Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Lengendary "Brick House" on Edisto Island--A Love Story With A Regrettable Twist

"I know not how it was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit...I looked upon the scene before me--upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain--upon the bleak walls--upon the vacant eye-like windows--with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream...Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principle feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity...Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn."

Drayton Hall 
The Lowcountry is rife with aged and ruined plantation homes that fit the portraiture of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." Once sprawling estates of opulence, now pillaged realms of providence--some by Federal troops in the Civil War--some by the all-consuming fires of unintentional carelessness--some by creeping disrepair. What Edgar Allen Poe described with trepidation, we idealize and romanticize. For us, they are living remnants of a glamorous and sometime savage by-gone time called the Old South. Their storied and ghostly pasts color our dreams and shade our nightmares--part of the wonder that lures people from all over the country and the world each year by the millions to their caretaker and master, Charleston and its Sea Islands.

Brick House before 1929
The "Brick House" on Edisto Island is one of those houses. Believed to have been built in 1725, Paul Hamilton used bricks imported from Boston and wood aged a minimum of seven years in its construction--Boston bricks were more denser than local bricks. It was architecturally designed in American colonial architecture, but flavored with a French Huguenot influence. The Jenkins family acquired the estate in 1798, which included the 300 acre plantation. It was in the late 1700's and early 1800's Sea Island plantations grew in wealth and prosperity due to its highly-prized Sea Island Cotton. It was around this time an Edgar Allen Poe type story became a part of its history.

Shortly after the Jenkins took ownership, a relative of Mrs. Jenkins visited Brick House from James Island. Amelia was very beautiful, popular, and recently engaged to the prodigy of a prominent Charleston family. She was accompanied by her young mistress. Not long after, a complication arose when Amelia fell in love with a wealthy Edisto planter. She attempted to break off the engagement by letter, but the gentleman came to Brick House to confront her, demanding an explanation. Amelia's answer, "I fell in love with someone else." The jilted suitor pleaded for her to reconsider, but failed. "You will never marry him, I would rather see you dead," he threatened and walked away.

Time passed and the threat was forgotten--everyone was preoccupied with the wedding plans. The wedding day arrived. Nearby, Mr. Jenkins private steamboat awaited at the wharf. The newly weds would leave for Charleston after the festivities were completed. Brick House was filled with family and guests. Early in the evening, Amelia retired to the upstairs to put on her dress. With the assistance of her mistress, she readied herself. The veil was placed on her head and the mistress left the room. From the open window in the room, Amelia faintly heard her name called out. She approached the window and peered out into the darkness. Then, there was the deafening sound of a gun shot and a second.

Downstairs, the relatives and guests stunned by the echoing gunfire looked at one another in disbelief. They took immediate inventory. Everyone downstairs was alright. Then, a cold chill fell upon the celebrants. They all rushed up the stairs. The bridegroom was the first to reach the bloody and lifeless body of Amelia. Beside the window, a bloody-red handprint marked the place where she placed her hand before collapsing to the floor.

The jilted lover from Charleston made good on his threat. Outside the window stood a stately old oak. He had climbed into its broad branches, fired the fatal shot, and then turned the gun on himself. His body was found beneath the tree. The pistol's sulfuric exhalation lingering among the leaves overhead.

It is said, the bloody handprint left by Amelia remained on the beautiful, scenic-painted wall until a hundred years later, when it was covered by a heavy, green paint. In 1929, a fire gutted the interior, thus forever erasing the paint-covered manifestation. The brick shell survived. Over the years since, Brick House has suffered instability and extraordinary dilapidation, but Amelia's tragic story lives on. Each year on August the 13th, screams can be heard coming from within its crumbling walls. Some people say Amelia is often seen standing in the bedroom window--wedding dress shimmering in the moonlight.

After 1929

This is just one of the many houses and legends you will encounter as you navigate the historic Lowcountry from Bulls Island to Edisto Island, from the Battery in Charleston to Hutchinson Square in Summerville. They are as nurturing as the coastal tides and as murky as pluff mud. Bring your camera and broaden your mind for these words will reverberate in your ears, "Houses are alive...If we're quiet, if we listen, we can hear houses breath. Sometimes, in the depth of the night, you can even hear them groan. It's as if they were having bad dreams. A good house cradles and comforts, a based one fills us with instinctive unease."--Steven King in "Rose Red"

Ghost or Civil War Walking Tour of Charleston
Chilling Charleston Macabre Ghost Tour
Ghost and Haunted Tours in Charleston
Bulldog Ghost Tours
Tours of Edisto
Botany Bay Eco Tours

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have read the same copy/text here at many other sites- word for word--did they steal your research??