The History of Catfish Row in Charleston, SC

While many are familiar with Rainbow Row, the history of Catfish Row in Charleston, SC, is equally intriguing. Located on Church Street, just a block away from Rainbow Row, there is so much to uncover about this stunningly preserved site. Read on to learn more about its rich past and begin planning your adventure with Classic Carriage Works! We look forward to providing you with an unforgettable experience touring the most significant sites in the Holy City by horse-drawn carriage. Join us today for a fantastic adventure.

Book a Tour

About the Structure

Catfish Row is a three-story structure that was built during the Revolutionary War Era. During this time, many freed African American slaves and their families claimed this location as their home. At one point, up to ten families were living in the building at one time.

While the top two floors were used as living quarters, the bottom floor of the structure was used as a commercial front. The inhabitants often sold cabbages and other vegetables directly from the windows.

Cabbage Row or Catfish Row?

Catfish Row was originally called Cabbage Row because of its commercial use. So, why the name change?

In 1925, Dubose Heyward, a Charleston native who grew up on Church Street, wrote a famous novel named “Porgy” that takes place in Cabbage Row. In the novel, Porgy is a black tenant of Church Street who was based on another local Charlestonian named Samuel Smalls. Heyward thought that changing the name to Catfish Row would do a better job of depicting his setting by the sea in which the story takes place. Now, as you walk down the row, you can see a placard that officially renames this site as Catfish Row.

The novel was such a success that it was adapted into a well-praised opera named Porgy and Bess in 1935. The interesting lifestyle that Heyward depicts of those living in Catfish Row really captured readers and allowed this little slice of history to remain known.

Catfish Row Today

Today, Church Street is lined with bustling shops and quaint, private homes. Consider exploring the area to take in the gorgeous 18th-century architecture and get a feel for where Heyward’s famous novel took place. Here, you can really feel the history come to life.

Book a Tour with Classic Carriage Works

If you enjoyed learning about the history of Catfish Row in Charleston, SC, consider booking a tour with Classic Carriage Works. There are countless historic sites to discover in our beautiful city, and you’ll get a chance to see so many of them on our horse-drawn carriage tours. Our experienced guides have a vast knowledge of the area and love sharing all of the fascinating stories of the Holy City. Explore the area in a brand new way. We look forward to guiding you on this exciting historic adventure!

Book a Tour