Pink House, Charleston


The Pink House, Charleston, South Carolina

Thomas Corker, a prosperous merchant of Charleston, South Carolina, died 28 January 1771 in his 75th year (1). The childhood home of Thomas, the son of Nathaniel and Hannah Corker, was in England, in the area of Nantwich, Cheshire. When he wrote his will he had no living wife and no surviving children. The will gave an informative record of his family in England including his brother John Corker of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire (2).

The will of Thomas Corker revealed that he owned a property in Charleston ‘known by model of Town Plat by No. 44 but by mistake in the deed is called 49’. Previous owners were named as ‘Mr John Breton late of Charles Town [Charleston] merchant . . . . formerly bought of Noah Royer’. Houses built on the property were let to tenants.

It appears that, in modern day Charleston, the Pink House at 17 Chalmers Street is one of these eighteenth century houses (3).

Pink House, Charleston, South Carolina
photograph by Brian Stansberry, 17 May 2010,
from Wikimedia Commons.
At the time of the photo the house was used as an art gallery

The ownership of the property where the Pink House is located can be traced in archival records. An early plan, or ‘Platt’, of Charleston recorded that Town Lot No. 44 was granted to Noah Royer on 9 May 1694 (4). When Thomas Corker purchased the property from the then owner Breton Cooper in the 1750s the deed of sale noted that in December 1712 the Royer family sold the lot to John Breton, merchant of Charleston (5). The location in Charleston was described as ‘bounding north 217 feet on a small alley running from Church Street to Union Street’. Union Street was later renamed to State Street; the ‘small alley’ is now Chalmers Street.

John Breton was buried at St Philip’s Church, Charleston on 13 October 1738 (6). In his will he bequeathed one portion of the town lot to Breton Cooper and the other portion to John Methringham (7). Breton Cooper inherited the southernmost part ‘fronting to the street commonly called Church Street’. This portion had two houses leased to the tenants Dr James Killpatrick (or Kilpatrick, also Kirkpatrick) and David Noble. John Methringham inherited the portion, facing the alley, with a house which had been leased previously to Christopher Smith – possibly this was the Pink House.

In 1738 a smallpox epidemic swept through Charleston (8). John Breton’s tenant Christopher Smith, one of the victims, was buried at St Philip’s Church on 28 July 1738. A few weeks earlier, on 8 July, the neighbouring tenant Dr James Kilpatrick had buried his son Thomas, who also succumbed to smallpox (9). This family tragedy motivated Dr Kilpatrick to become ‘one of the foremost champions of the controversial new practice of inoculation’ (10).

Both portions of the town lot that had belonged to John Breton came into the ownership of Thomas Corker. A legal document recorded that in September 1758 Thomas Corker purchased from John Methringham a ‘lot in Charleston bounding on an alley leading from Church Street to Union Street’ which was later granted to John Corker of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, as the brother and heir of Thomas. John Corker made the sea journey from England to South Carolina to claim his share of his brother’s estate and, in 1772, he sold the property to George Dick (11).

George Dick died in October 1773. In his will he specified that ‘my house or tenement in Chalmers Alley now in the possession of Mr Jonathan Clark silversmith’ was to be offered rent-free as a home for his companion Jenny Dick, who was the mother of his son Alexander Dick. Jenny, a former black slave, had been given her freedom by George Dick (12). George took care to provide for his son – he appointed three trustees to look after the interests of Alexander with the instructions to ‘maintain and support him giving him a proper and suitable education and at the age of fourteen years that they do bind him apprentice to a good carpenter’.

It is remarkable that the Pink House has survived through wars, fires, hurricanes and earthquake to be recognized as a building of historic interest. A Charleston guidebook described the house as a brick and Bermuda stone stucco building built by John Breton; ‘it was a tavern in Colonial times’ (13). This suggests that, in the pre-revolutionary era, resourceful tenants generated income by running a tavern from the house.

The claim that the Pink House was built by John Breton, who purchased the land in 1712, gives the possibility that the house was built after the great hurricane of September 1713 (14). The stone construction may have been designed to survive a future hurricane.

The book Mysterious South Carolina gave details of the Pink House: (15)

It was built with three levels, with one room on each level. It had large fireplaces for heating and cooking. The first floor is thirteen feet by thirteen feet, and the third-floor walls slightly slant in. When Breton built the house, he used Bermuda stone, also known as West Indian Coral stone. This is what gives it its pink color. It is constructed with eighteen-inch-thick stones with a ten-foot pathway. It was built with a tile gambrel roof.

In 2016 the house was offered for sale – the real estate listing stated:

Known as the Charleston Pink House, this historic home is America's second oldest masonry residence and Charleston's oldest residence. This perfectly placed pied-a-terre sits on one of the City's original cobblestone streets and is constructed of 18 inch thick pink Bermuda stone. The property was recently renovated yet retains its original details and features a beautiful Loutrel Briggs walled garden. This home stands alone with its unparalleled charm and historic significance. The Pink House has been a residence, tavern, law office and art gallery throughout the centuries.

General References Online

The Pink House, Archive Record , and Additional Records ,
Historic Charleston Foundation.

A history of the Pink House, compiled from research at the archives of the South Carolina Historical Society, the Charleston County Library, and the Charleston County RMC Office, provided by the Pink House Gallery .

The Pink House , the South Carolina Picture Project digital archive.


(1) ‘Extracts from the Journal of Mrs. Ann Manigault 1754–1781’, The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 21, 1920, p. 20 (Internet Archive ).

(2) The will of Thomas Corker, probated on 4 August 1772, can be accessed from the online catalogue of the National Archives, London.

(3) In correspondence dated November 2016, the archivist of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History very kindly provided a photocopy from South Carolina Deed Abstracts. The archivist suggested that more research may be needed to prove that the Pink House on Chalmers Street is on original lot 44; but noted that ‘it does appear, however, that it is’.

(4) Henry A. M. Smith, ‘Charleston: The Original Plan and the Earliest Settlers’, The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 9, January 1908, pp. 12–27 (online at the JSTOR archive ).

(5) Online records index , South Carolina Department of Archives and History; and
Clara A. Langley, editor, South Carolina Deed Abstracts, Volume 3, 1755–1768, published 1983–84, p. 35. In records, spelling variations for the name Breton are Briton or Bretton.

(6) Register of St Philip’s Parish, Charles Town, South Carolina 1720–1758, p. 257 (Internet Archive ).

(7) Transcripts of the will of John Breton, merchant of Charleston, South Carolina are in the South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records collection, images online at the Ancestry website. The will dated 3 October 1738 was probated on 12 November 1739.

(8) The online article Epidemics (South Carolina Encyclopedia online) states that the smallpox epidemic of 1738 ‘infected more than two thousand of the roughly six thousand people in Charleston and killed more than three hundred’.

(9) Burials were recorded in Register of St Philip’s Parish, Charles Town, South Carolina 1720–1758, (Internet Archive ). The parish clerk noted the deaths from smallpox and assigned sequential numbers to these burials. In the 1738 epidemic, the first burial of a smallpox victim at St Philip’s Church was recorded on May 30.

(10) Biography of James Kilpatrick , South Carolina Encyclopedia online.

(11) Clara A. Langley, editor, South Carolina Deed Abstracts, Volume 4, 1767–1773, published 1984, p. 255:

22 & 23 May 1772: John Corker, gentleman, late of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, Great Britain, now of Charleston, South Carolina,
[property sale] to George Dick, gentleman, of Charleston, a lot in Charleston bounding on an alley leading from Church St to Union St; which lot Thomas Corker, by L & R [lease and release] dated 29 & 30 September 1758 purchased from John Methringham, planter, of Christ Church Parish [Charleston], and Ann [Bennett] his wife and which lot descended to John Corker, eldest brother and heir of Thomas, by decree of Court of Chancery dated 10 April 1772.
Witnesses: James Keith, John Pringle.   Before George Murray, J.P.
Recorded 8 August 1772 by Henry Rugeley, register.

(12) Transcripts of the will of George Dick, mariner of Charleston, South Carolina are in the South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records collection, images online at the Ancestry website. The will dated 24 October 1773 was probated on 5 November 1773.

(13) Mary Preston Foster, Charleston: A Historic Walking Tour, Arcadia Publishing, 2005 (preview at Google books online).

(14) There is a record that, in the 1713 hurricane, the house of the Reverend William Livingston, at White Point in Charleston ‘was washed & carried away by the overflowing of the sea’ (Mabel L. Webber, ‘Register of the Independent or Congregational (Circular) Church 1732–1738’, in The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 12, 1911, p. 29, Internet Archive ).

(15) Sherman Carmichael, ‘The Pink House, Charleston’ in Mysterious South Carolina, 2019, p. 21 (preview at Google books online).

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