Monday, July 12, 2010

Rainbow Row Charleston, S.C.

Recalling the G. Gershwin opera "Porgy and Bess" I made it a must to visit Catfish Row (the fictionalized neighborhood from the opera), which happens to be "Rainbow Row" located on East Bay (north of Tradd and south of Elliot St.) heading toward the Battery in Charleston. The name derives from the pastel colors of the painted homes.

For awhile after the Civil War, this area had fallen into a slum, but within thirty years renovation started with the painting of the homes. The theme would be a Caribbean color palette, with the first home shaded pink.

New owners loved it and added to the color scheme of their residences, painting them pale blue, yellow, green etc. An interesting fact is that the colors help to keep the interiors cool in the summer.

Now for some "local color". Stories handed down relate that the colors along the row originally were to guide back to their bed, the drunken sailors who were arriving in the port. Fumbling along bleary eyed, how can one ask the poor men to remember so much? Better to find your way back by the color of the house!

Or, it has been said that during the antebellum period, the slaves
(who were forbidden to learn to read or write), were often sent to purchase goods from the shop owners along Rainbow Row. They operated out of the first floor, and lived above their stores. When sent by the plantations to this area, they were instructed to go to the "yellow" building or the "pink shop" for their items.

I like to refer back to Porgy and Bess, (the novel
by Dubose Heyward), this section of city had several names like the fictionalized "Catfish Row". Dubose was inspired by the period of the early 1900's, 
"when the black tenants sold cabbages from the windowsills to passersby
 and due to this for a time Rainbow Row, was known as "Cabbage Row".

For now, there is so much to do, walk a little way and you either can relax in Waterfront Park, or go shopping (which was decided on) or choose from a fantastic assortment of restaurants, around nearly every corner.
We eventually came back here over and over again, as nighttime is the best for just walking around the city. The evening has cooled off, and with a slight breeze discovering little courtyards and alleys is so fun. The gas lights are all lit and the aromas of flowers and restaurants nearby hang heavy in the air. You can go from a quiet secluded street into the hub bub of nightlife just by turning a corner.

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