Aiken-Rhett House – Charleston, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Charleston County Photos | Aiken-Rhett House
The Aiken-Rhett House is located at 48 Elizabeth Street in downtown Charleston. It was constructed ca. 1820 and stands as the most well-preserved antebellum townhouse in the city.
The house was originally built for John Robinson, a wealthy merchant from Charleston. In 1825, several of Robinson’s ships were captured and burned by the French. Although not legally liable for the cargo on board the ships, he felt obligated to repay the planters for the loss of their crops. In order to raise the capital he was forced to sell the home to William Aiken in 1827.
Aiken used the home as a rental property until his death in 1831, when his assets were divided between his wife and his only son, William Aiken, Jr. Aiken, Jr. was a successful rice planter who would later become a prominent statesman and governor of South Carolina. He and his wife, Harriet, moved into the house in 1833 and began an extensive renovation of the property. They also added a wing in 1857 to showcase Aiken’s impressive art collection. The addition of the art gallery would be the last significant change to the house.
Aiken, Jr. lived in the house until his death in 1887, at which time he left the property to his family. The house remained in the family until 1975, when it was donated to the Charleston Museum. In 1995, it was purchased by the Historic Charleston Foundation, which maintains preservation efforts and offers daily tours of the home and outbuildings.
The Aiken-Rhett house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Special thanks to Conyers Bull of Mount Pleasant, who took this photo in 2006.