Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston

Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston (must see)

Built in 1820 and said to be the best-preserved complex of antebellum domestic structures left in Charleston, this was the home of South Carolina governor William Aiken Jr., which he inherited from his father, William Aiken, the owner of South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. The property was vastly expanded in the 1830s and again in the 1850s to include the Greek Revival, Lake Victorian and Federal-style house, a kitchen, the original slave quarters, carriage block and back lot.

The house and its surviving interior offer a compelling portrait of urban life in antebellum Charleston as well as of a Southern politician, slaveholder and industrialist. With the original furniture, wallpaper and woodwork still in place, the only restored room, the art gallery, showcases paintings and sculpture that the Aikens acquired on their European Grand Tour.

While many dependency buildings in Charleston – and most of the South, for that matter – have been demolished or adapted, the Aiken-Rhett slave quarters, with their original paint, floors and fixtures, survive virtually untouched since the 1850s, allowing visitors the unique opportunity to better comprehend the every-day realities of the enslaved Africans who lived on-site, maintained the household and catered to the needs of the family and their guests. If you only have time to visit a few of Charleston's great houses, the Aiken-Rhett should be on your short list.

Why You Should Visit:
The house is preserved but not restored, allowing visitors to get a real sense of an indentured person's life, the residents' world of privilege, and the passage of time. The audio guide is more concise than most live tour guides but gives enough information about the context and details of daily life in Gov. Aiken's house.

Tip:
It may get rather hot inside, so try to go earlier in the day (they have fans set up throughout the home and you can borrow a hand-held fan at the ticket desk as well).

Opening Hours (self-guided tours):
Daily: 10am–5pm (last tour: 4pm)

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Charleston. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Aiken-Rhett House on Map

Sight Name: Aiken-Rhett House
Sight Location: Charleston, USA (See walking tours in Charleston)
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Charleston, South Carolina

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