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Aiken-Rhett House

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.

This image is copyrighted. You may not use it without written consent.

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.

Aiken-Rhett House – Add Info and More Photos


The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Aiken-Rhett House, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!


4 Comments about Aiken-Rhett House

Barb MacNeilNo Gravatar says:
May 12th, 2013 at 1:08 am

John Robinson, Charleston merchant, was my fourth great grand uncle. It was thrilling to see the house where he and his family once lived. It was equally exciting to read “In 1825, several of Robinson’s ships were captured and burned by the French. Although not legally liable for the cargo aboard the ships, he felt obligated to repay the planters for the loss of their crops. In order to raise capital he was forced to sell the home to William Aeken in 1827.” I just wish my grandad Robinson was still here for me to relate this story to him. Thank you so much for preserving the home and letting so many people enjoy it.

Scott RobinsonNo Gravatar says:
August 3rd, 2011 at 4:09 pm

My fourth Great-Grandfather was Charleston merchant John Robinson. My wife and I visited Charleston last week and took a wonderful tour of the (Robinson) Aiken-Rhett House. We had the pleasure of meeting Brandy Culp, the curator of the museum house. It was a truly great experience. The staff of the museum as well as the staff of the Historic Charleston Foundation Gift Shop were so friendly and helpful. We look forward to visiting again!

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
October 20th, 2010 at 8:29 am

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story Rhonda!

Rhonda EarneyNo Gravatar says:
October 19th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

William Aiken was my father’s Great Uncle. Before my father, Eugene C. England, passed in 2009 I took my parents to the Aiken-Rhett home for a tour. I then took them to the cemetery and where we found Governor Aiken’s grave. This meant a great deal to all of us and made us proud to be related to him — and to be residents of South Carolina.

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