As you settle into a comfortable seat aboard our Charleston horse carriage tour, get ready to see some of historic America’s most appealing architectural treasures. They’re lined up like assorted goodies inside of a box of chocolates. Well-preserved examples are scattered throughout this charming city that boasts a fine display of Georgian, Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance and Queen Anne styles — making it rather difficult to choose your favorite. But, it’s worth a try.
A superb collection of stunning architectural gems provides a glimpse into a gracious way of life from our nation’s past. The well-loved and beautifully restored historic homes are one of the things that make Charleston so unique among American cities. Here at Charleston Carriage Works we can’t wait to show you around.
How Charleston Got That Way
Charleston carriage tours are the best way to get a close-up look at many of the Holy City’s distinctive homes and public buildings. While you relax and enjoy the clippety-clop rhythm on cobblestoned streets, your horse carriage tour guide shares fascinating stories about who lived behind these gracious doorways, early Lowcountry lifestyles, and ravages of the Civil War. While no single tour passes all these locations, by the time your Charleston horse carriage ride comes to its end, you’ll be so much more of an expert on life and culture of historic Charleston.
Charleston’s Oldest Building
Known affectionately as Pink House, this pastel-colored jewel box of Bermuda stone trimmed with black shutters is at 17 Chalmers Street in the French Quarter. One of South Carolina’s oldest surviving structures, the building dates from somewhere around the close of the 17th century. Formerly a tavern and a brothel attracting visiting pirates, it’s now an art gallery open to the public.
Thirteen colorfully painted terraced houses are America’s most significant cluster of Georgian residences from numbers 83 to 107 East Bay Street. Built as commercial premises on the ground floor with living quarters above, the houses of Rainbow Row are a famous Charleston sight. Frequently seen in colonial Caribbean streetscapes, pastel exteriors are said to keep homes cooler inside. Photographers favor the pretty blue house at number 89, probably the oldest, which was built in 1770.
The Old Exchange
Imagine President George Washington in his powdered wig and polished buckled shoes, taking a spin with every distinguished lady present in the ballroom of the Old Exchange. In 1791, four lavish events were held in his honor at 122 East Bay Street. Historians note that British forces once operated a prisoner of war facility here during the American Revolution and that slaves were sold in The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, next to the very same balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was read. The National Historic Landmark is open to visitors.
Grand and stately antebellum homes dot the harbor side promenade where cannons pay tribute to the original defensive seawall. Notice the stately fanlights, columns, cornices, wrought iron fences, balconies and gate work adorning Greek revival and English regency-style homes with enviable harbor views, such as the 1825 Edmondston-Alston House at 21 Battery. Look closer to spot a coat-of-arms engraved in the parapet at roof level. Outbuildings to the rear of the house originally contained the kitchen and servants’ quarters, horse stables and carriages houses. Each one of these distinguished homes is architecturally distinctive, some with interiors as large as 20,000 square feet; these mansions were once home to the wealthiest Charleston citizens.
Downtown Charleston Landmark Houses
Historic Charleston Foundation operates the neoclassical Nathaniel Russell House Museum at 51 Meeting Street and the Aiken-Rhett House Museum at 48 Elizabeth Street, two of America’s finest examples of restored early 18th century residences. Visit both to learn more about the activities of Charleston’s elite and enslaved African Americans who worked to maintain these properties. At the Nathaniel Russell House, a rare, elegant free-flying staircase and stunning formal gardens are among the highlights of antebellum Charleston. A few doors away at 16 Meeting Street, the 35-room Calhoun Mansion represents striking Italianate design in Charleston’s largest private home, now a house museum. Adorned with Tiffany, topped with a clock tower, and enhanced with a Japanese garden and koi pond, see why this was once described as “the handsomest private residence in the South.”
Don’t leave Charleston without a visit to Historic Charleston City Market, stretching four city blocks through downtown and filled with artisan vendors and food sellers. The wonderful Greek Revival-style hall has been “the heart of cultural Charleston” since 1804. It’s just a three minute walk from Charleston Carriage Works where your driver will wish you goodbye and a wonderful stay in the Holy City at the conclusion of your Charleston horse carriage ride.