So what exactly is the Charleston Single House?

The Charleston Single House is an architectural style associated with Charleston, SC and refers to homes built one room wide with double covered piazzas (Charlestonese for porch). The homes can be many rooms long and multiple stories high.  Some are 10 feet wide, some are 25 feet wide, but they always sit with the narrow part of the house facing the street.  Below the pictures you’ll find a great description from Archiplanet.

 

 

 

 

 

“The single house is usually sited asymmetrically along or very near one side lot line devoting most of it’s unbuilt lot area to a single side yard. The house is “open” to its own side yard with facing porches and large windows. Conversely a single house is “closed” or hermetic with fewer and smaller windows on the side facing its neighbor’s side yard so that each house has privacy in its designated outdoor space even when houses are built very close together. Today side yards are often used for parking one car or two cars in tandem with the space sometimes doubling as a courtyard when the cars are removed.

Single houses can be subdivided into two flats or as many as four apartments. Access to the second floor unit(s) may be via an exterior staircase from the lower to upper piazza.

This house type was an adaptation both to allow air to flow through the entire length of the house and piazzas (especially effective if the house is properly oriented to catch the wind).

As Charleston grew into a tourist hub, the Charleston Single House building type became the subject of numerous myths and legends. Among these myths are the reputed fact that the Single House was built as an adaptation to the method of taxation based on street frontage, or that the building type was derived from vernacular structures of Barbados; a lucrative sugar producing country throughout much of the 17th and 18th centuries, where many early Charleston families kept sugar plantations. These facts are popular among Charleston tour guides but are not accurate.

The Charleston Single House building type is found exclusively in Peninsular Charleston, SC. The building type was built throughout the 17 and 1800s, but abruptly began disappearing some time in the 1890s. It is said that at its peak, the Charleston Single House dominated Charleston with around 4,000 single houses in existence. Today that figure is estimated to be around 2,700.

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2 Responses to So what exactly is the Charleston Single House?

  1. Pingback: Master Preservationist Program-Day One. Charting Charleston’s Past | Charleston InsideOut

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