Most of what I say here was related to us during a horse carriage tour of Charleston so don’t hold me to high standards of reporting, but everything I read bears witness.
The front doors of these Robert Mills Manor public housing units in Charleston, South Carolina are painted Haint blue, which is a collection of pale shades of blue-green that are traditionally used to paint porch ceilings in the southern United States. The tradition originated with the Gullah people in Georgia and South Carolina.
Originally, haint blue was thought by the Gullah to ward haints, or ghosts, away from the home. The tactic was intended either to mimic the appearance of the sky, tricking the ghost into passing through or to mimic the appearance of water, which ghosts traditionally could not cross.
I wonder if these doors are painted more out of caution than tradition because the project was built on a mass grave site that served the infamous Charleston City Jail.
Between the time the Jail was built in 1802 and its decommissioning in 1939, I understand that over 10,000 people died in horrific conditions of filth, violence and disease Our carriage driver told us that the average lifespan of an inmate was just three months and the lifespan of a jailer was not much longer. After its decommissioning in 1939, the Old Charleston Jail became the property of the Chareston Housing Authority which allowed development of the Robert Mills Manor public housing project. Mostly a great idea, however for decade upon decade, the bodies of prisoners had been hauled from the Jail site across the street buried in unmarked graves, right here on the project site.
I suppose that considering the many tales of angry and violent ghosts of long-dead prisoners, painting doors haint blue was about the only marketing solution available to attract tenants.
Robert Mills Manor housing is now 80 years old and in need of replacement, and the old jail still stands. Charleston’s strict preservation laws dictate that the structure be preserved or repaired and indeed various groups have sunk millions into the building, including a building trades guild focused on training workers in the very art of restoration needed in Charleston.
One of Marcy’s superpowers is the ability to capture images on the fly. I sat right next to her as we passed the Old Charleston Jail and could not get a shot, but she grabbed several good ones. If you are fan of haunted buildings, you will want to sign up for a ghost tour when you visit. Meanwhile, our images of the Charleston and Savannah area have been popular. If you are interested, browse Marcy’s Southern Charm of the Low Country gallery!