The Historic Homes of Charleston

Now that you've toured the best shopping (King Street, City Market, Art Galleries, Final Cut), eaten the best food (favorites, views, breakfast, dinner), explored the city (must-sees, beaches, plantations) and considered some awesome hotels, what else is there left to do?

Well… you could go home. :-/

But if you did, you'd be missing out on all of the history the city has to offer!

Rather than delve into museums, which, unfortunately, I'm not going to get to this month…

Let's take a bit of a walking tour!

Or well, I guess a sitting tour? I'm assuming you are probably sitting in a comfy chair reading my post from a tablet, computer, or smartphone. :) Let's learn a little bit about the buildings you will see (or have seen?) as you travel around the city.

Photo credit: lucathegalga via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

1. We'll begin with the Aiken-Rhett House located at 48 Elizabeth Street. It was built in 1820 by a merchant who lost five ships at sea in 1825 and was forced to sell his home to a railroad company owner named William Aiken, Sr. Shortly thereafter, his son, who eventually became the governor of South Carolina, Gov. William Aiken took over the home in 1833 after his father died in tragic carriage accident. Gov. Aiken did far more than beautify his home by traveling overseas to collect beautiful art and furnishings, he also completed an an extensive renovation of the property including moving the front entrance (from Judith St. to Elizabeth St.), reconfigured the first floor, and add a large edition to the home. Upon William Aiken's death, the home was passed on to his daughter, who passed the home on to her kids, so on and so forth until the mid twentieth century. The house is currently open to the public and available for tours Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun, 2-5 p.m. for a fee of $12.

Photo credit: Frank Kehren via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

2. Next we'll move on to the Calhoun Mansion found at 16 Meeting St. George W. Williams was the original owner of this 24,000 square foot house that is made up of 30 main rooms and many other small rooms including a ballroom with a 45 foot high ceiling! Upon William's death, the home was inherited by his son-in-law, Patrick Calhoun. From that point forward, the home went through several owners gradually deteriorating until 1972 when a Charleston native took the time to restore the building. Tours are held from 11-5 during the summer and 11-4:30 during the winter at a cost $16.

Photo credit: mogollon_1 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

3. On land initially unfit for residential construction, Charles Edmondston, a Scottish immigrant, bought the property at 21 East Battery in 1817 just prior to the development of the seawall that would make the Edmonston-Alston House a possibility. Built in the the English Regency style architecture, Mr. Edmonston's home was completed by 1828 with an east-facing panoramic view of the Charleston harbor and view of the High Battery, the city's well known waterfront promenade. Through circumstance, an economic setback in the late 1830s cause Edmonston to sell his home for just over $15,000 to Charles Alston, a successful South Carolina Lowcountry rice planter and rice producer. Just as the other homes we've already discussed, the Edmonston-Alston house was passed down over time between family members until the last owner took over and turned the home into a museum hoping to maintain the beauty and history of the place. The public can tour the Edmonston-Alston house at 21 East Battery, for $21 per person. A higher $49 price tag also includes a viewing of the beautiful Middleton Place Plantation.

Photo credit: damiandude via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

4. Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward, Jr. was the first owner of the Heyward-Washington House located at 87 Church Street. During Heyward's time as an officer and leader during the Revolutionary War, he became exiled to Florida and his home was rented out to the not-yet first president of the United States, George Washington. After Washington's departure and the return of Heyward, the home was thereafter named after both men. While the home was initially sold to another, by 1929, the estate was in the hands of the Charleston Museum Organization becoming one of the first homes in Charleston to also be a museum. Prices for entry can range from $12 all the way up to $28 depending on how many of the Charleston Museum properties you intend on visiting. If you intend on visiting any two or three of these properties (The Charleston Museum, the Heyward-Washington House or the Joseph Manigault House), you end up saving money by purchasing entry to multiple at one time for a higher initial cost.

Photo credit: megnificence via / CC BY-ND

5. Speaking of Charleston Museum Organization owned homes, the Joseph Manigault House is another in the set of museums you can purchase entry to through your ticket to Heyward House, if you so choose. Found at at 350 Meeting Street, the 1803 home was designed by Gabriel Manigault for his brother, a planter who has studied abroad eventually playing a big role in Charleston taking on such duties as commissioner of the Charleston Orphan House, vice president of the South Carolina Association, and trustee of the College of Charleston (source). He was also a member of high society marrying into both the Middleton and Drayton families (which, if you'll recall, both had large plantations and, as such, money to spare!).

Photo credit: jacqueline.poggi via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

6. And finally, the last home, the Nathaniel Russell House, was built in 1808 at 51 Meeting Street for a wealthy shipping merchant. A Rhode Island native, Nathaniel Russell settled in Charleston in 1765 gaining his wealth and eventually marrying Sarah Hopton and having two children. Nearly 15 years after the marriage, Russell and his kin moved into their newly designed $80,000 Federal-style home. In the years following, the house was owned by Robert Allston (governor), the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (who turned it into a boarding school), and the Mullally and Pelzer families (who returned the home back to it's former glory of a private residence). It wasn't until 1955 when the Historic Charleston Foundation was created to preserve the property and managed to pull together the $65,000 needed to purchase the property and turn it into a museum in which the public could visit. Tours take place at the Nathaniel Russell House Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun, 2-5 p.m. for $12.

So, that's it!

Did you enjoy your sitting tour? Any plans to visit these gorgeous homes in the future? Did you learn anything new?

Goodness knows! I certainly did! Who knew all of the wealthy people of Charleston were so connected and had such a huge impact on US history?!

Are there any museum homes located near you? If so, have you taken the chance to visit?

** Linking up to City Trippers and

***Linking up with Lauren on Location, Marcella from What a Wonderful World, and The Sunny Side of This

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