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Historic Architectural Archetypes of South Carolina
June 7, 2021

Historic Architectural Archetypes of South Carolina

by The CE Shop Team

Explore South Carolina’s Architectural Uniqueness

Architecture is the physicalization of history itself. To put into perspective just how long a piece of architecture can endure, South Carolina’s oldest standing home, the Medway Plantation, was constructed as early as 1686. That’s 90 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and 334 years before this blog post. Since then, the Palmetto State has undergone several historic architectural evolutions — many of which can still be found throughout the state today.

Georgian (1700s -1820s)

Image soure: Wikimedia

Georgian architecture is aptly named after the four Georges who ruled as king over the British Empire. It’s characterized mainly by balance and symmetrical proportions without excessive ornamentation — though it sometimes nods back to classical Greek architecture via the use of stately plaster columns.

Georgian design can vary greatly, but the Heyward-Washington House in Charleston is a breathtaking example of the period’s design.

Federalist (1780s - 1830s)

Image source: Wally Gobetz

Federalist architecture evolved from the Georgian style, keeping the previous style’s keen eye for symmetry with a few notable distinctions. A brick exterior, arched Palladian windows, a fanlight over the door, and multiple chimneys are usually giveaways that the building errs on the side of Federalist.

In Charleston, The Nathaniel-Russell House is one of the most prominent examples of Federalist architecture.

Neoclassical or Greek Revival (1790s - 1930s)

Image source: Wikimedia

The Neoclassical style is one of America’s most prolific contributions to the world of architecture. As the name suggests, Neoclassical architecture is heavily influenced by classic Greek and Roman designs; it’s the main flavor of many government buildings — including the U.S. Capitol. In residential buildings, the style often manifests as an abundance of columns, a coat of white paint to resemble white marble, and bold details. Many “plantation homes” are, in fact, Neoclassical in their essence.

The Alexander House in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is an excellent example of neoclassical flair.

Victorian (1860s - 1900s)

Image source: Zillow

Victorian architecture isn’t so much one specific style but rather references a range of styles that were popular during the rule of the British monarch, Queen Victoria. American architects in the late 1800s were borrowing from many styles, but Victorian homes generally sport asymmetrical facades, ornate details, colorful exteriors, and round or square towers.

This 6 bed, 3 bath Laurens home built in 1890 is a slice of Victorian architecture just waiting to be purchased and preserved.

American Craftsman (1900s - 1930s)

Image source: Old House Life

Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s simpler Prairie style, the American Craftsman style was a departure from the colorful and ornate expressions found in Victorian architecture. Instead, its simple, clean lines and natural materials came together — usually on single levels with large overhangs — to form this popular aesthetic.

Love the Craftsman style? Here’s a wonderful example of a Craftsman-style bungalow right in Spartanburg.

Historic Properties and Preservation in South Carolina


Of course, we’ve only named a handful of popular architectural styles. South Carolina is among the most architecturally diverse states with examples of everything from Italianate to Art Deco to Ultra Minimalist Modern new builds. As an agent, having even a light grasp of architecture can help you help your clients articulate what style they like and then find it for them.

Beyond the aesthetic of owning a historic home and therefore a slice of history, you also enjoy a slew of additional benefits. To begin, these properties are unique in that builders aren’t likely to recreate that particular style of architecture when constructing new builds. Next, historic homes are often in very desirable locations — which is why they’re likely still standing. They also tend to sell faster and fetch higher asking prices than your run-of-the-mill property. Lastly, homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places are oftentimes eligible for tax credits, grant money, and preservation loans if they meet certain rehabilitation standards. As always, check with both federal and state agencies or preservation networks to see if you or your client can help save a piece of the past with your next property purchase.

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