Rainbow Row – Charleston, South Carolina
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In 1931, Judge Lionel Legge and his wife, Dorothy Porcher Legge, purchased a section of houses on East Bay Street in Charleston and painted them pastel pink based on a colonial Caribbean color scheme. Current and future owners followed their lead when painting their houses, and soon a ‘rainbow’ of pastels emerged, which remains today.
As charming as these homes are now, such was not always the case. Facing the Cooper River, many of the buildings served as stores situated along the wharves with living quarters above. Following the Civil War, they were left to fall into disrepair. During the 1920s, Susan Pringle Frost, who formed what is now known as the Preservation Society of Charleston, bought six buildings for the sake of restoring them. Though she was financially unable to renovate the buildings herself, the Legges stepped in and began the process a few years later.
It has been suggested by some locals that the houses were painted in the various pastel colors so that intoxicated sailors coming in from the port could remember which houses were their own. Another legend claims that these buildings belonged to merchants and were painted various colors to indicate what goods were sold in which buildings. Though many myths persist regarding the vibrant colors that adorn these buildings, those strolling down East Bay Street can simply thank Dorothy Legge for her lively taste in exterior paint.
Reflections on Rainbow Row
F. Everett Leigh shares about capturing his photo at the top of the page: “I don’t know anything other than the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge that says ‘Charleston Living’ more than Rainbow Row on East Bay Street! Early mornings are crowded with local joggers and tourists alike from Waterfront Park all the way to the Battery.
“The cars lining the street in the million-dollar residential area required that I climb up on a brick wall in order to capture this shot on a Sunday morning and avoid the cars and all the foot traffic.”
Rainbow Row Info
Address: East Bay Street between Tradd Street and Elliott Street, Charleston, SC 29401
GPS Coordinates: 32.775671,-79.927258
Rainbow Row Map
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The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Rainbow Row, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!