The Colorful History of Rainbow Row

Located along the west side of East Bay Street, between Tradd Street and Elliot Street, not far from the Waterfront Park, Rainbow Row consists of 13 private residences that make up one of the most famous landmarks in Charleston. 

Believe it or not, Rainbow Row was not always so bright and beautiful. Constructed in the mid-18th century on 83-107 East Bay Street, it was originally a commerce center on the waterfront built to serve the docks of the port of Charleston. Merchants lived on the second floor and had their stores on the first floor of the buildings. Sadly, after the Civil War and until the early 1900s, Rainbow Row was a very run-down area of Charleston.

Dorothy Porcher Legge owned houses 99 through 101. To improve the homes, she painted them a bright pastel pink, which was from the colonial Caribbean color scheme at the time. Others in the area began following in her footsteps by painting their houses beautiful pastel colors to improve the overall appearance of the neighborhood.  But the coloring was not just for aesthetics. The light colors helped keep the interior of the houses cooler.

Today, a city ordinance protects the color of each house on Rainbow Row, making it one of the most recognizable and photographed sights in Charleston.  Join Bulldog Tours to learn all about Rainbow Row and other Charleston Attractions.

The History of the Rainbow Row Houses 83 to 107 on East Bay Street:

#83 East Bay Street
Known as the William Stone House, it was constructed in 1784 by one of the merchants who left for England during the American Revolutionary War.

#87 East Bay Street
Constructed in 1778 and it was eventually destroyed by a fire. It was James Gordon who purchased the building in 1792 and went on to restore it before it was bought over by Susan Pringle Frost in the 1920s.

#89 East Bay Street
Called the Deas-Tunno House and it was constructed as a commercial building in 1770. This property is unique from the other homes on Rainbow because it actually has a yard that separates it from the adjoining home.

#91 East Bay Street
Purchased by William Greenwood and Peter Leger in 1774 and destroyed 4 years later. A merchant called Nathaniel Russell purchased the building in 1973, although it was passed on to Susan Pringle Frost in 1920.

#93 East Bay Street
Called the James Cook House and it was constructed in 1778 for commercial purposes. Today, it is the yellow house.

#95 East Bay Street
No one knows who actually built it. It was purchased by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney in 1779 and was restored by John McGowan, in 1938. Today, this is the green house.

Learn all about the colorful history of this historic street on the Charleston Strolls Walking Tour.