In 1958 Dr. Maxcy Harrelson obtained from the city of Charleston a permit to demolish a piece of its' own past. Clearly cited in the permit was the authority to raze the 16-18 block on Bull street- on which the William Blacklock House sat. Losing this property would be not only be a blow to the local preservation efforts, but also cost the country a structure some architectural historians referred to as "one of the most important Adamesque houses in the nation."
At the time of its construction (ca.1800) this house was considered one of the most elegant in the city. Its namesake, a prominent banker and merchant, built the house in what would become the suburban area of Harleston Village. Its' two story 18 inch thick walls were built using Carolina "grey" brick, which is actually brown. This mansions imposing facade fairly filled the lot. Stately piazzas once overlooked the carefully manicured gardens planted on the north side of the house. Inside it followed a traditional double-house plan, with a central hallway and flanking rooms. The interior also boasted woodwork matching the Adamesque style with a stair under an vaulted ceiling. To compensate for the flooding of the nearby creeks and marshes that still dotted the neighborhood, it was given twin basements.
The property passed out of the Blacklock family's hands. Over time it served as the residence for diplomats, a fraternity building, a boarding house and was even an apartment complex. Fortunately, Dr. Harrleson never exercised his authority and decided to let his permit to demolish expire. This allowed the College of Charleston to purchase the house in 1971 and begin the massive restoration effort. In 1973 it reopened under the COFC's banner as a gathering place for alumni and a host building for college functions. In 1974 it was designated a National Historic Landmark and remains a valuable addition to the downtown campus.
Michael D. Coker is a Charleston native, published author, and licensed tour guide. He has worked in local museums for 15 years, and has developed a reputation for his extensive knowledge of history. You can reach Michael by email by clicking on the links above.