"Following where my camera leads me!"

"Following where my camera leads me!"

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mary and Amanda---Ladies in the Pink House

The Pink House

This is all that remains of the big old pink house I loved so much:
In her rubble lies a thousand fears and tears and a million happy memories of another time, and of this place. Tangled together in history are hundreds of baby cries and tiny first steps on hard wooden floors and thousands of sweaty-hot morning Charleston sunrises.  Hundreds of letters sent, fancifully handwritten with real ink and carefully sealed into envelopes to make their way to far off places--letters to best girlfriends off in boarding schools, letters to Daddies off on long trips sealing deals up "North", letters to beaus off finishing up college or even military school. Letters to Aunts who live elsewhere, and deeply missed sisters who married and moved "off". Letters full of girlish chatter and new longings and many secrets to share.  Letters from young Charleston wives and daughters and  sons who made this big tall pink house their home for so many years. 
Hundreds of big strong hugs from big strong brothers and cousins and Dads and thousands of  quick arguments, later regretted and forgiven. Thousands of joyful smiles, swirly skirted twirls, "fashionable" hair disasters, painful new shoes, hats and blouses shared and the hilarious jokes played by loving sisters.
Hundreds of meals shared around the big shiny dining room table, and thousands of secret glances between a husband and a wife who lived and loved and raised a family here.

Beautiful old fluted Tuscan columns:

I used to get alot closer. Not today.

All that survives of hundreds of years of memories:

The pink Greek Revival style house was built in 1852 by John Steinmeyer, on land leased from Nathan Nathans, a King Street merchant. I think he owned or built the above pictured home as well, in the same neighborhood.

Mr. Steinmeyer's business made shingles, spars, masts and plastering lathes. He was very successful and prosperous. 
His family had immigrated to the United States  from the  Waldeck-Pyrmont area of Germany in 1800 or so. 
His parents, born in Germany, were George Steinmeyer (1767-1830) and his mother was Christina Anna Louise.(born in 1772)

Mr. Steinmeyer married Miss Amanda Matilda Evans (born in 1839) and they were blessed with eleven children:
Amanda Eliza, Henry, Matilda, Julia, Emily, John, Eliza, Clement, Anna Louisa, and Alicia.
The Charleston census shows Mr. Steinmeyer owned his home, office, and one slave.
Little Amanda was born the year South Carolina seceded from the Union.

1860 Census for Charleston, S.C.
What was life like for Mr. Steinmeyer and his bride, Amanda?
(above)Amanda's mother might've worn this

Below is a dress Amanda  might've liked for a big fancy Ball

below, other dresses:

hoops were now popular!

(above)How Mr. Steinmeyer and Amanda might've looked/dressed around this time

Ladies seemed to love long sweeping cloaks in the chilly evenings and big silk and taffeta bows tied underneath their bonnets.

Grooming and getting dressed in all these layers of skirts, pantaloons, crinolines, hoops etc. took place in the bedroom or a very small room right next to the bedroom used as a 'dressing room'. Nobody had bathrooms yet, and the outhouses were still in the backyards!People kept a chamber pot in the bedrooms to use at night if needed.
 People usually had a wash basin and bowl and pitcher set in the bedroom with a mirror, and people also bathed in warm kitchens! Mr. Steinmeyer probably had a shaving stand to hold his shave soap and razor and a towel. Most homes had a well or cistern to get their water and larger cities converted to city water later on. 

Their big house had big tall windows which would've let in lots of that beautiful Charleston sunshine--maybe Amanda enjoyed ferns, vines, and other houseplants? I can imagine she might've had lovely furnishings including layering heavy velvet or brocade draperies and lace curtains, gleaming hardwood floors, the newly wildly popular nature scene wall murals and paintings, heavy dark wood furniture with ornate carvings, beautiful marble top tables, and big heavy tassels at the windows. Their home had numerous fireplaces and probably beautiful mantels and perhaps an elaborate large sideboard in the dining room. As in most of the large homes in Charleston during this time, the kitchens were separate buildings in the back yard to keep the risk of fire from laundry and cooking from  spreading to the home. It also helped keep the houses a little cooler during the steamy Charleston spring and summer months!
Backyards were unsightly work areas for many tasks--the outhouse, parking carriages, a stable for horses and mules, a place to wash and hang laundry, a place to kill and prepare chickens for supper, a big fire and cook-pot, a place to chop wood, and outbuildings to store house and gardening tools and supplies. I doubt if young Amanda and her brothers and sisters played in the backyard!

What might Amanda Steinmeyer have liked to read in the evenings? Would she have liked English author Jane Austen?"Sense and Sensibility" was published back in 1811 and "Pride and Prejudice" in 1813, along with "Emma" in 1816---old romantic novels but still maybe enjoyable for Amanda?
"Wuthering Heights" from more recent--1847--might've caught her attention, written by Emily Bronte. She might've also liked some of Emily's poetry.
Also in the 1860s, something new caught on--something called "dime novels". They were sold in shops and on newstands for a very low price. Men loved the detective and adventure stories and women loved the romances. Even Louisa May Alcott wrote one.
Most people also read "Harper's Weekly" regularly.

Another Charleston man named Mr.George Egan was busy raising his family on another street. Mr. Egan worked in Charleston and built the jetties in the late 19th century. He had been born in 1835 and was very active in community groups. He was vice President of the Hibernian Society and member of the Friendly Society. He was also Director for Mines and Merchants Bank. He had worked hard and gone into business for himself when he was only 22 years old and became a contractor/builder. He contracted with the U.S. government to deepen the Charleston harbor, which he did, from 18 to 23 feet--which benefited trade.
He met and fell in love with Miss Mary Ann Flynn. She was born in 1837.
The young lady George fell in love with might've looked like this:

Young love in the old days

The Egans had a lovely big home and were prosperous and most likely very active in church and community groups and events.

They  had five children.
Did the Egan family have slaves? I don't know. But the Census records for 1861 show 136 people living on their street and 77 slaves.
Before the War began, they probably enjoyed attending the Charleston balls, which were frequent.

1899--not Civil War era, but a pretty picture of a Ball!

Mary probably enjoyed reading in her spare time and much like many of the other ladies of her time, probably enjoyed "Godey's Ladies Book". This one is from 1849.

Here's one from 1857--perhaps around the time of George and Mary's wedding  :
Didn't the Godey's books have such lovely covers??

1858 crinoline cartoon

These Ladies' Home Journal magazines were well AFTER this time, but I put them in because I think they have such interesting covers and because you can see that they cost ten cents!

George and Mary's first child, a daughter, was born in 1859, and they named her Margaret Ann.(pictured below--older, of course)
About a year later, on December 20, 1860, the Institute Hall in Charleston was filled to capacity as the as the Ordinance of Secession was signed.
Margaret Ann Egan
it looks like Margaret is wearing a little short capelet over  her dress. She seems to like braids and ribbons!

............The Great Fire of Charleston...........

The Great Fire of Charleston broke out in 1861, when little Margaret would've been about two years old. On December 11 a fire broke out somewhere around East Bay Street and Hasell Street, believed to have been started either by refugee slaves or an outside cooking fire accident.The huge fire spread so quickly because a cold front was sweeping fast and strong high winds through the city. General Robert E. Lee was at the Mills House Hotel and watched it from his balcony as it spread. It burned close to 600 acres and at least 600 homes, five churches, and countless other buildings and businesses. I've read that the Great Fire did far more damage than the Civil War did. (below--the bombed out and/or fire damaged Cathedral of St. John the Baptist after the fire)
The church today:

 Their second daughter was Eugenia C.,(pictured below) and she was born on Christmas Eve 1862, about a year after the Great Fire. As far as I could tell/research, the fire spared the Egans and  also the Steinmeyers and their pretty pink home. 

A very happy Christmas Day it might've been on the day Eugenia was born--with a little girl around three years old and a brand new baby! 

However, with South Carolina seceded and the War raging, the normal holiday festivities such as preparing for and decorating for the many Christmas Balls and house parties was probably very slowed down, as well as planning the pretty dresses to have made and presents for friends and family. The normal oysters, big roast goose, plum puddings, pies and cakes, gravies and potatoes and breads were probably not to be served this holiday.

Eugenia C. Egan
................ notice the girl's pierced ears!...............
Eugenia has a starched lace collar and a capelet like her sister's, she also seems to have a crown on her head and prefers her long hair down and swept up on the sides. They both have ribbons around their necks and seemed to like jewelry.
You can definitely see the resemblance between the mother and her two daughters!

I'm sure Mary busied herself with her home, her husband, and their daughters. She would've had to either sew, or to hire someone to sew, clothes for the girls.
1861 clothing

1862 children's clothing
Mary Egan and Amanda Steinmeyer were busy women.There was much to do to keep a household running smoothly--planning and shopping for and preparing meals, laundry, housekeeping, child care, keeping the wood or the coal going in the big kitchen cookstoves, candle making, mending garments, polishing silver, lamp cleaning, and making soap.
I'm sure Mary and Amanda Steinmeyer might've both tried out new hats and hairstyles during the War--something to lift their spirits!
Nets and snoods and braids seemed popular!
A lady always wore a hat when she went out! 

Christmas was celebrated in both the North and the South, and people in this era adopted the Victorian English way of celebrating.
 People sang Christmas carols on sidewalks and in churches. "Deck the Halls" had been sung since the 1700s and "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" had been sung since 1751.
People started singing "Silent Night" around 1818, and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" in 1840, several years before the Civil War. The newest song was "Jingle Bells", beginning around 1857 or so, and I'm thinking that Mary might've been humming and singing the tune to her two little girls--as perhaps Amanda Steinmeyer was doing the same with her newborn baby girl.

The Christmas the year after little Eugenia was born brought danger and many changes.
Eugenia would've been one year old and her older sister Margaret about four.
 It was On a cold, cold, Christmas Day that year (1863) when the surprise shelling began before dawn and residents began hearing the shelling and the attack. 
Charleston had been evacuated south of Broad street and a sense of dread had been all over the city as the enemy was closing in with daily threat of attack. Still....nothing really prepared people living in Charleston for the reality of being attacked.
The frightening sounds of war and shelling went on all Christmas Day and I cannot even imagine how scared Mary Egan and Amanda Steinmeyer must've been, and the terror they felt while gathering their little children close and praying for protection!
Back at the pretty pink house---Mr. Steinmeyer and his wife Amanda had had their first child, a little girl they named Amanda Eliza, in 1860, and welcomed a baby boy in 1862. They named their little boy Henry. Sadly, Henry only lived to be about one year old. 
Many large and small fires broke out during this time-- on Church Street and Broad Street, burning down many homes, many with people in them, and those surviving, sustained severe injuries and many did not make it, dying the next week--many simply because they could not get warm and dying from their wounds. A big cotton press and many businesses and buildings were destroyed.
Here I am on Church Street as it is today:

Church Street--one of my favorite doorways in our city!

People living in the city tried to make the best of things, and held a big Christmas supper for the soldiers at Wayside Home. Somebody thought to do this. Somebody organized it. Somebody prepared and served much food for the hungry soldiers, and somebody decorated the dining hall with fragrant boughs of evergreen.  Over 400 soldiers came and had a good nourishing meal. It sounds to me that the citizens of Charleston came together and the homemakers/slaves/children and whoever could---helped to put this good hot meal on and I'm sure it was probably very appreciated! I couldn't find in my research exactly what they had to eat...but I read that the regular Christmas treats such as plum puddings and big hams and turkeys were extremely rare--although chicken was pretty easily found and rum was still sold. 

Back in the early 1860s, Christmas trees began appearing and people began decorating them. Perhaps Mary Egan carefully decorated a small table tree for her two little girls, so they would have some Christmas cheer.  She also might've spread around ivy, mistletoe, and holly about the  house and gathered some small toys such as blocks, balls, and baby dolls for the girls.

Thomas Nast, a German speaking immigrant, did editorial cartoons for Harper's Weekly.  Many Christmas traditions such as the big Christmas dinner feast and decorating trees were becoming more and more popular and often credited to Thomas Nast's popular drawings during the Civil War depicting carols, presents, and Santa.The one he drew for Christmas Eve 1862 actually appeared in the magazine on January 3, 1863. It was of a woman praying and a soldier on the battlefield.

 The tradition of a jolly "Santa Claus" bringing presents to the little ones had caught on, and children looked forward to getting oranges, small cakes and treats,and small toys and dolls. Christmas didn't become an "official" holiday until years after the War. By 1863, the Union Blockade pretty much had stopped the shipment of toys, and other goods, so toys and luxuries were definitely scarce.

Charles Dickens had written and published "A Christmas Carol" many years prior to the Civil War (1843) and I'd imagine it was still popular and read and re-read during that time of year.
The chaos and violence of the War continued.
Beards were very popular, as well as big moustaches!

Union General

Union Officer

Confederate Soldier

Confederate Soldier

Then came a son born to Mary and George, in 1864. They named him George, after his Daddy.
The War brought great sadness and loss with beloved husbands, brothers, fiances, and sons being killed for the cause--both North and South. 
Ladies and widows wore "mourning dresses":

(below) a little girl in a mourning dress, with a picture of her father she lost.
photo:Library of Congress
Southern ladies were forced to learn to do many things they had previously not done such as managing huge plantations, their husband's businesses, and their own homes. Most women did all they could to help provide the soldiers with what they needed--uniforms, food, and other things. 
Many Charleston ladies banded together and formed Ladies Aid societies and clubs to gather,organize, and make/roll bandages, handkerchiefs, blankets, socks, and things to keep the soldiers warm like warm shirts, scarves, gloves and the like.
This is a picture of children huddled up outside the Circular Church amidst the heavy damage from the War and the fire:

Photo:Library of Congress

And the church today:

The Steinmeyers had much sadness. Many of their children died early. Their firstborn, Amanda Eliza, died at five years old. Their little boy Henry died sometime in his first year. Their son John died at birth or shortly after. Their daughter born in 1874 died when she was three years old. This family had many children, but lost so many of them.
After the Great Earthquake hit Charleston, Mr. Steinmeyer decided to sell the pretty pink house. Guess who he sold it to? Someone I've told you about....he sold it to Mr. Egan and Mary in 1886!

George and Mary
 had gone on to have two more daughters--Martha Augusta, born in 1867, and Anna Corinne, born in 1875.

the children of the Steinmeyer and Egan families probably  wouldn't  have any memories of the War, but would grow up in and remember Reconstruction.
What might children of this era enjoyed playing? They liked marbles, balls, harmonicas and drumsticks. They boys played "soldier" and "going to war" and the little girls played "house" and with their dolls. Blocks, wagons, jacks, and toy soldiers were played with. Both boys and girls liked to drag out old sheets and quilts to make "caves" and forts to play in. Some old songs these children sang we STILL recognize and sing today--songs like "Farmer in the Dell", "Pop Goes the Weasel" and "Ring around the Rosie". 

James Oliver, Eugenia's son-- had a daughter, born on May 21, 1912. They (I think he married a woman named Corinne, but not sure) named her Margaret, probably after Margaret Ann, George and Mary's first child and Eugenia's big sister.Little Anna Corrinne died in the summer when she was only ten years old and I couldn't find any facts about why. It could've been a sickness such as measles or chicken pox, or an accident.
"Lying in state" was the custom back then, where families had the departed placed in the formal parlour for viewing. Eugenia's family may very well have mourned the loss of Anna in this manner. I bet Eugenia deeply missed her little sister.
In 1897 the children's father George purchased one or more plantations and gave planting outside Charleston a try. The years flew by and the children grew up...
Their second daughter, Eugenia, was the only one of the five children to have grandchildren for George and Mary.
She grew up and began courting a man named  James Oliver Skinner. They probably enjoyed long walks around their neighborhood and the Charleston waterfront Battery, attending church functions and banquets, and house parties and balls with other couples their age. Popular indoor activities included Charades, chess, checkers, Dominoes, guessing games, and other board games. 
The wildly popular board game "Life" had come out around 1860 and everybody still enjoyed it. Outdoors people really enjoyed playing croquet on their Charleston lawns.
Soon they married (I tried so hard to find a wedding portrait and couldn't find one!) and she had two children, a boy and a girl--James Oliver (born 1885) and Anna (born a year later-- 1886). Anna was most likely named after Eugenia's sister Anna who tragically died at such a young age. 

Eugenia would've been in her early twenties by the time the family moved into the pink house--she was married by now, as well as her sister Margaret. It's likely that Eugenia even labored and gave birth to one of her two children in the upstairs bedrooms in the pink house. Her son was born in 1885 and her daughter was born in 1886, the year the Egans moved into the pink house.

 I'm pretty sure this little girl named Margaret (Eugenia's Granddaughter!) lived to be 91, and passed away in 2003. She was born in Atlanta Georgia and she grew up to have one son and one daughter of her own.(they would be Eugenia's great-grandchildren, right?!) Corinne, her mother, died in 1972.
Eugenia, the little girl born on Christmas Eve on the brink of the Civil War, died in January 1929. She was 67 years old. Her husband, James, died in 1929 as well, but I couldn't find if they died together in an accident or not.
All of George and Mary's children, as well as all or most of the family, seem to be buried in Charleston's Magnolia cemetery.
Eugenia's father George died in 1902 and her mother Mary followed in 1907.

George's Grave

I had photographed this old beauty back in 2015, and that is when I became intrigued with the "pink house". I wanted to know her story!
 If you would like to see her in her previous "pretty-in-pink" tattered splendour, please click below:

Old Pink House

Our city had to close off streets close to it and areas of the neighborhood because the pretty pink house had severe structural issues and suffered not only a large fire in 2014 but further damage and flooding from the recent Hurricane Matthew.... and they feared a sudden collapse and people getting injured. The owner had been putting alot of money into repairs, but it just wasn't enough.
The home was demolished last month.
SO........this is all that remains of the Steinmeyer's and the Egans family home.  They (the Egans) kept it in the family until about 1965, I believe. 
This lovely old pink house that watched the Civil War begin and rage, and then come to a welcome end, finally. She watched at least eleven  children be born here, the loss and grief of the early deaths of four of them, and the delight of several grandchildren to romp her halls and steps. She was here for Reconstruction and a new era and a new way of life, a better way. She stood and witnessed the Korean War, World War One and World War Two as well as Vietnam and Desert Storm. So much history drifted throughout her rooms, coming in the front and back doors via people, children, newspapers, books, telegrams, and later on, telephones, television, and something called the "internet". She witnessed the coming of electricity and motor cars and the first camera and men flying in rockets to the moon! So much history in these bricks.... 

How I hate to see these regal and elegant old beauties be torn down!
Rest in peace, "Big Pink House" and the Steinmeyer and Egan family you sheltered and who called you home. The memories live on.

.....Although I enjoyed learning about all the Steinmeyer's and the Egan's children equally I chose to focus my story primarily around Eugenia because she was the child born closest to the start of the Civil War that survived after the War.......
....I also don't know FOR SURE if "the big Pink House" was actually pink all those years ago, back in the 1860's, or if that color came about later. In my own memory---it will surely and  always remain PINK.


  1. What an interesting post! It is always sad when a relic gives way to the modern world.

    Have a nice weekend ~ FlowerLady

  2. Very interesting. You did so much research. How sad the old pink house was torn down.


  3. Oh my gosh, that breaks my heart to see old homes torn down! Nice informative post, I enjoyed it. Have a great weekend!

  4. WoW...so much information and history - it must have taken forever to put this together. it is sad to see these homes torn down, it makes you wonder why they can't be renovated. maybe, some of the bricks and columns were saved and re-purposed. it would be wonderful to have a piece of it in your home - you would appreciate it!!

    i enjoyed this entry, thank you for investing so much time in to it!!!

  5. Debbi, this was fascinating! I am astounded at the work you've done researching these families but I bet you loved doing it. I wish that you could publish this post as it would surely be interesting to people who want to learn more of the history of the unique city you call home. It is sad that the Pink House had to come down, that it could not have been saved. Thank you for writing this and for the pictures. I was mesmerized by the expressions on the faces, especially Margaret and Eugenia.

  6. SAD to see such a historical home gone.. BUT--I guess between the fire and structural damage, they had no choice... At least, there are the memories ---and you have listed them so well... THANKS for sharing... I almost cried thinking of losing that Pink Home which so many loved so much...


  7. This is both fascinating and so sad. I understand why they had to do it -- but oh, it just had to hurt to see this. Your research -- as often in the past -- is impeccable. I so appreciate all the details you put into this -- the history, the photos, everything. The pink house will stay alive forever right here.

  8. That was an amazing story Debbi. What a sad ending though. You know this just breaks my heart.