Haint Blue in Wilmington

We drove down to Wilmington for a baby shower yesterday. I’ve been missing the Port City lately – the riverfront and the historic homes. Wrap-around porches and haint blue. Lawd, I miss haint blue. It’s a color and a tradition that makes me feel at home.

When the girls were little, we’d walk around downtown Wilmington. Picking out which of the pastel-painted houses we wanted to live in. The ones I chose always had wrap-around porches with robin egg blue ceilings. They’re the same ones I was fascinated with when I was growing up. I guess I haven’t changed all that much.

Lawd, Wilmington has changed, though! The streets are full of unfamiliar faces, flashy new buildings, and enough traffic to induce panic in the anxiety-ridden. A few things remain the same, though. Cobblestone streets still transverse downtown, lined with pastel homes sporting blue porch ceilings.

Why Do People In Wilmington Paint Their Porch Ceilings Haint Blue?

The tradition of painting porch ceilings blue goes back over 300 years in the South. The superstition was born in Africa and brought to our shores by the Gullah Geechee. The Gullah believed haints and ghosts couldn’t pass over the water, avoiding the color blue. So the Gullah people painted their porch ceilings (sometimes doors and windows too) shades of blue to ward off haints. 

The Gullahs are most often associated with South Carolina and Georgia. However, the Gullah Geechee Corridor stretches from Wilmington all the way down to Jacksonville, Florida. Meaning the custom of haint blue has roots in the Port City – and has thrived for three centuries.

Some old-timers claim haint blue has practical uses – insisting it keeps wasps from building nests on the ceiling. Others say it keeps the porch cool during the heat of summer and creates the illusion of a longer day during the winter. I’d love to test those things out, but I think blue might be a strange color choice for my ranch home. It just wouldn’t look right.

Do any of y’all have a haint blue porch ceiling?

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