Aiken-Rhett House

14 Elizabeth St Charleston

Historic Charleston Foundation
Written By Historic Charleston Foundation

Since its inception in 1947, Historic Charleston Foundation has continuously earned regional and national respect as a preservation-focused yet future-oriented and solution-driven organization. The Foundation’s commitment to advocacy, preservation and education means its staff is at the table, demanding careful consideration for any proposed development and, when necessary, taking action to protect that which keeps Charleston first in the hearts and minds of so many near and far. Residents and visitors alike can join the Foundation in both celebrating and protecting the “historic authenticity, cultural character and livability of the region through advocacy, stewardship and community engagement.”

Aiken-Rhett House

Built in 1820 by merchant John Robinson, the Aiken-Rhett House is nationally significant as one of the best-preserved townhouse complexes in the nation. Vastly expanded by Governor and Mrs. William Aiken, Jr. in the 1830s and again in the 1850s, the house and its outbuildings include a kitchen, the original slave quarters, carriage block and back lot. The house and its surviving furnishings offer a compelling portrait of urban life in antebellum Charleston, as well as a Southern politician, slaveholder and industrialist. The house spent 142 years in the Aiken family's hands before being sold to the Charleston Museum and opened as a museum house in 1975. When the Foundation assumed ownership in 1995, we adopted a preserved-as-found preservation approach, meaning the structure and contents are left in an “as-found” state, including furniture, architecture and finishes that have not been altered since the mid 19th century. The only restored room in the house, the art gallery, showcases paintings and sculpture the Aiken family acquired on their European Grand Tour. While many dependency buildings in Charleston 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 chance 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. For a room-by-room tour: www.historiccharleston.org/app

Historic Charleston Foundation

Aiken-Rhett House

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