55-D Society Street Distinct living quarters in historic Charleston building boast up to 18-foot ceilings, luxury perks

A condo in the former High School of Charleston building is for sale for $1,074,900.

Today’s expectations of condominiums as modern one-floor dwellings in mid-rises and for sale locally in the five and lower-six figures goes out the window with one downtown property.

The residence, at 55-D Society St., traces its roots back 174 years to belie the contemporary tag. Sectioned off within the former High School of Charleston, the condo is two stories — more akin to a townhome. The property, which went up for sale about two months ago, costs $1,074,900.

“The one thing I say is we’re a condominium that lives very much like a single-family house,” says Adam Edwards, Realtor with Carriage Properties, who is listing the property. “You’ve got good square footage,” he says of the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath residence. The 2,090-square-foot condo markets at $514 per square foot, which Edwards says is “not that high.”

The former high school structure dates to around 1842. Showcasing six large columns positioned on a front edifice, the more-than-8,000-square-foot building boasts four luxury suites including 55-D Society St. on the west side, a twin two-story unit on the east side and a pair of condos on the street level. Only 55-D Society is currently for sale. A private driveway leads along the western edge to parking spaces behind the building.

“What I point out to prospective buyers, we have 15-foot ceilings downstairs, 18-foot up,” he says. The solid wood entrance door, which opens to an alcove serving both of the two-story condos, towers above residents and guests. “I’m assuming it (the door) is original,” he says, noting that the locks and other hardware look to be 19th century. Heart pine floors throughout the condo trace to the beginning of the school. In his listing, Edwards describes 55 Society St.’s history and the condo’s many features.

The property “represents a unique opportunity to own one of only four luxury condominiums located in the former High School of Charleston,” he says.

Edwards touts the residence as “grand and elegant.” Highlights are “open and bright” living spaces on the first floor, three large bedrooms on the second floor, an abundance of closets and storage, a private rear balcony, full-size laundry and two gated off-street parking spaces, he says.

“Interior and architectural highlights include a stunning two-story front portico, original hardwood floors, beautiful woodwork and moldings, 15-foot ceilings on the first floor, 18-foot ceilings on the second floor, and 10-foot windows that provide plenty of sunlight and skyline views.”

According to Edwards, 55-D Society St. sits in the heart of downtown Charleston, and it’s a short walking distance to many of the city’s well known restaurants, to upper and lower King Street, and to world class shopping, parks and museums.

Additional accoutrements include an eat-in-kitchen sporting stainless steel appliances, formal living room, foyer and separate dining room. A fireplace anchors the living quarters. Ceramic tile floors mark the bathrooms, with wood throughout and wall-to-wall carpet in bedrooms. The upstairs master bedroom touts walk-in closets. Central cooling and a heat pump control the temperature.

Outside, the structure boasts stucco siding over a brick foundation and a metal roof. Brick fences and wrought-iron gates — likely dating to 1840 — mark the property.

According to reference guide The Buildings of Charleston, noted architect Edward Brickell White designed 55 Society St. and also laid out a two-story portico added to the high school in 1850.

“Its construction was a response to the call for major improvements in the city’s public education in the second quarter of the 19th century, led by Christopher G. Memminger,” the book notes.

White ordered terra-cotta column capitals, which were heavily damaged in the 1886 earthquake and later removed. Five years earlier, the high school had moved to George and Meeting streets (it eventually found a home on Rutledge Avenue). Through the 1930s, the Society Street building was leased to a series of African American fraternal orders, according to The Buildings of Charleston.

In a 1984 rehabilitation, capital fragments were discovered and sculptor Robert Pringle was able to reconstruct them.

Edwards says the condo offers clear sights of historic houses, church steeples and other structures, notably from the upstairs master bedroom. “It’s pretty special; a lot of eye candy,” he says.

The residence stands between East Bay and Anson streets. Heading south on the peninsula, take Meeting Street. Cross Calhoun Street and continue two blocks. Make a left on Society Street and go just more than one block. On the right is 55 Society St., with 55-D Society St. the upper two floors on the west side.

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.