The Pirate House in Historic Downtown Charleston, SC
Built in Charleston, SC around 1740, the Pirate House at 141-145 Church St. became known throughout the pre-revolutionary South as a haven for scallywags and ruffians, particularly pirates. Located across Church Street from the historic St. Phillips Episcopal Church, the Pirate House commonly boarded pirates and criminals, serving as an inn, gaming parlor, and trading post. Not to be confused with The Pirate House in neighboring Savannah, GA, a popular restaurant and tourist destination, this establishment has been privately owned and inhabited for the past three centuries. Legend has it that Blackbeard himself spent several nights here. One way in which pirates would enter the city was through a tunnel that began at the Battery and ended in the basement of the Pirate House. This tunnel was their primary means of smuggling and escape. During extensive renovations and the redirection of sewage systems in the 1930's, the tunnel was filled with sand. Inside the basement of the Pirate House, large brick arches support the solid brick and stuccoed structure. Amateur excavations in the northwest corner of the basement in the late 1990's revealed fragments of old bottles, human bones, and unglazed pottery. Underneath the stage at the historic Dock Street Theatre, two blocks down Church Street, you can still find an opening into the sand-filled passageway. Blackbeard's legendary cache of gold is rumored to be buried somewhere within this tunnel or in the basement of the Pirate House. The Pirate House is bordered to the north by the St. Phillips Church Cemetery, where only those of prominent South Carolinian descent are buried. Resident graves include John C. Calhoun, whose gravesite is visible from the upstairs window. The courtyard of the Pirate House is a popular spot for tourists taking walking tours through the city, and can be accessed only by a narrow passageway sandwiched between the side of the house and the brick cemetery wall. There is a recently-restored fountain and an old covered well, built several generations ago. The second and third floors of the house can be accessed through the courtyard, while the front of the house allows access to the first floor and basement. On the front of the Pirate House, you will see an anchor, strung with chain, signifying its namesake.
May 23rd, 2013
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