During the Post-Civil War era to about the 1920s, this location housed primarily low-income individuals. This area of Charleston developed into near slum conditions. After a period of vacancy, a local named Susan Pringle Frost purchased a section of the houses to save them from destruction but did not have enough time or money to restore them right away. In 1931, another lady named Dorothy Porcher Legge purchased six of the homes, eventually painting them bright Caribbean coral. By the 1940s the other homeowners in the area followed suit, renovated their homes and adopted the bright Caribbean Colonial color scheme. By 1945, most of the homes on Rainbow Row had been restored.
There are various myths as to why the bright Caribbean color scheme was chosen. According to some tales, the colors of the buildings date back to their use of being stores. The colors were used so that slave owners could explain to illiterate slaves were to go shopping.
Since that time, the homes have come to be recognized as examples of the value of restoration and importance of historical preservation. The rainbow row is now a popular tourist attraction and is now one of the most popular photographed parts of Charleston.