Charleston, South Carolina is a traveler’s delight, a swath of historical homes and fragrant gardens along the eastern seaboard. Its tree-lined streets feature homes in the Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival and Italianate style alongside Victorian mansions and Adamesque estates.
Visiting our son this week in South Carolina, my husband and I spent a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon walking and driving through Charleston’s lower peninsula. There, Spanish moss drips from live oaks and brightly-colored stucco covers the Georgian townhomes along Rainbow Row. But one of the most interesting features in this city is something which, our architect son informs us, can be found nowhere else: Charleston Doors.
Looking at the tall, narrow “single” homes from the front, the ornate door would seem to open onto an entrance hall or foyer. Not so! Charleston Doors open, not to the interior of the house, but to a long porch (called a “piazza”) and a garden. A visitor who gains admittance to the front-facing Charleston Door will need to knock again on the house door, located halfway down the piazza.
The narrow homes, just one room wide with a side garden, are designed to capture any available breeze, helping to cool the homes in the era before air conditioning in Charleston’s sultry southern clime.
It seemed to me that the Charleston Door gives a false impression of hospitality—teasing a visitor, promising a warm welcome and then, once one entered the porch and garden space, POW!—laughing at the private joke because you’re still locked out!
Sometimes Facebook, like other social media, is a Charleston Door.
“Be my friend!” cries the profile photo. “We can share so much!” So you let down your guard, accept the friend request, and then—POW!—you find yourself locked out of real communication and mired in small talk. You’re confined to the piazza and the garden of relationship, laughing it up on the porch. The real friends—the ones who know your strengths and weaknesses, who have been with you through good times and bad, who have seen the raw underbelly of selfishness and pettiness, and who love you nonetheless—are still inside the house.
This summer, put down that mouse and go on inside.