Something that has always fascinated me about Charleston is the fact that we have a housing type like no other, and it's the "Charleston Single House". The single house is typically 2-stories and one room wide, with the narrow end facing the street. Usually the entry sits directly on the sidewalk, or there is a small courtyard out front that you enter from. Once you enter through the front door, you are still outside, as you have only entered on the first level's veranda. This faux door provides security and privacy, while giving you presence on the pedestrian level. This veranda that you are on isn't the only porch, as there is probably one just like it above you. These porches generally face South, maximizing the winds off the sea for ventilation to the home. The porch side of the house also faces the garden, with the other side of the yard 'fenced off' by the neighboring house. Yes, the neighbors house is right along the property line, and your house is right up against your other neighbors property line. Sometimes there are lavish gates to the 'garden' from the street.
|Photo credit: http://northbysouth.kenyon.edu/2002/Space/shot2.htm|
The beauty of the housing type is that it is shared by wealthy and poor alike. The style is the same, although the size sometimes changes.
|Photo credit: http://www.buildinghomegarden.com/charleston-house.html|
The Single House first started popping up around Charleston in the 1700's, and then in the mid- to late- 19th century the Freedman's Cottages started being built. It is said that they were built for the newly freed slaves after the Civil War. They are similar to the Single House, however are only one story. They do carry on the tradition of entry, as well as the one room wide scenario. They are much smaller than their predecessor.
|Photo credit: http://www.historiccharleston.org|
I love sharing this image because it is the image that is used on the Historic Charleston website to demonstrate what the Freedman's Cottage looks like, and the house on the right is also Brian's first house, as well as the first home we shared as a married couple! Of course it looked a little different when we lived there...
One of the things that got me to thinking about sharing this with you this week, is that I came across 2 art installations in town that I had not seen before. Both address the housing here in Charleston, and both are equally as clever.
How about this Single House...
And even better, the lack thereof...
So, next time you come to Charleston, take a look at all those homes lined up one after the other, facing the same direction as if in line for a view to the harbor. All the generations of folks rich and poor, whose families have lived for hundreds of years in these homes.
In my mind, the only other city that has it's own unique house style is New Orleans with the Shotgun House! Which is a pretty similar style to ours, with minor (but in actuality huge) differences!