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The Italianate trio - 7, 9 and 11 Broad Street

June 12, 2019

The trio of Italianate brownstone buildings at 7, 9 and 11 Broad Street are often grouped together in photographs and their histories are uniquely Charleston.

 

Number 7 Broad Street was built in the 1850s for brokers William M. Martin and John C. Martin. It is thought that their building’s façade may mask an older structure. The Martins dealt primarily in real estate, insurance and stock transactions. According to city records, William M. Martin was also an attorney and alderman for Ward Three.

 

Before the war, John C. Martin was a captain of the Washington Artillery and the January 26, 1859, Charleston Mercury contained an article about the presentation of an officer’s sabre with a leather scabbard made by Ames Manufacturing Company of Massachusetts. Being thought too old for active duty, Martin joined the Charleston Regiment of Reserves and served in the siege of Charleston until mid-1864. He then served on active duty guarding mountain passes and, later, prisoners of war at Camp Sorghum in Columbia and in the Carolinas Campaign and the Battle of Bentonville. While at Camp Sorghum, he censored the inmates outgoing mail and he was well known to the Union officers. In October 1865, fearing that he might be arrested, Martin wrote one of his former prisoners, Colonel Pennock Huey, asking him for a job in Pennsylvania and to put in a good word for him if he were brought to trial. After that, John C. Martin disappears from history.

 

Both 9 and 11 Broad Street were designed in 1856 by Edward Brickell (E.B.) White, Charleston’s most prolific antebellum architect. A West Point graduate, White was a surveyor, engineer, military man and architect. Among his surviving public buildings are Market Hall, the College of Charleston gate house and the colossal portico and wings on Randolph Hall destroyed by the 1886 earthquake and the South Carolina Electric and Gas building on Meeting Street. He designed the steeple on St. Philip’s Church, the Huguenot Church, Grace Church, Centenary Methodist Church and St. Johannes Lutheran Church.

 

Number 9 Broad Street is a narrow, one-bay building designed for brokers W. Pinkney Shingler and T. J. Shingler, brothers from the Orangeburg District of South Carolina. The brownstone façade was executed by New York stonecutter W. G. Chave. The inscription reads “Exchange Office.”

W. Pinkney Shingler built a mansion on Limehouse Street on five lots from the Robert Limehouse farmlands, making it one of the largest residential tracts in Charleston. The house faced a seawall and the Ashley River beyond. No expense was spared. The interior boasted high ceilings, ornate plaster work and handsome mantles. A marble staircase led to an Italianate doorway flanked by an iron railing designed by Christopher Werner, the German master craftsman whose works adorn many Charleston landmarks.

 

The Shinglers handled real estate transactions and speculated in cotton exports, a lucrative trade centered in Liverpool, Hamburg and Marseilles. Information on cotton prices came to Charleston via telegraph. In 1857, the cotton headquarters in Hamburg sent a confusing report. Thinking he had suffered a serious financial reversal, W. Pinkney Shingler sold his house to his cousin James Addison for $23,000, a high price at the time. When he discovered that the information was incorrect, Shingler bought three lots on the east side of Limehouse Street and built an even larger mansion in 1858.

 

W. Pinkney Shingler married three times, first to Harriet English, then her sister Caroline and lastly to Susan Ball Venning. A charming family tradition is that after his first wife died, he courted her sister Caroline who refused to live in the deceased sister’s house, which is really why Shingler sold Number 9 and built Number 10. It might even be true.

 

In addition to being a factor, W. Pinkney Shingler was a rice planter who represented Christ Church Parish at the 1860 South Carolina Secession Convention. where he signed the Ordinance of Secession. (An interesting footnote is that W. Pinkney Shingler is not listed in Frances Leigh William’s The Founding Family, The Pinckneys of South Carolina)

 

Shingler served under Brigadier General Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr., at First Manassas (Bull Run). Bee was the first Confederate general to be killed in the war and his place in history is forever assured by referring to General Thomas J. Jackson and his men as a “stone wall” during the battle. Afterwards, Shingler returned to South Carolina and formed an infantry/cavalry unit which saw action on Edisto Island in March 1862. Promoted to colonel, he commanded the 7th South Carolina Cavalry and fought at Drury’s Bluff and the Petersburg campaign. Afterwards, he returned to South Carolina and commanded the state militia. Shingler took the loyalty oath after the war and became a state senator (1865-1867). He died in 1869 and was buried in the Venning Family Cemetery in Mount Pleasant.

 

Number 9 Broad Street continued to make history in the 20th century when it became the real estate office of Susan (“Miss Sue”) Pringle Frost, the second woman in the state to have a real estate license and the first woman in Charleston’s history to have her own real estate office.

Daughter of Dr. Francis LeJau Frost and Rebecca Brewton Pringle, she was descended from rice planters whose plantations dotted the Santee River. She was born in the Miles Brewton House on lower King Street and had a privileged childhood. When her father’s fertilizer business failed and rice plantations declined, she learned stenography and worked for architect Bradford Lee Gilbert, designer of the 1901 South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition.

 

Forced to fend for herself in a patriarchal society, she became active in the women’s suffrage movement and the advancing Equal Rights Amendment. Her passion, however, was saving Charleston’s historic homes from demolition or defacing by out-of-state buyers.

 

When she learned that Standard Oil planned to raze Joseph Manigault’s mansion on Meeting Street, she gathered 32 ladies and several gentlemen to 20 South Battery, the home of her cousin, Nell McColl Pringle. On the afternoon of April 21, 1920, the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings (now the Preservation Society) was born. Miss Sue also collaborated with Mayor Thomas P. Stoney and architect Albert Simons in establishing the Old and Historic District and the Board of Architectural Review.

 

In the latter part of the 20th century realtors Lois Lane and Ruthie Smythe restored 9 Broad St. to its original architectural design and continue to use the building commercially. Signage about Miss Sue Frost’s occupancy is posted near the front entrance.

 

E. B. White designed 11 Broad St. for bookseller Samuel Courtenay. The brownstone façade was again the work of W. G. Chave of New York. A parapet displayed a carved globe, book and scroll to advertise the owner’s occupation.

 

Local tradition states that William Gilmore Simms, Charleston’s famed poet, novelist and editor, wrote portions of his novels in the bookstore. It is said the he would request a pencil and paper and stand at a counter writing the latest installment of works that ran serially in the Southern Literary Gazette.

 

In 1912, E. H. Robertson Cigar Company occupied 11 Broad St. In 1941, the street -level commercial area and façade were remodeled and operated as Robertson’s Cafeteria, which quickly became a meeting place for Charleston’s political and business leaders. In 1985, the façade’s doorways and arches were restored in cast brownstone.

 

My appreciation to Robert Stockton, Malcolm Hale and Preston Wilson for contributing to this article. Please contact pegeastman@comcast.net if you have any anecdotes about Broad Street’s rich history.

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