The United Order of Tents (The Order) is a national, secret society of Black Christian women dedicated to fellowship, mutual aid, and philanthropy. Harriet R. Taylor and Annetta M. Lane, both born into slavery, founded The Order in 1867 in Norfolk, Virginia, with the support of prominent abolitionists J.R. Giddings and Jolliffee Union. The organization’s name is derived from the “tent of salvation,” a metaphor for uplifting and empowering African American women following emancipation.
Through the activism of local chapters in four districts across the eastern seaboard, The Order has a long tradition of providing charitable support to the most vulnerable members of African American communities, including widows, orphans, and the elderly. A Charleston chapter of The Order was established in 1913 and is still active today. By the 1950s, the Charleston chapter included nine local “tents,” or sub-chapters with more than 700 members responsible for impactful community initiatives, like funding scholarships for local Black women and providing support for the Jenkins Orphanage for African American children.
In 1956, The Order purchased the c. 1856 Charleston single house at 73 Cannon Street to serve as its headquarters. The building housed organizational meetings and social gatherings for decades, and provided critical rental space for other community organizations, like the African American Cannon Street YMCA and daycare centers. Over time, The Order made modifications to the two-and-one-half story, wood-frame building to accommodate its expanding programs, including enclosing the piazzas and constructing a side addition.
At its peak in 1977, membership in the Charleston chapter of The Order swelled to more than 1,800, but decreased to a few hundred by the new millennium due to the geographic scattering of its membership base and waning interest in fraternal organizations among younger generations.  As membership and resources declined, 73 Cannon became difficult to maintain and it fell into disrepair. In 2012, the City of Charleston deemed the building uninhabitable.
To prevent 73 Cannon from being seized or demolished, the Preservation Society of Charleston listed the building on its “Seven to Save” list in 2012 and worked with members toward stabilization. Today, The Order is committed to maintaining ownership of the property to remain connected to their organizational heritage and honor the leaders that bought it. The goal is to rehabilitate 73 Cannon Street and return it to active, community-serving use.
 Campbell, Alice W. “The United Order of Tents of J.R. Giddings and Jollife Union.” Social Welfare History Project. Accessed July 18, 2023. https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/religious/the-united-order-of-tents-of-j-r-giddings-and-jollife-union/.
 Campbell, Alice W. “The United Order of Tents of J.R. Giddings and Jollife Union.”
 Mary Schley, “The United Order of Tents and 73 Cannon Street: A Study of Identity and Place”; Sandra Burch, “Mrs. Duncan Is Elected By Order Of Tents,” Evening Post (Charleston, SC, September 23, 1977.
 Mary Schley, “The United Order of Tents and 73 Cannon Street: A Study of Identity and Place”; “Day’s Log in Charleston,” News and Courier (Charleston, SC, January 12, 1957).
 Aurora Harris, United Order of Tents Headquarters, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom (Charleston, SC: National Park Service, November 9, 2012).; “Charleston 1951, Sheet 15.” Insurance Maps Charleston, South Carolina. New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1951. Geography and Map Division. Library of Congress. Accessed July 16, 2021.
 Glenn Smith, “Order of Tents True to Christian Code,” Post and Courier (Charleston, SC, November 15, 2008), accessed June 15, 2021.
 Glenn Smith, “Order of Tents True to Christian Code”; Glenn Smith, “Dwindling Sisterhood Could Lose Home,” Post and Courier (Charleston, SC, June 3, 2012), accessed July 13, 2021.
 Dave Munday, “Historic Headquarters at Risk – Black Women’s Group Struggles to Save Cannon St. House,” Post and Courier (Charleston, SC, December 2, 2014), accessed July 13, 2021.
 Mary Schley, “The United Order of Tents and 73 Cannon Street: A Study of Identity and Place.”