Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Historic Preservation

Committee Chair/Advisor

Amalia Leifeste

Committee Member

Dr. Laurel Bartlett

Committee Member

Dr. Carl Lounsbury

Committee Member

Martha Zierden


While it is well known that boarding was a widely used practice in growing urban centers of the United States such as Boston and New York City during the nineteenth century. Boarding has not garnered the same level of attention in rapidly expanding Southern cities during this time. This is partially due to the delayed industrialization of the South. However, industrialization did occur in cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, and the increasing number of workers flooding into the city meant boarding became an attractive solution. The purpose of this thesis is to add to the basic understanding of the prevalence, placement, and character of boarding houses in Charleston, SC from 1840 to 1880.

Charleston City Directories, contemporary Charleston newspaper advertisements, and historic maps provided data for analysis. These sources were analyzed for information about the number, spatial relationships, and various characteristics of boarding including social and architectural patterns. This study found that generally the densest areas for boarding houses from 1840 to 1880 were along Charleston’s southeast edge by the Wharves and along Charleston’s commercial roads. The density of boarding houses was found to increase from 1840 to 1880 except for the decade surrounding the Civil War. This study also found that women were associated with boarding as boarding house keepers or owners—their exact relationship to the boarding houses were not listed—more often than men, and that married women were more common than unmarried. People of color were also listed as associated with boarding, again as housekeepers or owners, but were not recorded until after the end of the Civil war. Finally, the research demonstrates that boarding houses did follow some basic architectural massing patterns including being two to three story brick buildings. There were no defining characteristics architecturally that would make a boarding house identifiable solely by its architecture in Charleston, however because these characteristics were common among most buildings during this time period.

This thesis is important because it adds to the complexity of our understanding of the ordinary citizens of Charleston, South Carolina though the investigation of an almost undetectable but rich landscape of boarding houses and adds to the growing literature on southern boarding houses.



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