Visit Rainbow Row Charleston, one of the most photographed landmarks in Charleston, SC! Few places in America capture history with a whimsical flair quite like it. No trip to the Holy City is complete until you stroll down this iconic and historic street.
Located South of Broad on East Bay Street, it is in the heart of the historic peninsula. While you are visiting, plan to visit more of Charleston's top attractions. Download our free Charleston Area Vacation Guide for more recommendations on landmarks, historic sites, museums, and restaurants.
What is the significance of Rainbow Row in Charleston?
Rainbow Row is one of Charleston’s most iconic landmarks. This historic street consists of 13 privately owned Antebellum homes. Each home is painted with shades of pastel, making it one of the most easily recognizable places in downtown Charleston. The homes along Rainbow Row date back to the mid-18th century. Known for its cheerfully colored homes, it wasn’t always so bright! After the Civil War, the homes deteriorated to nearly slum conditions.
It wasn’t until 1931 that the homes began their colorful transformation. It all began when Judge Lionel Legge and his wife, Dorothy Porcher Legge, purchased three of the East Bay homes. To improve the homes, Dorothy painted houses 99, 100, and 101 with a cheerful pink color. Little did she know that her legacy would last for generations to come.
Rainbow Row History
The James Cook House
The series of buildings known as Rainbow Row, the longest row of intact 18th century Georgian row houses in the United States include the William Stone house, the James Gordon house and the infamous James Cook House.
The James Cook House Circa 1782-7, one of the most desirable Charleston properties on the Battery has been fabulously restored, renovated and impeccably maintained.
One of the many interesting and romantic facts about 93 East Bay (The James Cook House) is its connection to the 1935 staging of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess - taking advantage of the rear vista of the jumbled Rainbow Row buildings to achieve the desired "picturesque" setting.
By 1938 the property was in a damaged and depressed area.
It was largely due to the efforts of Susan Pringle Frost, founder of the Charleston Preservation Society, who came up with the idea of painting the houses in different colors, reflecting a colonial Caribbean influence, hence the term Rainbow Row.
The history of this charming home dates back to the 1670 foundation - shown on the city's first planning map, the Grand Modell.
Archaeological investigations of the cellar of the house have uncovered the original foundation along with a collection of pieces of clay smoking pipes, china and glass shards and bullets. Original 18th Century hand hewn rafters, brickwork and heart pine flooring have been uncovered and preserved.
The Best Way to Learn More About Rainbow Row
Bulldog Tours is one of the most reputable tour companies in downtown Charleston. A variety of historic walking tours are available. However, for first-time visitors, we recommend the Charleston Strolls Daily Walking Tour.
This one-of-a-kind tour has a history that dates back to 1979. It is a two-hour tour that guides visitors through the historic district. You will explore Rainbow Row, the Battery, Antebellum mansions, historic churches, graveyards, and more historic landmarks.
Or consider Free Tours by Foot to experience Charleston and learn the epic tale of the city’s role in history. This tour covers various sites throughout downtown, including Rainbow Row. They even offer self guided tour options if you don’t want to be on a schedule!
Tips for Your Trip:
- The cobblestone streets of downtown Charleston are notoriously uneven. If you are planning a walking tour, we highly recommended that you wear comfortable shoes!
- Be sure to explore Charleston’s most iconic landmarks while you are in the area. Read our blog on plantations, churches, and historic sites for details.
- No trip to downtown Charleston is complete without lunch or dinner at an award-winning restaurant. For ideas on where to plan your meal, check out our Charleston area foodies guide.
Rainbow Row Homes and Charleston Real Estate
Is it your dream to live in Charleston? Pam Harrington Exclusives Real Estate is here to make your dreams come true! In today's competitive real estate sales market, it is imperative to work with an experienced team.
If you are just getting started, sign up for real estate alerts. This is a great way to follow the Charleston real estate market until you are ready to make a purchase. If you have time to meet with an agent, it is the best way to refine your search.
Pam Harrington Exclusives real estate brings over 44 years of continuous service to Charleston and the Sea Islands. Contact us and learn why we are a leader in Charleston area real estate sales.