Oct 09 2014

Charleston: Historic Aiken-Rhett House

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Ready to visit Charleston’s Historical Aiken Rhett House!

The Aiken Rhett House was the final house on our house tours through Charleston that day.  We finished with this house last because it was the closest one to the parking garage and we made a full circle around downtown Charleston.  It was a fun day of learning and exploring some amazing places in Charleston.  We look forward to visiting other houses and historical sites in the Charleston area in the future.  Who knows were we will be exploring the next time around.  Thankful for some extra time with the girls.

The original owner of the Aiken-Rhett house was John Robinson who was a shipping merchant.  A few years after the house was built John lost several ships at sea and had to sell the house due to financial hardship.  William Aiken Sr. purchased the home from John Robinson in the late 1820’s. William Aiken was an Irish immigrant who was a Charleston merchant.  Originally William and his wife, Henrietta Wyatt Aiken, used the house as a rental property.   William Aiken died unexpectedly in a carriage accident leaving behind his wife Harriet and his only son William Aiken Jr.

When William Aiken Jr. married Harriet Lowndes they decided to  make this house their main place of residence and started renovating the property.  William Aiken Jr. was known as a prominent businessman, rice plantation owner, politician, and the Governor of South Carolina.  When William and his wife made trips to Europe the would bring back beautiful pieces of art and furniture.  William’s put his cousin, Joseph Daniel Aiken, in charge of overseeing the building of an Art Gallery to house these fine pieces.  The Aiken’s more than 2000 volume library that they acquired on their travels throughout Europe is now in the care of the Charleston Library Society, the majority of the books were published in the 1800s.   The back yard of the Aiken-Rhett house contained the kitchen, laundry, carriage and stable house, outbuildings, and slave quarters.

This house was unique to tour because they took a very different approach to preserving its history.    They have done very little updating or restoration to house so it looks much older than some of the other ones we toured because it still had a lot of the old wall paper and items in the home.   Instead of having a guide take us through the house they gave you an audio devise and headphones that took you through the house and yard.  No pictures were allowed in the house, however, we were able to take a few pictures outside the house.  Probably my favorite comment from the girls was “This is really neat seeing how the house looked so many years ago, I can even smell the history!”

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This picture is taken in the backyard near the servants quarters.  The yellow building is the house and the gray with green doors is the stable and carriage house.

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Beautiful trees in the backyard.  The girls thought this picture was cool because the sun shining through the tree looks like a star burst.

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Brina and Karlie checking out all the buildings on the property.  The one they are currently in was the original privy (yes, bathroom).  Thankfully it was clean and no longer in use.  They had two in opposite corners at the very end of the yard (one for the men and the other for the women).

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Walking through the back yard while listening to the audio history facts.  I got the thumbs up from Karlie.

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A view from the stables side of the yard.  This picture faces the back of the house (yellow building) and the kitchen and servants quarters.

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Enjoying a breeze and a cool view of downtown Charleston from the Aiken Rhett balcony.

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Listening to the audio history while joggling for a few minutes on the balcony.

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Charleston’s Historical Aiken-Rhett House at 48 Elizabeth Street!

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