A Piece of Charleston History

Belle Decor

A Piece of Charleston History

By Haskell HarrisMay 12, 2010

A year ago next month, I moved out of this circa 1796 Charleston house on Meeting Street and into a circa 1831 kitchen house in Harleston Village (photo below that I took early this morning, pardon my amateur photo skills).

The little outbuilding has survived all manner of historic events, including the Civil War, Restoration, and the whallop that was Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which just goes to show that houses built right go the distance.

And even though parts of its past are deeply sad and haunting, it has come a long way in over a century, offering shelter to all kinds of tenants, including young musicians here in town. I love that it’s small (and it is small, as in dollhouse proportions small—but charming). I love that it has four working fireplaces. I love that it holds court in the middle of a garden and is a miniature version of the big house it sits behind. But most of all I love that it has real, operable shutters, and that those shutters are painted Charleston Green (photo below).

I’ve talked to several folks around town, including the Historic Charleston Foundation  and Jane Thornhill, the city’s beloved tour guide, but it seems everybody has a different story about the origin of the color. The most prominent oral history has something to do with Union troops sending down buckets of black paint to help the economically decimated city keep up appearances. True to form, colorful Charlestonians added green and yellow paint to the buckets, creating a brighter version of the funereal black. You can purchase the color through the Historic Charleston Foundation’s paint collection with Sherwin-Williams or try your hand at mixing the color. The recipe below was given to Mrs. Thornhill by another local history buff:

  • 10 ounces black paint
  • 4 ounces green paint
  • ½ ounce yellow paint 

Does anyone else know of another story about the color’s history?