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St. Michael’s Alley

Charleston’s alleys are highly historical and enchanting places.  Much has been written about Dueler’s (Philadelphia), Lodge, and Stoll’s Alleys.  I would like to comment on another, out of the way, passage known as St. Michael’s Alley which connects Meeting with Church Streets.  In about 150 yards there is as much history per square inch as any other place of comparable size (except 4 Corners of Law) in the city.  Apparently many “affairs of honor” were conducted in the Alley and upstairs in #2 was probably the scene of such a bloody conclusion of an argument among 2 gentlemen; one American and one French, over a lady.

Passing along St. Michael’s Alley westward toward Meeting from Church, you encounter a Philip Simmons gate, the law office of James Petigru, staunch, outspoken Unionist.  Petigru’s law office was designed by E.B. White, completed in 1849, and restored in the early 1900s by Susan Pringle Frost, Founder and President of the (now) Preservation Society of Charleston.  In fact, St. Michael’s Alley is scene of some of the earliest efforts at restoration and preservation.  Across from Petigru’s law office is the home of Clelia Perroneau Matthews McGowan.  Clelia was the first woman to hold public office in the state of South Carolina, being appointed to the state board of education in 1919 before women could vote.  Later in 1923, she was elected to city council and was active in women’s causes and race relations. Clelia’s lovely home can be seen at #5 St. Michael’s.  Just as you are about to exit the alley, you pass by #9, which was built by DuBose Heyward in 1913.  Heyward wrote the novel, Porgy in 1925, which was later made into the opera, Porgy and Bess in 1934 when George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward collaborated to create the work on Folly’s Island.

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