Charleston Downtown Historic Houses Walk, Charleston (Self Guided)

Charleston, founded in 1670, is very popular for its historic houses.The houses speak of the glorious past of Charleston,being of high cultural value to the entire community. Take this tour the get a glimpse of some of the most famous historic houses in the city of Charleston.
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Charleston Downtown Historic Houses Walk Map

Guide Name: Charleston Downtown Historic Houses Walk
Guide Location: USA » Charleston (See other walking tours in Charleston)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 km
Author: alice
1
Edmondston-Alston House

1) Edmondston-Alston House (must see)

The Edmondston-Alston House is one of the grandest and oldest historic houses in Charleston, SC. Located at 21 East Battery, the three-story house was built between 1820 and 1828 and has a panoramic view of Charleston Harbor and the High Battery, the city's well-known waterfront promenade. Made of brick and stucco-faced, the house is mostly surrounded by a wrought-iron railing fence which is built on top of a three-foot brick wall. It has wide piazzas or porches on the south side. The north entrance leads to a large hall. The staircase at the entrance leads to the two drawing rooms on the second floor. The small rooms behind them served as withdrawing spaces, one for men and the other for women. The house has an open floor plan of two large rooms on each floor with smaller adjacent areas. The second floor has 14-foot-high ceilings with large window and door openings for good air flow circulation during the hot summer months. Included at this level is a room of books for library use and reading. The interior walls and ceilings are finished in ornamental plaster. The property originally contained a kitchen and servants' quarters, horse stables and facilities for carriages. The English Regency style, Greek Revival house, built on the foundation ruins of Fort Mechanic that occupied this location in the late 18th century, was constructed by shipping merchant Charles Edmondston, a Scottish immigrant who purchased the low sandy lot in 1817. The soggy land was unfit for residential construction until a sea wall was built by city officials in 1820. Edmondston wasted no time in building his showplace.

Why You Should Visit:
This house is made special by the fact 90-95% of the décor and fixtures are authentic. It has been so well maintained that little restoration has been needed.
The guided tour is definitely worth taking and the price is reasonable for the perspective it offers on what life was like in Charleston back in the day.

Opening Hours / Guided Tours:
Tue-Sat: 10am-4:30pm; Sun, Mon: 1pm-4:30pm
2
Calhoun Mansion

2) Calhoun Mansion

The Calhoun Mansion is Victorian house at 16 Meeting St., Charleston, South Carolina. It was built for George W. Williams, a businessman, according to plans drawn by W.P. Russell. The 24,000 square foot house has thirty main rooms and many more smaller rooms. The main hall is 50 feet long and 14 feet wide. The house has a ballroom with a 45 foot high ceiling. When Williams died, his house was inherited by his son-in-law, Patrick Calhoun, a grandson of John C. Calhoun. It was from his ownership that the house derived it common name, the Calhoun Mansion. It opened as a hotel starting in 1914. Attorney Gedney Howe and his wife, Patricia, bought the house in 1976 and undertook a restoration. In 2000, Mr. Howe put the house up for sale, but it was still unsold by 2004, when he opted to advertise it for auction to occur on May 25, 2004. Before the auction, however, a private sale was arranged. The Calhoun Mansion is one of the largest residences in Charleston. It is a very beautiful mansion built in the Italianate style, with amazing cupolas, glass decorations, antiques and a fascinating garden.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Nathaniel Russell House

3) Nathaniel Russell House (must see)

The Nathaniel Russell House is a historic house located in downtown Charleston. It belonged to Nathaniel Russell, a Rhode Island merchant, who spent $80,000 on this Adamesque building before 1809. He and his wife, Sarah Russell, lived in the house during the early 1800s. It was sold to the state in 1955 by the Pelzer family, and today is used by the Historic Charleston Foundation as offices and also for tours.

The house is widely recognized as one of America's most important Neoclassical houses and features three main rooms per floor each of different geometric designs: a front rectangular room, a center oval room, and a square room in the rear. Other rooms of the house include: the turquoise-color first-floor Oval Dining Room; the second-floor Drawing Room, where the women of the house retired to after dinner; and the Withdrawing Room. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

To the south of the house is the garden that was originally laid out in a geometric arrangement with patterned beds of flowers, ornamental shrubs and large orange and grapefruit trees. Today a formal English garden can be found with gravel paths, boxwood hedges and plants favored in the 19th century. In the rear of the house is the two-story slave quarters that housed many of the estimated 18 slaves that were at the Nathaniel Russell House.

Why You Should Visit:
Arguably the 'grande dame' of house museums, with many intricate details to both see and learn about. You'll be able to stroll through the beautiful gardens and nearby old graveyard before or after you visit it.

Tip:
Be sure to get there early, especially for weekend tours. Online tickets do not give a time, and the tours are filled onsite, first come first served.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Docent-led tours begin at 10am; last tour: 4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Heyward-Washington House

4) Heyward-Washington House (must see)

Heyward-Washington House is a historic house museum in Charleston, that is owned and operated by the Charleston Museum. Furnished for the late 18th century, the house features a collection of historic Charleston-made furniture including the priceless Holmes Bookcase, considered one of the finest examples of American-made colonial furniture. The property also features the only 1740s kitchen building open to the public in Charleston as well as formal gardens featuring plants commonly used in the South Carolina Lowcountry in the late 18th century. The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Rice planter Daniel Heyward built the house in 1772 for his son, Thomas Heyward, Jr., who became a patriot leader and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In May 1791, the City of Charleston rented the house for use by George Washington during his week-long stay, and thus the house became traditionally known as the “Heyward-Washington House.” It was acquired by the museum in 1929, opened the following year as Charleston's first historic house museum, and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

Tip:
Do some research and check out the Charleston Heritage Passport. It will get you into 5 houses, 2 museums, and 2 plantations. You can pick it up at the visitors center on John St.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–5pm (last tour at 4:30pm); Sun: 12–5pm (last tour at 4:30 pm)
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Thomas Elfe House

5) Thomas Elfe House

The Thomas Elfe House is a real jewel built before 1760 and located in the historic French Quarter. The house was built in the beautiful pre-revolutionary Georgian style. Elfe's works can now be found mostly in museums and private collections. The museum shows the life of people in Charleston in 18th and 19th centuries. The Thomas Elfe house is the oldest restored historical residence in Charleston that is open to the public for visiting tours. There are older house structures in Charleston, but they are either private residences or businesses. The guided candlelit tours sometimes feature music of the eighteenth century. The house interior is decorated to represent the period of Elfe's lifetime. The house has been featured in a program for House and Garden TV and has been written about in national magazines, like Early American Life Magazine. It is within walking distance of the renowned French Huguenot Church and Dock Street Theatre in Charleston's French Quarter.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Joseph Manigault House

6) Joseph Manigault House (must see)

Owned and operated by the Charleston Museum, the Joseph Manigault House is one of the most popular historic houses in Charleston. Built in 1803, it was designed by Gabriel Manigault to be the home of his brother and is nationally significant as a well-executed and preserved example of Adam-style architecture. A semicircular stairwell projects from one sidewall, and a bowed porch from the other, giving the house the rough shape of a parallelogram. The interior features delicately refined woodwork in its fireplace mantels, door and window moulding, and cornices, reflective of the style promoted by Robert Adam, which differentiated the scale of these elements in domestic and civic architecture.

Why You Should Visit:
This is where you go if you are an architecture fan, not an artifact lover.
The fine detail in this house will delight and amaze!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–5pm (last tour at 4:30pm); Sun: 12–5pm (last tour at 4:30 pm)
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Aiken-Rhett House

7) Aiken-Rhett House (must see)

There are so many imposing and impressive antebellum mansions in Charleston, SC, that a visitor often regrets that he has missed something if he hasn't seen them all. Word to the wise: see as many as time allows. Each is different on its own scale and each has a different story to tell.

Take the Gov. William Aiken House, for example. Also known as the Aiken-Rhett House or the Robinson-Aiken House, it was built in 1820 at 48 Elizabeth Street. It is said to be the best-preserved complex of antebellum domestic structures left in the City of Succession. It was the home of William Aiken Jr., a governor of South Carolina, and before that was the home of his father, William Aiken, the owner of South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. 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 original furnishings offer a compelling portrait of urban life in antebellum Charleston as well as a Southern politician, slaveholder and industrialist. The house spends 142 years in the Aiken family's hands before being sold to the Charleston Museum and opened as a museum house in 1975, featuring most of the original furniture. The only restored room, the art gallery, showcases paintings and sculpture that the family acquired on its 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 Aiken 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:
Daily: 10am-5pm (self-guided tours; last tour at 4pm)
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Charleston, South Carolina

Create Your Own Walk in Charleston

Create Your Own Walk in Charleston

Creating your own self-guided walk in Charleston is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Charleston Harleston Village Churches Tour

Charleston Harleston Village Churches Tour

Charleston is very famous for its number of churches, as well as for being very open and tolerating different kinds of religious faiths. Charleston is the only city in the USA to have an independent Huguenot church. Here is a tour that will take you through Charleston’s Harleston Village churches.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 km
Charleston Nightlife Walking Tour

Charleston Nightlife Walking Tour

Downtown Charleston is full of very interesting and entertaining spots, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, etc. There are places that cater to people of all ages and tastes. Take the walking tour below to see some of the most popular night spots in Downtown Charleston.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km
Charleston Children's Entertainment Tour

Charleston Children's Entertainment Tour

Charleston is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southern USA and it has many tourist attractions that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Take the tour below to discover some of the best locations for some fun with your children and the family!

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 km
Charleston Art and Culture Walk

Charleston Art and Culture Walk

Charleston was founded in 1670 and is a great tourist destination that offers you some of the most amazing, old and interesting tourist attractions. There is some great art and culture to be visited and enjoyed. Take the following tour to see it all.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Charleston Downtown Art Galleries Walk

Charleston Downtown Art Galleries Walk

Charleston is a very beautiful, southern city, with a rich history and very friendly people. It is also home to some amazing and interesting art galleries and museums. Take the following driving tour and discover Charleston's most appreciated art galleries.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 km
Charleston Downtown Churches Tour

Charleston Downtown Churches Tour

Charleston is also sometimes called the Holy City. That is because of the large number of churches in the city. The city has many outstanding and fascinating religious structures. Take the following walk to see the most popular churches in Downtown Charleston.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 km

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Charleston for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Charleston has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Charleston, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.