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.|
|(above)Amanda's mother might've worn this|
Below is a dress Amanda might've liked for a big fancy Ball
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!|
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!
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.
|1862 children's clothing|
I'm sure Mary and Amanda Steinmeyer might've both tried out new hats and hairstyles during the War--something to lift their spirits!
|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!|
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|
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.
|Photo:Library of Congress|
And the church today:
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.
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.
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.
....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.