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Chalmers Street

Photo: 17 Chalmers St. Pink House Tavern c.1712

Other photos this page:

8 Chalmers St. c.1851

38 Chalmers St. c.1844

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Chalmers Street, the longest remaining cobblestone street, has had various names. The block from Union (now State) to Church was early called Union Alley, and after he purchased property on it in 1757, was called Chalmers Alley after Dr. Lionel Chalmers. Dr. Chalmers (1715-1777), a Scot, studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh before settling in South Carolina where he became one of the leading physicians and was associated with Dr. John Lining (see 106 Broad). He was a scientist who, like Lining, recorded weather observations and published the results in London in 1776. His work on tetanus was published in the Transactions of the Medical Society of London (1754) and his Essay on Fevers was published in Charles Town (1767). He corresponded with leading European scientists, as did Lining and Dr. Alexander Garden of Charles Town. Chalmers' residence in the alley was destroyed by the great fire of 1778 . lt was on the north side; otherwise its location is uncertain. The continuation of the thoroughfare, from Church Street to Meeting was Beresford Alley, named for Richard Beresford, a Wando River planter who in 1715 left his large estate for the establishment of a free school. The fund continues to provide scholarships for needy students. Forty years after the Revolution, the two alleys were widened, paved and merged into one street under the name Chalmers Street
(Stoney, News & Courier , April 20, 1958. Whitelaw & Levkoff, 220-21.; Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys , 94. ; Aldredge 219-225.; Fraser, 116; Stockton, unpub. MS.; Leland, Charleston; Crossroads of History , 4. )



 

6 Chalmers Street

-- The Old Slave Mart Museum. In 1856 a city ordinance was passed prohibiting the sale of slaves on the north side of the Custom House (the Old Exchange), which had been a tradition since the 18th century. Proponents of the ordinance said the auction sales at the location caused the "blocking up or obstruction of East Bay Street." The prohibition of public sales resulted in the opening of various sales "rooms," "yards" and "marts" along Chalmers, State and Queen Streets. One was "Ryan's Mart," which utilized a four story brick double tenement, fronting on Queen Street, with a yard extending to Chalmers Street. The building contained the "barracoon" (from the Portuguese word for slave jail) and Ryan's offices and sales rooms. Auctions were held also in the rear yard on Chalmers Street. In 1859, the property was purchased by Z.B Oakes, an auction master, who in the same year received permission from the City to insert brick trusses in the wall of the German Fire Hall (next door to the west) to support roof timbers for a "shed" which he was erecting. The one story "shed" was given an impressive facade with octagonal pillars (similar to those on the Fire Hall next door) and a high arch enclosed by a large iron gate. Above the arch, in large gilt letters, was the word "MART" and a gilt star. About 1878, the building was converted to a two story tenement dwelling by filling in the arch and inserting a second floor under a new roof. ln 1938, this property was purchased by Miriam B. Wilson, who developed it as a museum of African and Afro-American arts, crafts and history. The museum is operated by the Miriam B Wilson Foundation.
(Drago & Melnick, "The Old Slave Mart Museum."; Stoney, This is Charleston , 22. )



 

8 Chalmers St. c.1851

IMAGE: ON RIGHT-- The German Fire Company Engine House was built in 1851 and was designed by Edward C. Jones, one of Charleston's most talented antebellum architects. The building is in the Romansesque Revival style of the mid-19th century. lt was built as the engine house for the Deutschen Feuer Compagnie (German Fire Company) , which was one of several companies organized after the great fire of 1838, which made the necessity of a more efficient fire-fighting system more apparent. The present building replaced a smaller structure built soon after the company was organized. The present building remained in use as an engine house until 1888, when the fire station at Meeting and Wentworth streets was completed. Afterwards the building was a meeting hall, first for the Carolina Light lnfantry and later for several black fraternal lodges. ln 1982 it was rehabilitated as a law office.
(Stockton, unpub. MS.; Stoney, This is Charleston , 22. )



 

17 Chalmers St. c.1712

IMAGE-- The Pink House, built c. 1712 by John Breton, the tiny structure is believed to have been a tavern in Colonial days. It is constructed partly of Bermuda stone, a coral limestone imported in blocks from Bermuda as building material. The building's gambrel roof is one of a few surviving in Charleston. The building, once the studio of artist Alice R. Huger Smith, later became a law office.
(Stoney, This is Charleston , 23. ; Jack Leland, DYKYC Jan. 9, 1984; Whitelaw & Levkoff, 220-221.; Stockton DYKYC, Sept. 8, 1975; Leland, Charleston, Crossroads of History , 4. )



 

25 Chalmers St.

-- Huguenot Society Headquarters. The society, founded in 1885, is open to descendants of French Huguenots who settled in South Carolina in the Colonial period. The address is actually the rear of the Confederate Home on Broad St. (see 60-64 Broad). The portion of the building to the left of the open passage housed the United States District Court from 1845 until 1860, when the Judge Andrew G. Magrath (pronouced Magraw), following the election of Lincoln as President, divested himself of his robe of office, and the Federal Grand Jury refused to function, declaring that the North, "through the ballot box on yesterday, has swept away the last hope for the permanence, for the stability, of the Federal government of these sovereign States."
(Wallace, 525. Stockton, unpub. notes.)



 

29 Chalmers St

.-- German Friendly Society. The Society, founded in 1766, formerly had a hall on Archdale Street, and has been located here since 1942. Though limited to 175 members, the society does not restrict membership to persons of German ancestry. Portraits of past officers, some of whom were distinguished Patriots of the Revolution, line the walls of the hall, and the Society has a museum of artifacts of its more than 200 years of history. The Arion Society, another German fraternal organization, also meets here. The building, after the Confederate War, was the headquarters of the Carolina Art Association.
(Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys , 6. ; Stoney, This is Charleston , 23. ; Stockton, DYKYC, Oct 2l. 1974.)



 

34 Chalmers St. c.1850

IMAGE: 34 and 36 Chalmers St. -- This three and one-half story brick building was erected by Benjamin Mclnnis. A Scottish born blacksmith, Mclnnis also made a study of tetanus. He acquired the site of 34 Chalmers in 1850 and had his blacksmith shop on the first floor.
(Bull, unpub. notes.)



 

36 Chalmers St. c.1835

-- This substantial three story, stuccoed brick Greek Revival house was built c. 1835 for Jane Wightman, a free black woman. It was purchased in the 1930s by author Josephine Pinckney and restored as her home. She added the Fedral style piazza entrance.
(Stoney, News & Courier , April 2, 1948.)



 

38 Chalmers St. c.1844

IMAGE: ON RIGHT-- This small two and one half story brick house was built c. 1844 for Jane Wightman, a free black woman, who also owned 36 Chalmers. It was the birth place of artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner in 1883. Subsequently it was the home of Laura M. Bragg (1881-1978) director of the Charleston Museum, founder of the Free Library and the Poetry Society of South Carolina. She was visited here by Gertrude Stein, Carson McCullers, DuBose Heyward and other famous authors. Miss Bragg restored the house in 1927. Architect Albert Simons added Georgian and Federal details at that time.
(Greene, unpub. MS; SCHS.)