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Chapter 2
Say hello to the  Witte Family

Meet the Witte Family

Mr. Witte and Mrs. Witte married in 1866 in Charleston. Mr. Witte came to America from Hanover, Germany, with a degree in agriculture. In New York, he set up a successful importing business and later founded the Securities Savings Bank on Broad Street. He was considered one of the most respected citizens of the city and also served as German and Scandinavian consul until he died in 1908.  His wife, Charlotte “Lottie” Sophia Reeves was from an old Charleston family of Huguenot ancestry. They lovingly raised six highly educated daughters.

 

Sometimes referred to as the “Little Women of the South”, each girl had her own distinct personality  The oldest girl, Alice, had gray eyes and light brown hair. She was considered delicate and shy. She loved music, art, and literature. The second daughter, Fay, had gray eyes and very blond curly hair. She was pretty and made friends easily. She loved to socialize, wear nice clothes, and play games. The third daughter, Beatrice, was known as the “bookworm” because she loved to read and tell stories. She had thick, curly, dark brown hair and blue eyes. She was considered the smartest one in the family. Carlotta was the fourth daughter. She was a very pretty blond with gray eyes and a great sense of style. In addition to sewing original doll clothes, she was considered to have the best disposition of anyone in the family. The last two girls, Belle and Laura, were inseparable playmates. They both had strawberry blond hair with grey eyes. The two sisters were often found hosting a tea party in the playroom or on the lawn.

The Witte family home is considered one of the finest examples of a Regency Villa in the United States. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Patrick Duncan built it in 1820 in the “Regency” style, a collection of Classical, Georgian, Adam, and Gothic features.  It is constructed of brick with stucco veneer and scribed to give the appearance of a block. The original house was expanded over the years by different owners. In 1838, Mr. Pringle, the second owner, added the dining room. Mr. Trenholm, the third owner, installed gas lighting and plumbing in 1845. Mr. Witte, the fourth owner, purchased the property in 1879 and added a music room, a grotto with a bear cave, the shell house arboretum, and a folly that would someday become the Ashley Hall school store. The Witte daughters sold the property to Miss Mary Vardrine McBee for the reduced price of $25,000. Their desire to see the house become a boarding school for girls can only be attributed to their father’s insistence on providing them with excellent educations. Ashley Hall was founded in 1909.

The Way It Was in Charleston SC, Recollections of a Southern Lady 1877-1975, by Laura Witte Waring Published by Evening Post Books, ISBN: 978-0-9825154-6-4

McBee House, A Narrative Tour, Ian McDonald, ISBN 1-59457-738-2

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