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Rainbow Row — Charleston, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Charleston County  |  Rainbow Row

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Rainbow Row

In 1931, Judge Lionel Legge and his wife, Dorothy Porcher Legge, purchased a house at 99-101 East Bay Street in Charleston and painted it a pastel pink. Neighboring owners followed their lead, and soon a “rainbow” of soft hues emerged, lending these historic townhomes the name for which they are now famous – Rainbow Row.

Rainbow Row

Gordon Bell of Carlton, United Kingdom, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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 at that time, the Legges stepped in and began the process a few years later.

Norma Armstrong of Charleston, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Rainbow Row 2018

Olivia Myers of Charleston, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Rainbow Row

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Lowcountry region of South Carolina typically has mild winters but during January of 2018, residents and visitors alike were surprised with a blanket of white snow in the Charleston area. When snow does occur, it is usually melted within a day, but this particular snowfall lasted nearly a week sending excited onlookers out to photograph as many scenes as they could. The photo below depicts Rainbow Row during the 2018 snowfall.

Rainbow Row in Snow

Kim Howard of Murrells Inlet, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Othniel Beale House on Rainbow Row

The Othniel Beale House – named for Colonel Othniel Beale, originally of Marlbehead, Massachusetts – is thought to be the oldest intact home on Rainbow Row. It was also the first to be restored when the Legges began work in 1931. Beale was a wealthy wharf owner who built four structures here, comprising numbers 95-101 East Bay Street, across from his wharf. Each of the four structures served as a tenement with retail space on the ground level. The home pictured below, located at 99-101 East Bay Street, was Beale’s primary residence.

Othniel Beale House

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on Rainbow Row

F. Everett Leigh of Union, who took the photo of Rainbow Row at the top of this page, shares the following:

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

F. Everett Leigh of Union, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The painting below, by artist Diane Minuni, reflects the new face of these traditional row houses as colors change for a new generation of owners.

Rainbow Row Painting

Diane Minuni of Limerick, PA, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you enjoy this page? Do you have any information we should add? Send us your comments below — we can't wait to hear from you!

4 Comments about Rainbow Row

Katrinka Kat Kellie says:
July 1st, 2016 at 10:48 pm

THAT pic I must have!!!!!!!

Susan P says:
March 23rd, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I have a painting of this in my livingroom. A friend gave it to me. It’s very beautiful!

Rachel says:
April 29th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I went on a carrage ride there!

Susan says:
March 30th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Beautiful street! If you ever get to South Carolina this is a must see — along with the many other sites nearby and the market!


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