Charleston is the largest city in the state of South Carolina and holds a great historic importance architecturally. The Board of Architectural Review designated it as the first historic district in the United States.
The city and its architectural grandeur have been a part of hundreds of books and countless articles. People from faraway lands come to the city to experience its unique buildings and savour the food. It houses various design styles including Gregorian, Federal Greek Rival, Gothic Rival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Victorian and Art Deco. This platter of art styles makes it interesting for designers to come and witness the beautiful amalgamation of such architectural styles, all present in one place!
Here is a list of 15 outstanding buildings in Charleston that one should definitely visit.
1. Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon
Built between 1767 and 1771, this building is one of the oldest structures in Charleston. It was built in the Colonial-style and served a role of various purposes like, post office, meeting place and jail as well during the American Revolutionary War.
2. Heyward-Washington House
Built in 1772 this structure was home to Thomas Heyward Jr., and was rented out to George Washington later in 1791. Hence, the name came into existence. It is constructed in Gregorian style with square symmetrical façade and multiple windows. In 1930 it opened as the first house museum.
3. Aiken-Rhett House
The Aiken-Rhett House is one of the most typical example of Federal style architecture marked with several chimneys, balconies, staircases, shutters, Palladian-style windows and fanlight on top of the doors.
4. Fireproof Building
This building is in a Classic Revival Style and serves as the perfect example of the architecture with minimal ornamentation. It was the most fireproof building of the time designed by the architect Robert Mills.
5. The Huguenot Church
Charleston’s Huguenot Church is the oldest church in South Carolina to be designed in Gothic Revival or Neo-gothic style. The style can be distinguished by heavy embellishments, hood moulding, scalloping and decorative designs.
6. Patrick O’Donnell House
This house was constructed in Italianate style including features like flat roofs, symmetrical or rectangular shoes, double doors, tall and narrow windows, balconies and so on. The house was built in 1836. Later belonged to the famous novelist Josephine Pinckney in the years 1907 till 1937 where she formed the Charleston Poetry Society.
7. Wentworth Mansion
Wentworth Mansion was constructed in Victorian Second Empire Style marked by the use of new materials and technologies. The building had ornate decoration, fine details and steep roof. The property is now converted into luxury hotel and the old rooms are restored into new spaces where people can dine in the carriage house now turned into a fine restaurant.
8. The Riviera Theatre
In 1920s Art Deco style got famous with its colourful structures, narrow windows, modern designs and geometric shapes. The style signified the new age ‘freedom and carefree prosperity’. The theatre opened in 1939 and ran movies up until 1977 when it got shut and was threatened to get dismantled. The Friends of Riviera group saved it and now it operates as Conference room and Ballroom run by Charleston Place Hotel.
9. Nathaniel Russel House
Nathaniel Russel the commission to build this townhouse in 1808 in then famous Federal Style. The façade of the house is symmetric and has four-sided bay extending up to the top floor. The interior was done in Adam Style with curvy stairs and the third floor has an oval shape hall with extensive décor.
10. Circular Congregational Church
The Church compound has a long history of existence. And is definitely one of the most loved sites by tourists. The current church is designed in Richardsonian Romanesque Style and was constructed in the beginning of 1800s. It is not circular but in cloverleaf design but still continues to be called as Circular Church.
11. Historic City Market
Historic City Market in considered one of the most important structures architecturally in Charleston. In 1790s the structure was built in Greek Revival Style. The extravagantly long structure rests on a rusticated ground floor which resembles the old Greek architecture.
12. Fort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter is a sea fort built after the war in 1812. Named after a Revolutionary War Hero, Thomas Sumter, the five side walled structure has 1.5 m thick walls to house 650 men and guns in full capacity.
13. Philip’s Church
The church was built in 1836 with tower in Wren-Gibbs tradition. The stuccoed bricks and Tuscan porticos make it one of the finest examples of sophisticated architecture.
14. Middleton Place
Middleton Place is a plantation in Dorchester County around 24kms away from Charleston near the river Ashley. The entire place has a bunch of structures like Rice Mills, Eliza’s House, barnyards and Springhouse.
15. Cathedral of St John the Baptist
The original church built was swept away in fire in 1854. Current brownstone cathedral was constructed on the same foundation and designed by the same architect, Patrick Keely. The cathedral seats 720 people and is famously known for its neogothic style and Franz Mayor and Co. stained glasses.