Charleston’s wrought ironwork is stunning and you can find these gorgeous displays of craftsmanship on almost any street in the Historic District. What feels like a beautiful work of art today, was at one-time everyday construction in Charleston.
While there was a time when brightly-colored ironwork was the norm throughout the city, it is more common today to see very dark, almost black ironwork. Traditionally, in the 19th-century Charlestonians painted wrought ironwork bright, vivid colors. Over time, the colors of the wrought iron shifted to becoming much darker and less flashy due to low funds after the Civil War. Homeowners preferred colored ironwork, but the black paint was far cheaper. Those looking to brighten up the drab black paint would add yellow to the mix which created the color “Charleston green”. Today, most wrought iron in the city is either black or Charleston green.
Ironwork at the John Rutledge House Inn
The ironwork at the John Rutledge House Inn is an architectural marvel that stops many visitors in their tracks. In 1763, John Rutledge built the home for his bride, but the ironwork was not added for another 90 years. A renovation in 1853 included the addition of Italian marble fireplaces, parquet floors, and ironwork. Christopher Werner, a well known nineteenth-century wrought iron manufacturer and artisan, constructed the ironwork on the home. In the ironwork, you will find designs depicting the Federal Eagle and SC Palmetto tree as a tribute to Rutledge’s service in federal and state governments.
You can find more of Werner’s famous creations at two different locations in Charleston. In 1849, the City of Charleston hired Werner to create a pair of gates for the police station. Werner understood this to mean two separate gates, but the city only wanted a left panel and a right panel. One set was sold to the city, and George Hopley purchased the other. His house at 32 Legare Street is called The Sword Gate’s house for the design of the wrought iron gate. You can now find the city’s matching set of gates from the police station at the current entrance to The Citadel.
It’s impossible to explore Charleston’s ironwork without acknowledging Philip Simmons. You will undoubtedly come across his work when discovering ironwork in the city. These pieces are especially relevant because he is responsible for more than 500 pieces of decorative ironwork in Charleston. The Egret Gate at 2 St. Michael’s Alley is one of his most notable pieces. These handcrafted works of art are breathtaking.
Indulge in Living History and Charleston’s Wrought Ironwork
Explore the ironwork at the John Rutledge House Inn with a stay at this historic property. Indulge in gracious Southern hospitality and architectural beauty with a stay at Charleston’s most historic inn. The c. 1763 John Rutledge House Inn is located in the heart of downtown Charleston and offers luxurious rooms and suites, daily complimentary breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese, and 24-hour concierge service.