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East Battery

Photo: East Battery seawall

The Grand Modell of Charles Town did not provide for a street along what is now East Battery. East Bay stopped at Granville Bastion, which stood on the present Omar Shrine Temple property (upper right in the photo). The forerunner of today's High Battery was built in 1755. lt was an earthwork extending from Granville Bastion to Broughton's Battery on the site of present-day White Point Garden (left rear of photo). lt was built mainly of mud and sand held together by fascine (long bundles of sticks), and planted with grass. lt had wooden platforms on top from which guns were fired. The earthwork was augmented by the Middle Bastion, built just south of present-day Atlantic Street. ln 1757, the Middle Bastion was renamed for Gov. William Lyttelton. The military engineer in charge of the fortification line was Wiliam Gerard de Brahm, who previously had served as a military engineer for Charles Vl, Holy Roman Emperor. He came to America in 1751 and was employed for several years in building fortifications in the southern colonies, and in mapping the Atlantic coastline. The fortifications were completed in 10 months, with the labor of 300 men, including Acadian exiles, German immigrants and blacks. ln 1767 it was reported that the wall was broken down in parts by the sea. Bermuda stone was purchased to repair the breeches but the Assembly had to pass a law the next year to keep the owners of schooners from stealing the stones for ballast. The fortifications were upgraded again during the Revolution when Lyttelton's Bastion became Fort Darrell. After 1757 there appears to have been an easy passage along the fortifications, but the street which became known as East Battery was completed. ln 1787, the General Assembly passed an act for "making and completing East Bay continued." The act authorized the continuation of East Bay as a 30 foot wide thoroughfare from Granville's Bastion to the Ashley River. lt made possible the filling up of Vanderhorst Creek (now Water Street) and of low spots along the water front. Several amending acts were passed through 1797, including an act of 1795 to dispose of lands on which Fort Mechanick had been erected in 1793-95, on the site of Lyttelton's Bastion. Hurricanes in 1800 and 1804 virtually destroyed the seawall, which was rebuilt with rock and ship ballast. Cannons deployed along the line during the War of 1812 are said to have given East Battery its name. The first documentary mention found is in 1827. The seawall of the High Battery was developed to its present height and solidity after the hurricane of 1854, which breached it in several places. The granite seawall which was then raised was repaired and strengthened after the hurricanes of 1888 and 1893. The High Battery has been a popular promenade since the early part of the 19th century. Because of the marshy nature of the land, however, it was not possible to build continuously along East Battery until the period between 1820 and 1850, when most of the mansions along the thoroughfare were constructed. To see a Mathew Brady Civil War photograph of the site shown above, click here. (Ripley, The Battery, p.2-6; Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, p.173-179; Ravenel, Architects, p.24-26; Cooper & McCord, Statues, p.7, 103-106, 109-113; McCrady, #3351.)

1 East Battery Louis DeSaussure House c.1858
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 -- This three story stuccoed brick mansion was built by Louis D. DeSaussure between 1858 and 1861. lts plan is a lengthened version of the twin parlor arrangement with the usual side hall of the typical mid-19th century town house plan. The house was damaged in February 1865, during the Confederate evacuation of the city, when a large gun at the corner of East Battery and South Battery was blown up. A fragment of the gun, it was said, was thrown upon the roof and lodged in the upper part of the house, where it was found when the house was repaired. lt was damaged severely in the earthquake of 1886, after which the house was rehabilitated and remodeled by Bernard O'Neill, who added the iron balconies, new windows and door enframements, and an elaborate cornice and a roof balustrade which has since been removed. DeSaussure, the builder, was an auctioneer who sold everything from ships to slaves. He retained the property until 1888, when O'Neill acquired it. O'Neill was a prosperous wholesale grocer who had immigrated from lreland about 1840. He was the grandfather of the famous local artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner. The O'Neill family retained the house until 1926, when it was sold to Mrs. Robert E. Lee, lll, wife of the grandson of the Confederate general. Currently, the house is divided into three residences. (Mazyck & Waddell, illus. p.7; Stockton, unpub. notes; Stoney, This is Charleston, p.38; Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, p.183.)

5 East Battery John Ravenel House c.1847
IMAGE: ON RIGHT -- The three story stuccoed brick house was built between 1847 and 1849 by John Ravenel. Ravenel, who was completely of Huguenot descent and a member of the planting aristocracy, sold his patrimonial acres to become a merchant, and built up one of the city's leading shipping houses. He was also president of the South Carolina Rail Road and was instrumental in developing the Northeastern Rail Road. This house was also the home of his son, Dr. St. Julien Ravenel, the noted scientist who designed and built the Civil War semi-submersible torpedo boat, the Lucy, and was a leader in the development of the phosphate fertilizer after the Civil War. lt was also the home of Dr. Ravenel's wife Harriett Horry Rutledge, who, using the name Mrs. St. Julien Ravenel, authored the book Charleston: The Place and the People, and othe works on local history. ln 1886, the property was purchased by John Ravenel's son-in-law, Elias Horry Frost, president of E.H. Frost & Co., one of the city's leading cotton brokerage houses. He was also head of the Stono Phosphate Company and president of the South Carolina Loan and Trust company. Frost was a noted art collector and owned one of the best libraries in the South. The house was built in the ltalianate style popular in Charleston in the antebellum period. After suffering severe damage in the 1886 earthquake, the house was extensively rebuilt by Frost, who kept the original plan and mass, including the prominent bay on the front, and added features in the Victorian Italianate style fashionable in the 1880s. The property remained in the hands of John Ravenel's descendants until 1953, when it was sold. (Stockton, unpub. M.S.; Stockton, DYKYC, December 13, 1975.)

9 East Battery William Roper House c.1838
IMAGE: ON RIGHT -- Built c. 1838 by Robert William Roper, this is an outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture. The three story brick structure has giant order lonic columns on an arcaded base. The initials in the front door are those of Rudolph Siegling, subsequent owner, who was the publisher of the News and Courier. He bought the house in 1877 and his heirs retained it until 1929. The house has very fine Greek Revival interior features. A 500-pound piece of cannon has been in the attic since 1865, when the evacuating Confederates blew up the gun on the corner of East Battery and South Battery. (Stockton, DYKYC, March 17, 1975; Stoney, This is Charleston, p.38; Leland, DYKYC, June 6, 1983; Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, p.183-184.)

13 East Battery William Ravenel House c.1845
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-- William Ravenel, a wealthy shipping merchant (brother and partner of John Ravenel who built 5 East Battery), built this house c. 1845. The builder solved the problem of erecting a large house on a narrow lot by running the porte-cochere under his drawing room. Only the arcaded base remains of the front portico, the giant order Tower of the Wind columns of which were shaken down in the 1886 earthquake and never replaced. After a hurricane in the 1950s, one of the massive capitals was found under an uprooted tree; apparently it had been driven deep into the soil by the force of its fall. The drawing room extends the width of the house and is perhaps the largest in the city. (Thomas, DYKYC, Nov. 20, 1967; Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, p.182-183; Stoney, This is Charleston, p. ; Mazyck & Waddell, illus. p.34.)

17 East Battery
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19 East Battery c.1920
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 -- This property and that of 21 East Battery were the site of Lyttelton's Bastion, built in 1757 and renamed Fort Darrell during the Revolution. Fort Mechanic, named for the mechanics of the city who gave their labor to build it in 1794 when a French naval invasion (which never came) was expected, was also built on this site. Subsequently the Holmes House, a notable Adamesque mansion, was built at present-day 19 East Battery. The present yellow brick mansion was built in 1920 for Julius M. Visanka and was designed by architect Albert Simons. The architecture is based on that of ltalian villas. When built, it was one of the most expensive houses in Charleston. (Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, p.180-181, 63; Frazier, p.47; DYKYC, April 13, 1942; DYKYC, Nov. 4, 1965.)

21 East Battery Edmonston-Alston House c.1817
IMAGE: ON RIGHT -- The Edmondston-Alston House. This Regency style house was built between 1817 and 1828 by Charles Edmondston, a native of the Shetland lsland who made a fortune as a merchant and wharf-owner. lt was purchased in 1838 by Charles Alston, a wealthy planter, who added features in the Greek Revival style such as the third level of the piazza and the roof parapet with his family coat of arms. The present cast iron balcony replaced an earlier one which was knocked down in the 1886 earthquake. The parapet was also shaken down and was replaced with a minor correction in the heraldry. The interior woodwork is unusual in that it employs ball shapes in place of dentils in entablatures. During the Civil War, the house was occupied in March, 1865 by the Union Maj. Gen. Rufus Saxton. Charles Alston's daughter, Susan Pringle Alston, was the last of his family to live in the house. Her cousin, Judge Henry Augustus Middleton Smith, bought it from her estate in 1922. He moved two Regency style marble mantels from the William Mason Smith House on Meeting Street and installed them in the ground floor rooms. The first two floors are open to the public as a house museum operated by the Historic Charleston Foundation. (Stoney, DYKYC, March 15, 1984; Stockton, DYKYC, March 3, 1975; Thomas, DYKYC, April 1, 1968; Sparkman, "Beauregard's Headquarters.")

25 East Battery Charles Drayton House c.1885
This Victorian mansion was built in 1885 by Charles H. Drayton, who mined phosphate deposit at his family plantation, Drayton Hall, on the Ashley River. Medieval European and Chinese architectural influences are combined in this structure, designed by Charleston architect W.B.W. Howe. When built, the building's white bricks with black mortar were exposed. Subsequently, the house was stuccoed. (Stockton, DYKYC, April 14, 1975; Stockton, DYKYC, Dec. 21, 1981.)

29 East Battery Porcher-Simonds House c.1856
IMAGE: ON RIGHT -- The Porcher-Simonds House was built c. 1856 by Francis J. Porcher and enlarged and remodeled in the early 1890s by John C. Simonds. Porcher was a cotton broker and after the Civil War was president of the Atlantic Phosphate Company. He was delegate to the South Carolina Secession convention in 1860. Simonds, who purchased the house in 1894, was a native of Abbeville where his father, Andre Simonds, was a banker. The family moved to Charleston in 1865 and the elder Simonds organized the First National Bank. The younger Simonds was educated at Exeter and Yale and succeeded his father as president of the First National Bank. He sold the institution to the Peoples Bank in 1926. A friend later remarked that Simonds retired from banking at an auspicious time. The Simonds family sold the house in 1943. The house is depicted in an 1865 photograph as an ltalianate style dwelling of two stories on a high basement with a pedimented center pavillion and masked piazza. Simonds remodeled the house in the ltalian Renaissance Revival style popular in the 1890s, adding two front piazzas, one square and one semi-circular and a semi-oval wing on the south side of the house. The interior was also remodeled in the Renaissance Revival style, with an abundance of dark oak and mahogany finished woodwork, and two baronial staircases. (Stockton, unpub. M.S.)

39 East Battery George Chisolm House c.1810
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-- The George Chisolm House was built c. 1810 and is a two and one-half story frame dwelling on a raised basement. The entrance was formerly in the far right bay of the front. Tiffany gold leaf ornamentation in the drawing room, c. 1905, was removed c. 1970. The garden was designed by Loutrel Briggs. (Whitelaw & Levkoff, p.62; Leland, DYKYC, Feb. 20, 1961; Stoney, This is Charleston, p.38.)

40 East Battery Missroon House c.1789
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 -- The Missroon House was built by Harry Grant, c. 1789. lt was purchased in 1808 by Capt James Missroon, whose family owned it until after the Civil War. Capt. Missroon and his descendants were in the maritime trade. The house, which retains much of its original woodwork, became the Shamrock Terrace Hotel in 1905. ln 1925, it was enlarged for the Omar Shrine Temple. During the construction, part of Granville Bastion was found. Behind the Missroon House is the Omar Shrine Temple, designed by architect Albert Simons. (Thomas, DYKYC, Aug. 19, 1968; News & Courier, Sept. 3, 1905; Stoney, This is Charleston, p.39; Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, p.168-169.)