Bringing home a piece of Charleston

We visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time five or six years ago. That’s when we met W. Hampton Brand, an artist who offers pieces of that historic and beautiful waterfront city that folks can take home if they want to, you know, pay a few dollars.

So we did.

Last week Roselee and I made our second trip to Charleston, an easy five-hour drive from our home in North Carolina. It’s something we really should do more often. Charleston has emerged as one of our favorite places. We like old cities with a walkable and entertaining downtown. We enjoy staying at hotels in the middle of restaurants, museums, bars and shopping where we can park the car and never move it until we leave. Charleston is among the best of those getaways — for us anyway. I highly recommend Portland, Maine as well, for all the same reasons.

On our second Charleston trip we enjoyed knowing where things are — it was a long weekend trip after all. It makes it simple to hit the places we like the most for a return visit. We ate at one of our favorite Italian restaurants (Fulton Five). The next night we visited Husk, one of the more famous Charleston restaurants and had one of the best salads either of us had ever tasted. The chocolate chess pie with peanut butter ice cream was pretty fabulous,. too. We had a night at an old seafood house on the waterfront (Fleet Landing) and I had a tasty brunch at Another Broken Egg (hard to beat crab cakes and fried green tomatoes). We visited a cocktail bar called The Gin Joint with a speakeasy vibe and about the most creative tequila cocktail I can remember drinking.

And we made a stop at the W. Hampton Brand Gallery on East Bay Street so we could take home a piece of Charleston. His gallery is a small place on the busy old street directly across from the iconic Rainbow Row houses. It’s only open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. so to see Mr. Brand’s unique work and vision it’s best to go early in the day.

Mr. Brand is a painter and historian. He knows Charleston’s past and the distinct architecture that makes it among the most noteworthy cities in the nation. And that is exactly what he produces. His paintings, rendered on roof slate from the houses on Rainbow Row, are of windows, doors, gates and alleys within blocks of his gallery. He’s devoted quite a bit of his work to the Rainbow Row houses. He has multiple paintings of those homes and they are very popular.

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For us, we like his paintings of more specific details from individual homes or mansions we pass as we walk along the city streets. On our first tour of Charleston we purchased two vertical images of iron gates in the city. They now accent the landing in the stairway of our home.

Last week we added another piece to our collection. This is from a home on Church Street. Mr. Brand includes a narrative with each piece he sells detailing its history. The cool thing is going to find what he painted. Here’s the painting and the home it comes from.

I found myself attracted to the doorway image. I told Roselee, “doors are full of mystery. What’s on the other side? Is it wonderful or awful? Doors are always full of opportunity — or danger.”

As we did a few years ago we had a nice conversation with Mr. Brand — one of the gifts of going into a gallery operated by the artist. After I told him the pieces we bought on our first visit he seemed to remember us, but I told him myself I would be astonished if he this was true. He remembered that Roselee liked his dog, though, so perhaps.

Mr. Brand doesn’t have a website that I can find. He does have a Facebook page that seems largely unattended. He has a bio typed and on a wall in his gallery.

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