Rainbow Row represents the longest cluster of intact Georgian row houses in the United States. The earliest structures on this portion of East Bay Street, between Tradd and Elliott Street, were built by 1680. The buildings were constructed on lots 7 to 10 of the Grand Modell, a city plan developed between 1670-1680.
Over the years, the buildings served as the shops and residences of notable merchants and planters, and fronted a cluster of wharves on the Cooper River waterfront. The buildings also fronted a segment of the eastern boundary of the fortification wall constructed circa 1704 to surround the city. Some of the houses were damaged or destroyed by fire, and the present structures date from circa 1720 to circa 1790. The homes suffered slight damage by Union artillery bombardment during the War between the States.
After the war and decades of neglect, the buildings deteriorated into slums. Susan Pringle Frost, founder of the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, now the Preservation Society of Charleston, began her important preservation and rehabilitation efforts by purchasing some of these properties in the 1920s in order to prevent their demolition. The name Rainbow Row was coined after the pastel colors they were painted as they were restored in the 1930s and 1940s. The rear facades and gardens of 93-101 East Bay were also used as a model for the original 1935 stage setting of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's opera, "Porgy and Bess."