By George Woolston

When the plot of land that is now 5 East Battery was first announced for public sale in 1838, it was declared as the best real estate on the peninsula with the most beautiful views. The announcement was made in newspapers across the country; however, despite the plot’s prime location, it would remain vacant until 1847, when the trustees of Mrs. Harriet Horry Ravenel purchased the land.

Mrs. Ravenel’s husband, John Ravenel, then bought the adjoining lot to the south so his wife could have a garden. Construction began, and in 1849, the trustees of Mrs. Ravenel sold the north lot to her husband.

The house was then passed on to Mr. Ravenel’s son, Dr. St. Julien Ravenel. His wife, Harriet Horry Rutledge Ravenel, inherited the house upon her husband’s death in 1882. In 1886, she sold the house to Elias Horry Frost. Frost’s daughter inherited the house later, and then in 1953 sold it to Dr. Joe Sam Palmer, Sr.

Palmer, Sr., restored the house, and passed it down to his son, Dr. Joe Sam Palmer, Jr., and now his daughter, Francess Palmer, owns and lives in the home.

The entire grounds consist of the main house, the carriage house at the rear of the property (built horizontally so one can still witness a breathtaking view of the harbor), the first residential swimming pool that was constructed in Charleston and the garden on the south side of the home.

When one passes through the vestibule of the home from the East Battery entrance, it is impossible not to notice the beautiful tiled pattern in the center of the floor. Then, upon entering the foyer, one really begins to understand the beauty of this home upon seeing the graceful set of cantilevered stairs with mahogany bannisters and black cypress paneling.

Two other rooms that are sure to make a top-10 list of rooms in Charleston are the drawing and withdrawing rooms. With 14-foot ceilings, black African marble fireplaces, a bronze chandelier and the Charleston harbor directly across the street, these rooms were prime for entertaining, which is what John Ravenel had in mind when he built the house in 1849. He would reside there only six months out of the year during the city’s social season.

The house has a total of 10 bedrooms and nine and one half baths. After the 1886 earthquake, the house had to be rebuilt to what is now the present-day, pink exterior. It was built in Gothic style revival and Greek revival acanthus decorations. Every room opens up into the next, allowing for ease of entertaining and guest flow, along with providing excellent cross breezes off the harbor that act as natural air conditioning in the brutal Charleston summers.

The second and third floor piazzas offer excellent space for entertaining as well, along with providing a panoramic views of the harbor and the east side of the harbor. According to present owner Frances Palmer, her father would often don a pink suit jacket and step out on the second floor piazza to wave and greet tour groups and people strolling along the Battery wall.

An interesting little feature of the house is that two secret passageways were incorporated into the house. These tunnels are now filled and impassable, but they were once used in case emergencies would arise. In addition, you can still find a Union cannonball embedded in a wall on the second floor.

The house is now used primarily as the Palmer Home Bed and Breakfast.

This house is for the serious entertainer, the one who wants to host elegant and unforgettable evenings, and then wake up to the sun rising across the harbor, a view that is unforgettable as champagne-filled evening in the drawing room would be. It is truly a testament to the grace and elegance that is ingrained into the Charleston way.

The home is exclusively listed for $9.25 million with Helen Geer at William Means Real Estate. She may be reached at 843-577-6651 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mercury newspapers can be found at the following locations:


Buxton Books

Caviar & Bananas

The Meeting Street Inn (Rack)

Clair's Service Station, Folly Rd. (Rack)

Harris Teeter, Houston-Northcutt Blvd. (Rack)

Mt. Pleasant Library, Mathis Ferry Rd. (Rack)

Pitt St. Pharmacy

The Square Onion, I'On (Rack)