City Directories and History: Erected in two stages, this brick and frame house is now subdivided into two separate residences. Frame section has original address of 32 Legare Street and retains the name of Sword Gates. The frame section is believed to have been built around 1803, possibly by French Huguenots James LaRoche and J. Lardent. The home was bought and redecorated in 1849 by British Consul George A. Hopley, the same year the Sword Gates were installed in the high brick wall in front of the frame portion of house. The tall wrought iron
gates are decorated with elaborate scrolls and leafage. Each half has a central cross formed by point of two vertical spears meeting in center of horizontally placed broadsword. The gates were manufactured by Christopher Werner of Charleston. The frame portion has undergone many late 19th century additions and alterations. The brick wing has retained its architectural integrity and is believed to have been added ca. 1818, acquired by Madame Talvaude, and used as a girls school. The building is two and a half stories over a high basement, with a slate covered hip roof. There are three pedimented dormers along the north and one on the west. The brick walls are covered with stucco; cornice is also stucco. First floor windows have exterior paneled shutters and second story shutters are louvered. Listed in the National Register December 18, 1970. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
Madame Talvaude School: In 1819, the property was sold to André (now known as Andrew) Talvande. Talvande and his wife, Ann, were French colonial refugees who relocated from Saint-Domingue after its revolution. Shortly after, Ann Talvande opened Madame Talvande’s French School for Young Ladies. Affluent families sent their daughters to the exclusive school for a solid education and, more importantly, instruction from its strict headmistress on proper behavior for a lady. Ann Talvande was a fierce ally to the aristocratic families of Charleston, and they came to rely on her for the social growth of their daughters. Many girls walked the halls of the school, including Mary Boykin Chesnut, one of South Carolina’s most well-known authors. (Information courtesy of the Sword Gates House website.)
View the complete text of the nomination form for this National Register property.
SWORD GATE HOUSE – Constructed before 1810; renovated twentieth century; additions 1840s
“The wrought-iron gates leading to this property from Legare Street bear an elaborate sword and spear design and were made by the ironworker Christopher Werner “by mistake” when he was completing a similar pair for the Charleston Guardhouse in 1830. The gates were installed by 1850 by George Hopley, Charleston’s British consul. The three-story wooden house with fanlighted piazzas had been completed before 1810 by Solomon Legare and sold nearly a decade later to the Talvande family, refugees from Santo Domingo. Madame Talvande’s girls’ school was considered the best by Charleston’s elite in the 1820s and 1830s. By tradition, the high brick walls were added to enclose the property during this period. Before Hopley’s purchase of the site in 1849 a large stuccoed brick section was added to the building. After passing through a number of owners, including the daughter of Robert Todd Lincoln, the property was subdivided. Its brick wing became an inn. The setback of this edifice perhaps inspired that of the Colonial Revival house next door at 26 Legare Street. Built in the 1920s by the Whaley family, it was entirely refaced several decades later by the next owners, the T. Wilbur Thornhills.”
Information from: The Buildings of Charleston – J.H. Poston for the Historic Charleston Foundation, 1997
Other sources: Charleston Tax Payers of Charleston, SC in 1860-61, Dwelling Houses of Charleston by Alice R.H. Smith – 1917, Charleston 1861 Census Schedule, and a 1872 Bird’s Eye View of Charleston, S.C. The Hist. Charleston Foundation may also have additional data at: Past Perfect
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