The History of the Aiken Rhett House

Do you love learning the stories behind Charleston’s oldest homes? If so, you’ll be enthralled by the history of the Aiken Rhett House. Built in 1820, it stands as a reflection of urban life in Antebellum Charleston, and it is open to the public for touring as part of the Historic Charleston Foundation. Transport yourself back in time as you learn more about this historic townhouse complex.

View even more historic sites on a horse-drawn carriage tour with Classic Carriage Works. Our experienced guides have a vast knowledge of the area and enjoy sharing the story of Charleston, SC. Book today!

Passing Hands

A merchant named John Robinson was responsible for the initial construction of the Aiken Rhett House in 1820. However, after losing five of his ships at sea, he was forced to sell the home.

In 1827, it was bought by William Aiken Sr. Shortly after the purchase, though, he passed away, meaning the home was passed down to his son.

First Renovations

Congressman, governor, and wealthy planter William Aiken Jr. then acquired the property. The home was originally built as a traditional Charleston double, but he had bigger plans in mind for the complex. In 1833, he began renovations to expand the home to include an entire east wing, a grand kitchen, and outbuildings that served as slave quarters, privies, and a cowshed.

Second Renovations

In 1855, William Aiken Jr. and his wife set out on a European Grand Tour, which was a common tradition of Charleston’s elite citizens. While they were away, the construction of their in-home art gallery—a complete northwest wing—began, in which they filled with their new pieces upon their return.

Final Exchanges

Willian Aiken Jr. passed away in 1887. The home was left to his daughter and his wife. His wife stayed in the home until she passed in 1892. The home was further divided between her children, and in 1975, it was acquired by the Charleston Museum.

Finally, in 1995, the Aiken Rhett House changed hands for the last time to the Historic Charleston Foundation.

Outstanding Preservation

While other sites in the Charleston area like the Calhoun Mansion and Rainbow Row have been praised for their extensive restoration, the Historic Charleston Foundation has done a truly outstanding job in its preservation of both the original structure and pieces of the Aiken Rhett House. They went with a “preserved-as-found” technique, meaning everything within the home, furniture and all, is sitting nearly exactly as it was in the mid-19th century.

Walk along the solid hardwood floors that the original owners did nearly 150 years ago. View marvelous, untouched chandeliers, artwork, and furniture. You can even explore the on-site slave quarters, complete with its original floors, fixtures, and paint.

Book a Tour with Classic Carriage Works

If you enjoyed learning about the history of the Aiken Rhett House, consider booking a tour with Classic Carriage Works. There are countless historic sites to discover in our beautiful city, and you’ll get a chance to see so many of them on our horse-drawn carriage tours. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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