Gothic Revival Outbuildings of Antebellum Charleston, South Carolina

Erin Marie McNicholl, Clemson University


The Gothic Revival was a movement of picturesque architecture that is found all over the United States on buildings built in the first half of the nineteenth century. In Antebellum Charleston people tended to cling to the classical styles of architecture even when the rest of the nation and Europe were enthusiastically embracing the different picturesque styles, such as Gothic Revival and Italianate. In the United States the Gothic Revival style can be found adorning buildings of every use. One of the unique applications to be found is on kitchen buildings and carriage houses. These applications exhibit traits of an early form of the Gothic Revival with simple ornamentation and symmetrical design.

Many people have associated the use of Gothic Revival architecture in Charleston with slavery because of its application to small outbuildings and certain institutional buildings around the city. The conclusion of this thesis is that the gothic elements were by no means limited to buildings with uses associated with slavery but rather an expression of the architectural fashion of the time. This project documents the Gothic Revival outbuildings in the context of the Gothic Revival movement nationally, regionally, and locally. It profiles existing examples of Gothic Revival outbuildings in Charleston. There is some investigation of how the Gothic Revival was used on plantations in addition to its use in the urban setting.

Documentation drawings of the Aiken-Rhett outbuildings, Bleak Hall Plantation icehouse, and William Blacklock House carriage house are included in an effort to provide a greater understanding of the unique applications of this style.