The Historic Homes of Charleston

Historic Charleston

History still reigns in Charleston, a city that successfully blends two worlds—the past and the present. Visitors can relive the days when the city was a bustling seaport. As you walk down tree-lined lanes dotted with elegant mansions dating to before the Civil War, you can almost hear breathy conversations between hooped-skirted, Scarlett O’Hara types.

Founded in 1670, Charleston, the walled town also known as the “Holy City,” is now set apart from other historic sites in that it has maintained the original use of its structures. Churches are still active churches, and homes are still lived in as homes. This is a city that continues to be historical while adapting into a 21st-century world.

The city treasures its past by maintaining and preserving historic homes for the enjoyment of visitors and locals. The tourist-friendly city offers a number of ways to tour: foot, trolley or horse-drawn carriage. Plus, each year the Preservation Society holds its annual Fall Tour of Homes and Gardens—a major treat for history lovers.

Here are some lovely historic homes of Charleston that are yours to tour:

HEYWARD-WASHINGTON HOUSE
843.722.0354
87 Church Street
Charleston, SC 29403

Heyward Washington HouseBuilt in 1772, the Heyward-Washington House was the townhouse of Thomas Heyward, Jr., Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence who was exiled and imprisoned during the war. Furnished with magnificent Charleston-made furniture, the collection includes the priceless Holmes bookcase, considered to be the finest example of American- made furniture in existence today. Located in the original walled portion of the city, the house is surrounded by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers as well as the beautiful Charleston Harbor. Distinction: The house was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his southern tour of 1791.

JOSEPH MANIGAULT HOUSE
843.723.2926
350 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29403

The Joseph Manigault House, built in 1803, is a premier example of Adam-style, or Federal architecture. Designed by architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother Joseph, the house is one of the most distinguished in the city, capturing the lifestyle of a wealthy, rice-planting family. The interior reflects an outstanding collection of American, English and French furnishings of the period. Typical to the time period, the house features faux doors for balance and symmetry, high ceilings and lots of porches to ward off the heat and humidity of Charleston summers. Distinction: The house was once the site of a USO post during the war.

AIKEN-RHETT HOUSE
843.723.1159
48 Elizabeth Street
Charleston, SC 29403

Drayton HallBilled as Charleston’s most intact urban villa, the expansive Aiken-Rhett House was built in 1818. A conservation approach has been adopted for this important site and it has remained virtually unaltered since 1858. Many objects can still be found in the rooms for which they were originally purchased. The Aiken-Rhett house features a dramatic entrance hall with cast-iron railings and the only audio tour in Charleston.

DRAYTON HALL
843.769.2600

3380 Ashley River Road
Charleston, SC 29403

For seven generations, Drayton Hall has remained “all in the family,” from its founding in 1738 by John Drayton, until 1974 when Charles and Frank Drayton sold the family’s ancestral home to the National Trust. Drayton Hall is a work of art that has survived the American Revolution, the Civil War, the earthquake of 1886, Hurricane Hugo, and will likely survive urban sprawl. The main house is considered one of the finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in the U.S. and the grounds represent one of the most significant, undisturbed historic landscapes in America. Here you will see stories of family, culture, preservation and more, come alive. Visit the Victorian garden mound and reflecting pond, live oaks that are over 250 years old, and enjoy the beauty of a premier plantation.

NATHANIEL RUSSELL HOUSE
843.724.8481
51 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29401

Visit the Nathaniel Russell House, built in 1808. The graceful interior boasts elaborate plasterwork ornamentation, geometrically shaped rooms and a dramatic free-flying staircase that must be seen to be appreciated. Set on a double lot amid spacious gardens and furnished with period antiques, the house evokes the gracious lifestyle of the city’s elite. The house is unique in its architecture in that it resembles a New England-style design without the signature Charleston side piazzas. Distinction: The Nathaniel Russell House is widely recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical dwellings.

Nathaniel Russell HouseEDMONSTON-ALSTON HOUSE
843.556.6020
4300 Ashley River Road
Charleston, SC 29401

Of all of the many historical homes on tour, the Edmonston-Alston House is one of the few that commands a view of the magnificent Charleston Harbor. This same view allowed the family and General Beauregard to watch the bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861 from the piazza facing the harbor. Originally built by Charles Edmondston in 1825, the house was later bought by Georgetown County rice planter Charles Alston in 1838. The change of ownership included a transformation to Greek Revival architecture. Today, Alston family furniture, silver, books and paintings adorn the high-ceiling rooms and hold tribute to the house’s sophisticated taste in architecture and design. Distinction: The Edmonston-Alston house has been in the same family since 1838; the current owner lives on the third floor (Not open to public). Martha Stewart was the first guest at the house’s B & B.

For more information about the Fall Tour of Homes, visit preservationsociety.org