What is Rainbow Row?
Rainbow Row is a series of 13 brightly-colored houses along the waterfront, located on East Bay Street next to the Battery. It’s a popular site for photographers and tourists.
The houses on Rainbow Row are not only eye-catching, but also historic. They were first constructed in 1740 and were not originally painted in bright colors. They were just your average row house – used by ship merchants who would run their businesses out of the bottom portion of the house and use the top for their family to live in. During this period, the houses received little attention and eventually became somewhat run-down.
However, in the early 1930s, Dorothy Porcher Legge and her husband Judge Lionel Legge purchased a section of the houses. In an attempt to brighten up the houses and make them more appealing, Dorothy had them painted in various pastel colors. Over time, nearby home owners also began painting their houses in pastel. Once the theme was established, city ordinances were put in place to ensure that the pastel colors were preserved.
While some believe the Legge’s original intention was just to perk up some drab houses, others have more elaborate theories. One story is that the homes were painted various hues so that drunk sailors might find their way home easier. Meanwhile, others believe that the pastels were the merchants’ way of indicating what types of items they sold in each business. Another theory is that the homes were painted lighter colors to keep them cooler during the hot Charleston summers.
Photo via FreeToursByFoot.com
For a more thorough breakdown of the history of each individual house, I found this excerpt on Charleston.com:
Posts are a combination of my own research, visits, and conversations, plus various information found around the web. I try to provide sources, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!