George Washington in 1791 when he visited Charleston. Georgian style is marked by square and symmetrical façades with five windows across the front, rough-faced limestone trim, stone arches, and granite pedestals around the front door, multiple chimneys, and a centered front door with crown molding. The home became the city’s first historic house museum in 1930, when it opened its doors to visitors who can see the original kitchen build in the 1740, gardens that contain plants from the 18th century, and locally-made furniture.
Another example is Drayton Hall at 3380 Ashley River Road that was built by a wealthy individual according to pattern books of the time. As the house has not been restored, visitors can see original materials used for Georgina architecture. Rainbow Row, the collection of brightly painted houses along East Bay Street, also represents the Georgian-influence.
Federal: Aiken-Rhett House
The Aiken-Rhett House built for Governor William Aiken Cameron is a perfect example of Federal architecture although it has additions in the Greek revival style added by William Aiken, Jr. Popular from the late 1700s to the 1830s, Federal architecture includes multiple chimneys, staircases, balconies, shutters, narrow windows framing the front door, Palladian-style windows with an arched center section that is larger than the two side sections, and fanlights (usually above the front door with a semicircle window.).It channels architectural trends of ancient Roman, Britain, and the Italian Renaissance. You can see many other examples of Federal architecture here.
Classic Revival: Fireproof Building
The Fireproof Building, built to protect public records and now the home of the South Carolina Historical Society, is an excellent example of classical revival architecture. Before the Civil War, Classical Revival or Neo-Classical architecture became a popular style for many plantations owners who wanted to flaunt their wealth as well as public buildings such as the Fireproof Building. Large columns, high arches, and triangular roofs meant to emanate to exude a sense of “social prominence” define this style which is also captured in 123 other Neo-Classical buildings.
Gothic Revival: French Huguenot Church
Located at 132 Church Street, the French Huguenot Church is a powerful example of Gothic Revival architecture. Taking inspiration from medieval castles, Gothic Revival architecture has castle-like towers, parapets, pointed arched windows, elongated vertical facades, and deep pitched roofs with hood moldings with label stops or ornate carving at the ends. The still is particularly popular with churches, although there are at least 33 other examples in the area. The Huguenot Church, located within Charleston’s French Quarter, is still open for church services.
Italianate: Patrick O’Donnell House
Charleston has many buildings that exemplify the Italianate style but the Patrick O’Donnell House at 21 King Street was the largest home in Charleston built with this architecture, which was popular in the same time period (1837-1900) as Gothic Revival. Inspired by traditional Italian villas, the style incorporated low or pitched hip or flat roofs, cupolas (domes), symmetrical and rectangular shapes, balconies, eaves (ledges) supported by cobles, double doors, tall and narrow windows, and multiple stories. The house was last sold in June 2007 to James Pallotta, a part owner of the Boston Celtics for 10 times what the society was considering paying. The price of $7.2 million was the highest ever paid for s home in Charleston.
Victorian Second Empire: Wentworth Mansion
Built as a 24,000 sq ft mansion in 1886 for the Wentworth family, the Wentworth Mansion is now a luxury hotel that was built in the Victorian style, a series of architectural revival styles built during the reign of Queen Victorian (1837-1901). The style features ornate decorations, fine details, steep mansard “Second Empire” roofs, rooftop cupolas, and colorfully painted exteriors. It is also known for details such fish scale butt siding cut into small sections to resemble shingles, mixed exteriors that combined stone, wood, or brick, and double brackets under a cornice or columns on the porch.
Art Deco: The Riveria Theater
Art Deco architecture in Charleston, as evidenced by the Riveria Theate at 227 King Street, became popular in Charleston during the Roaring 20s. Inspired by influences as diverse as ancient Egypt, Africa, Indian, in Mayan and Aztec cultures, art deco architecture incorporates geometric shapes including cubes, pyramids, trapezoids, and curvy forms, while using vibrant colors stylized figures, and sleek modern designs. Popular in commercial buildings, other example in Charleston include the SH Kress department store building at 281 King Street, the Chase Furniture Company at 414 King Street, and the Marschink Building at 26 Cumberland Street
Outdoor Gas Lanterns For Any Architectural Style
If you want to replicate any of these architectural styles in your own home, Lantern & Scroll offers reproduction lighting that will match any style. Whether you need outdoor gas lanterns or electric copper lighting for the inside of your home, we have a collection for you. Our products range from the Charleston line perfect for colonial homes to the Alpin Cities Collection to enhance Art Deco builders,