The Story of the DeSaussure House on the Battery

DeSaussure House Charleston, South CarolinaMy Obsession

As I have told you before, I greatly enjoy meandering up and down the streets around the battery (Kathy’s Blog Walking the Battery) and gazing at the huge antebellum houses. Truth is, I am just a bit obsessed with them! It seems I see something new every time I go. I also enjoy seeing if I can find information about the history of some of the houses.

1 East Battery is one of those houses I have walked past for years and wondered what stories it might have to tell! This house is also known as The DeSaussure House. It sits on the corner of East Battery and South Battery with three piazzas looking out over White Point Garden (Kathy’s Blog White Point Garden). While it may look like the front of the house actually sits on South Battery, this is the classic Charleston style. Look at the picture below and you will see the front door on the side facing East Battery allowing the piazzas to take full advantage of the breezy Charleston Harbor.


Thomas Coffin (1795-1863), owner of the Coffin Point Plantation, a well known cotton plantation on the coast in Beaufort County, originally owned the lot a 1 East Battery. In 1858, Coffin deeded the lot to Louis DeSaussure (1824-1888), a highly successful business man. DeSaussure constructed the three story stuccoed brick mansion with triple-tiered piazzas between 1858 and 1861. Unfortunately, in February of 1865, the house was damaged when a large gun exploded at the corner of East and South Battery. There was also severe damage done to the home in the famous 1886 Charleston earthquake.

The original design was a much more simple exterior especially with the window details. After the earthquake, the house was rehabilitated by a new owner, Bernard O’Neil. He added the ornate iron balconies seen today beneath the windows and more details to the window and door trim. In addition, he added an elaborate cornice and a roof balustrade (later removed).

The O’Neil family kept the house until 1926. The house was purchased by Mrs Robert E.Lee, III for a time. During World War II, it was used to house Navy officers.

 1 East Battery The DeSaussure House Charleston, South Carolina

(Photo By ProfReader – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Currently, the DeSaussure house is no longer a single family home. It has been divided into three condos. Unit A is a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1900 sq.ft. condo that is valued around $1,200,000! Unit C is 2 bedrooms, 3 baths 2100 sq.ft. and valued around $1,200,000 as well. The carriage house beside the mansion was subdivided into a separate house and given the address 2 South Battery. It is a 5 bedroom, 5 bath 4500 sq.ft. home worth over $3,000,000!

Fact or Fiction?

According to legend, and several carriage tour drivers who love to pass these legends around, Louis DeSaussure invited guests to come and gather on the roof the piazzas to witness the 1st shots of the Civil War fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Supposedly, they cheered from their prime observation spot when the shots were fired. Fact or fiction? I really don’t know but I would guess there would have been a great view from that spot.


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White Point Garden

              White Point Garden 1851

White Point Garden is one of those special places every Charleston, South Carolina visitor must explore!

History of White Point Garden

Did you know that White Point Garden was originally called “Oyster Point” and later the name was changed to “White Point”? The name comes from oyster shells bleached by the sun, found at the edge of the peninsula. A bath house once stood at the end of King Street from 1840-1881. Cake and ice cream was sold in a parlor above the bath house. It was removed in 1881 and the waterfront area was filled in to make the park larger.

White Point Garden with bath house 1872







The area once covered in oyster shells is now covered in grass. A variety of statues, plaques and canon replicas as well as a gazebo are spread out in the 5.7 acres of this public park. Live oak trees provide abundant shade. Spectacular antebellum homes and a gentle breeze make this a popular place year round.

On a clear day, Fort Sumter and the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse are visible. Dolphins can often be seen jumping amid the shrimp boats. This is a great place to watch a sunset!

If you plan to visit, make sure you wear good walking shoes since the concrete slabs along the waterfront are uneven. Also be mindful that there are no public washrooms in the area.

White Point Garden Charleston, SC

                     White Point Garden today


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