Behold The Balcony

Many of historic Charleston’s most picturesque balconies are additions to houses that had been built long before. The corbel-based balcony pictured here was added to this 18th century house as a Italianate detail popular in America in the  mid-19th century. Although we are much better know for the famous “piazzas” that come from earlier Italian architectural details, the balcony is also Italian, at least in name, which comes from the Italian “balcone”, meaning “scaffold”. One of the most interesting stories involving balconies is often told about the cast iron version at 78 Church Street, where George Washington was said to have delivered a speech during his 1791 visit to the city. The story is based on a first-hand account of Washington’s visit, but confuses the location from a reference to his “observing the crowd from a balcony at Church”, (not Church Street).

This was obviously a reference to the open section of St. Michael’s, which is correctly a lantern, not balcony, but would seem the same from that perch above Broad Street, and at a location Washington was known to have visited for services, so a crowd would have surely congregated below.

Oh, one more thing, the decorative cast iron balcony was also not popular in America until the Italianate era, so it was not even there when George was.

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