|32 Legare Street
Sword Gate House
Legare Street is named for goldsmith Solomon Legare “the Huguenot,” who built the first house on this property. Before the lot left the family in 1803, his descendants had become wealthy plantation owners and commission merchants.
This large U-shaped house was built in at least four stages. The earliest section (front right) is part of the eighteenth century dwelling that replaced Legare’s original house. Merchants Jacob Steinmetz and Paul Lorent retained this three story, one room wide section when they constructed what is now the central portion ca. 1803. By 1818 they had added long brick wing (left), which boasts one of Charleston’s most elegant ballrooms, and the separate kitchen house facing Tradd Street. In about 1849 George Hopley added a rear wing to the right side.
From 1819 through 1848, Anne Talvande kept a “select academy for young ladies” here. One of South Carolina’s best-known literary women, Mary Boykin Chesnut, was educated by Madame Talvande.
The Sword Gate was made by ironworker Christopher Werner in 1838 for the city’s new Guard House, but never used until Hopley installed it here in about 1849. During the Charleston Renaissance in the early 20th century, the walls and gates on both Tradd and Legare Street were artists’ favorites. The Sword Gate was a subject for Elizabeth O’Neill Verner and Alfred Hutty, while Harold Tatum and others depicted the Tradd Street scene.
From 1952 to 1998 while the Sword Gate Inn occupied the brick wing of the house, there were separate dwellings in the main building and kitchen. The entire property was restored as a private residence in 2002.
THE PRESERVATION SOCIETY OF CHARLESTON