Today In Charleston History, August 9

1792, August 9. Commerce. Culture. Theater.

The contract to construct the new theater for West and Bignall was given to Captain Anthony Toomer, with the understanding that the building was to be finished in January 1793.  The lot for the theater was a triangle parcel at Broad and Middleton streets, and the high ground of Savage’s Green (present-day New Street), purchased from Henry Middleton for £500 sterling.     

There is some evidence that the theater was designed by James Hoban, who had lived in Charleston for a couple of years while helping design and build the Charleston County Courthouse.


charleston theater, broad and new streets

Rendering of the New Theater at Savage’s Green, facing Broad Street (present day location of New and Broad Streets)


Historic Charleston Image #3 – Rainbow Row

rainbow row 1920s

Rainbow Row, 1910 … looking south along East Bay Street from Elliott Street.

This famous group of buildings at 79-107 East Bay Street are excellent examples of 18th & 19th century wharfside mercantile life in Charleston. They were built as individual businesses and residences by prosperous merchants with the ground floors used for commercial use and the upper floors for homes and boarding rooms.  

rainbow row 1900

Rainbow Row, 1910, looking north along East Bay Street … from Tradd Street.

Post Civil War the entire area fell into neglect due to the economics of the time. The wharves along East Bay Street were abandoned and the waterfront silted in, making the area unusable for shipping. The buildings along the Row deteriorated into slum-like conditions by the time of World War I. 

rainbow row, 1920s

Rainbow Row, 1920s, looking south along East Bay Street … from Elliott Street.

In the 1930s Dorothy Porcher Legge renovated her house at 99-101 East Bay Street and came up with the concept of different pastels colors as a homage to the Colonial Caribbean heritage of the Charleston merchants. As the entire Row was renovated and each individual building was painted a pastel … the nickname Rainbow Row came into use to describe the street.

MythBuster: The colors WERE NOT painted on the buildings so illiterate slaves could identify individual businesses! 

Modern view of Rainbow Row

Modern view of Rainbow Row

Charleston Historic Image #1

This is the earliest outdoor known photo taken in Charleston, South Carolina.- Seigling’s Music House which sat on the corner of King and Beaufain Streets from 1840 until the early 1970s. It advertised itself as “America’s oldest music house.” 

German-born John Seigling started his music store in 1819 on Meeting Street, selling harps, pianos and wind instruments. He relocated to 243 King Street (at the bend) after the 1838 fire. During the War (Between the States) Seigling’s firm manufactured drums for the Confederate Army. C. Casimer Seigling closed the store in 1970, after being a Charleston institution for 150 years.

Seiglings Music House 1853

Seiglings Music House 1853