I pass by this bright pink house often. It is on my way home, and on my walk to the sunset bench. Years ago it was just a couple doors down from where I lived and I could often hear the students porch-sitting on the hot evenings, playing music, talking to their dogs. Lucky them. Getting to live in that house – 12,000 square feet of history. All that changed when in May of 2014 it suffered a major electrical fire.
Blocks around it were closed down for quite some time, but fortunately only one of the 12 people there at the time was hurt. The house did not fare so well with most of the interior burned to a crisp.
It can take some time to get things done in Charleston, so there it sat for more than two years, with only small signs of construction and renovation. Some called it a monstrosity, an eyesore, some averted their eyes in fear. One could even claim that values of the homes in its surround were eroded, as no one wanted to look at that ugly house.
But I never ever ceased to believe in its beauty. Why??
Because within its tattered walls lies the history of Charleston.
Built circa 1852, one of the owners was the person who built the Charleston jetties at the mouth of our Harbor – which have transformed our topography and economy to this day. In the architecture you see the many layers of hand-mortared bricks, you see the earthquake bolts and rods that were sold to all well-to-do Charleston homeowners after the devastating 1886 earthquake, in order to “prevent” their houses from falling down. And if you look closely in the stucco you see horizontal and vertical scores. These were made because the building style of the wealthy at the time incorporated huge pieces of stone carved from quarries nearby in places like Philadelphia and Boston. We don’t have quarries nearby so we made do with our little lines. And even the burned out pieces, after the home is completely restored, will still remain in some small part.
The story of the fire will become part of this homes extraordinary history, told through its walls and sticks and struts and bones – and that, to me, is beautiful.
So the next time you are riding around Downtown Charleston and you see something falling down, something askew and tattered – remember that it tells the story of us. The story of architecture, of its inhabitants, of its wars and natural disasters, fashions and necessity, and wealth and poverty. Respect its voice and respect its past, no matter what it may look like today.
And…..having said all that, I can’t help but be excited about the recent restoration activities on my beloved Pink House. Though I have seen countless buildings Downtown in varying states of undone and redone, I cannot remember EVER seeing anything like what’s going on in the rear of this home. Scroll down for all the photos.
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