The skinny on narrow homes in Charleston

IMG_1431 (1)

Photo by CHStoday

Remember the scene from Harry Potter when the Knight Bus squeezes between two oncoming buses? We can’t help but think about that scene when imagining the narrow downtown CHS homes that we think are pretty magical.

The Charleston single house + the shotgun house are slender homes that tend to be pretty popular downtown — and the reasoning is not just to save space. We dug into the why’s and how’s so you can go from curious to expert on these homes in under three minutes.

Here’s the 411 on homes in the 843:

  1. The shotgun house

    Shotgun houses became popular in the early 1800s in the Big Easy. A shotgun house is usually one room wide, sometimes a mere 12 feet across, with remaining rooms lined up one behind the other. There are no hallways and each room leads into another. There’s often a front porch.

    Where did the name come from? Because of the shotgun house’s curious design, legend has it that if you shoot a bullet through the front door, it will pass through the home and out the back door without hitting a thing.

    While they didn’t originate in the Holy City, shotgun houses are popular in hot Southern climates. Since all the doors line up, air moves easily through the home, which is vital during Charleston summers. We’ve all spent many sticky afternoons trying to coax in a breeze — turns out, the shape of the house has a lot to do with it.

    You can buy this shotgun house on Cannon Street.

  2. The Charleston single house
    The Charleston single house came about in the early 1700s. The houses are one room wide, two rooms deep, and feature a hallway and staircase. There are garden walls and just a few windows for privacy.

    The single house has a slanted porch or “piazza” alongside the south or west side of the home to reduce glare from the sun, according to “The Charleston Single House: An Exploration of Type and Method,” a thesis provided by the South Carolina Room.

    The porch is sometimes located right by the windows on the next house, which brings us to an unwritten rule of Charleston. Don’t forget your Northside manners + try not to spy on the neighbors sipping iced tea on their porch. 🔎

    “The Charleston Single House” thesis describes the design as a balancing act between the need to maximize space and the need for privacy. All in all, single houses suit the climate and culture of Chucktown.Check out this $6,590,000, five bed, six bath Charleston single house on Church Street.


Photo by CHStoday

Next time you’re strolling through the peninsula on a hot day, see if you can spot the front and back doors thrown wide on a shotgun house to tempt in a breeze or the sideways, slanted piazza of a single house.

Thank you to the South Carolina Room and librarian Malcolm Hale for helping us create this conversation.

More from CHStoday