Charleston in the Time of Coronavirus – Part 2 – East Battery
I have seen East Battery deserted in advance of a hurricane, but I have never seen it this quiet on such a beautiful day. Before a hurricane, most of the houses here would be boarded up with shutters closed, bracing for the weather ahead, so this was an unusual opportunity to take pictures of the houses that line the Battery without storm preparation measures in place. There are still cars on the street as residents observe the stay at home order and construction projects continue, so this post is not a comprehensive documentation of the houses there, but rather a selection based on which houses I could photograph without cars marring the view. Fortunately, several of my favorites had unobstructed views.
The c.1838 Robert William Roper House at 9 East Battery is one of Charleston’s grandest Greek Revival houses. Charleston city planners originally envisioned an L-shaped layout for White Point Gardens with the public park running up East Battery in addition to South Battery. The financial panic of 1837 caused city planners to reconsider that plan and the land along East Battery was sold to finance the the southern section of the park. Roper purchased two lots from the city and a contiguous lot to the north on which to build a grand house that could be seen as visitors approached from the water. The architect was not documented, but may have been Karl Friedrich Reichert, a German architect who was working on The Charleston Hotel (demolished 1960) at the time. Sadly, Roper did not have much time to enjoy his showpiece as he died of malaria in 1845.
The Edmonston-Alston House at 21 East Battery was built c.1825 by Charles Edmonston, a Scottish shipping merchant. It was one of the first significant houses built along the city’s sea wall. Financial troubles during the panic of 1837 compelled Edmonston to sell the house to Charles Alston who updated the federal house in the Greek Revival style, adding a third tier to the piazza with Corinthian columns, a cast iron balcony and a parapet with the Alston coat of arms. The house has remained in the Alston family since 1838 and is now open to the public (when not closed due to the coronavirus pandemic).
The Nathaniel Ingraham House is oriented toward the harbor, but its address is 2 Water Street since the entry is on the side street. Constructed by merchant Nathaniel Ingraham sometime between 1810 and 1818, it was damaged during the Civil War. Changes made in the early 1880s include the cast-metal cornice and window heads as well as the distinctive Second Empire mansard roof.
The newcomer to East Battery is number 19, the Julius M. Visanka House built c.1920. It stands on the site of the former Federal style Holmes Mansion built shortly after the War of 1812 following the removal of Fort Mechanic. Along with the Edmonston-Alston House, the Holmes Mansion was one of the first grand houses on East Battery, but it was badly damaged in the hurricane of 1911 and demolished soon thereafter. The current house was designed by architect Albert Simons for Charleston businessman Julius M. Visanka.
The c.1845 William Ravenel House at 13 East Battery originally had a two-story Tower of the Winds portico which was heavily damaged during the earthquake of 1886 with only the arcaded base now remaining. The house’s namesake owned one of Charleston’s major steamship lines and was the brother of John Ravenel who built 5 East Battery (see below).
The house was built c.1848 by John Ravenel on land acquired from the city after the financial panic of 1837 caused the city to revise plans for a public park. Shortly after construction, the house passed to his son, Dr. St. Julien Ravenel who was a pioneer in Charleston’s postwar phosphate industry. Heavily damaged in the earthquake of 1886, the house was rebuilt with an Italianate entablature and lintels. For many years it served as The Palmer House bed and breakfast before being purchased in 2016 with work in progress to return it to a single-family residence for the new owner.
There is much more to cover on East Battery, so please check back for another post soon!