Rainbow Row has not always been one of the iconic views associated with Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, in the years after the Civil War, much of Rainbow Row became so run down that the area was considered a slum. It remained in poor condition until the early 1900s.
In the 1920s, Susan Pringle Frost, the founder of the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, now the Preservation Society of Charleston, bought six of the buildings, but she lacked the money to restore them immediately. that time, a woman named Dorothy Porcher Legge began renovating the Charleston row houses. One of the changes she made was to paint those homes she owned (which were numbers 99 through 101) a beautiful, pastel color pink. This stems from the use of the colonial Caribbean color scheme at the time. Soon, as more people moved into the area and worked to improve the overall condition of the neighborhood, many chose other pastel colors to paint their homes. By 1945, most of the houses had been restored.
Keep in mind, though, that the coloring is not just for fun. In fact, it is often used in tropical areas because the light colors help to keep the the homes cool.
What’s Not True About Rainbow Row
There are plenty of rumors about why the coloring of these homes is as it is. For example, some believe that drunk sailors landed here and came on shore to paint the homes various colors. The thought was that they did this so they could remember where they were to live. Others believe that the color was done as a way to inform people who lived there, most notable slaves who could not read, what type of store was within the building. These rumors are inaccurate from all historical accounts found, though.
Nevertheless, as a well known area, it is worth driving down this street and seeing the unique coloring and style of the buildings. Realize these homes date to the 1800s and many of them have been renovated to period times.