In a town known for pirates, sailors, hurricanes, earthquakes, a few famous people and some seedy characters, authenticity goes a long way.
So if you’re looking for a quintessential house, 24 State St. isn’t far from the mark.
The Johnston-Poinsett building dates circa 1841 but likely had a prior structure, since it’s within Charleston’s original 18th century walled city.
For close to 30 years, it has been home to the nationally recognized Nina Liu gallery, which is on the first level while the upper two-and-a-half floors are a residence.
The 3,000-square-foot property is for sale for $1,295,000. Lynn Hanlin, broker-partner with Carriage Properties, has this to say about the stucco-over-brick structure in her listing. “Live, work in the heart of historic Charleston. Unique opportunity in French Quarter neighborhood.”
The State Street building has two entrances, one for the business and one for a residence. It is labeled as Post Revolutionary-Notable in the “This is Charleston Architectural Survey,” she says.
Interior highlights include original pine floors on all levels, a large room and smaller offshoots housing the street level gallery; a living quarters overlooking the street, dining room and kitchen upstairs; two elegant bedrooms and a bathroom on the next level; and a bedroom and bath on the top floor.
Standout features are original fireplaces, 9 foot or higher ceilings, unusual nine-over-nine pane windows, exposed wooden beams and brick walls, cypress paneling and detailed moldings.
The house has been restored but still has features that haven’t been fully improved such as the functional but plain kitchen and screen doors leading to rear balconies overlooking a picturesque courtyard.
Among the home’s “talking points:”
• Charleston diplomat Joel Poinsett, namesake of the poinsettia, likely didn’t live at 24 State Street but was the landlord, building the structure as rental property.
• Historians believe the structure has always held a retail space on the ground floor and for most if its life had a residence upstairs. There was once a wall that separated the residence's stairs from the commercial part; that was opened at some point.
• Entrances to 24 State and adjoining 22 State are built into a gated, above-ground tunnel-like walkway leading to the courtyard. “It’s like a European row house,” Hanlin says. Historical evidence shows such covered walkways were not uncommon in Charleston at one time but many were removed over the years. The landscaped grounds, which offer views of trees and a long brick wall, are split between the two addresses.
• There’s evidence that 24-22 State was a bordello in the early 1900s up to World War II. A covered-over cinder block doorway on the second floor indicates the house was opened between the two residences at one time, presumably for easier movement between rooms. “It’s rumored that the building was a brothel and there is a faint outline of the sign on the front façade,” Hanlin says. No further explanation needed, but the shape of the sign would be appropriate for a house of ill repute.
“This is Charleston: very fun,” Hanlin says.
Nina Liu, who has lived in the house and run the gallery since the early 1980s, says she has a general vision of what she would like to see for the building’s future.
“My ideal would be somebody 25 years younger than I am.” They could “change it, modernize it (while preserving its historical integrity).” The buyer would “live here 25 years and take over the gallery,” Liu says.
The Johnston-Poinsett building is on the east side of State Street south of the city market. Traveling south on East Bay Street, cross Calhoun Street and continue to Broad Street. Take a right on Broad and go one block. Turn right on State. Continue past cobblestone Chalmers Street on the left. On the right just past Unity Alley and before Queen Street is 24 State St.
Agent: Lynn Hanlin, broker/partner
Office: Carriage Properties
Philosophy: “I listen. Exceptional customer service is key. I’m persistent and patient in working with buyers and sellers.”