Top 4 Charleston Historic House Museums to Visit

Charleston’s historical house museums are a treasure that all should experience when they visit Charleston. Below you’ll find our picks for the top house museums in the city.

Your Guide to Visiting the Top Historic House Museums in Charleston South Carolina

Aiken Rhett House Museum

 

 Full admission is included with TourPass Charleston

Self-guided tours. Last tour begins at 4:15 p.m.

History of the 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.

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Heyward Washington House

 

 Full admission is included with TourPass Charleston

Charleston’s Revolutionary War House


Built in 1772, this Georgian-style double house was the town home of Thomas Heyward, Jr., one of four South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence. A patriot leader and artillery officer with the South Carolina militia during the American Revolution, Heyward was captured when the British took Charleston in 1780. He was exiled to St. Augustine, Florida, but was exchanged in 1781. The City rented this house for George Washington’s use during the President’s week-long Charleston stay, in May 1791, and it has traditionally been called the “Heyward-Washington House.” Heyward sold the house in 1794 to John F. Grimke, also a Revolutionary War officer and father of Sarah and Angeline Grimke, the famous abolitionists and suffragettes. It was acquired by the Museum in 1929, opened the following year as Charleston’s first historic house museum, and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1978. Here you will see a superb collection of historic Charleston-made furniture including the priceless Holmes Bookcase, considered one of the finest examples of American-made colonial furniture. The property also features the only 1740s kitchen building open to the public in Charleston as well as formal gardens featuring plants commonly used in the South Carolina Lowcountry in the late 18th century.
 

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Want to save money and visit all that Charleston has to offer? If so, then we recommend purchasing TourPass Charleston. You can purchase a 1-day pass which will more than pay for itself by visiting only 3 attractions. 

nathaniel russell house museum

Nathaniel Russell House Museum

 

 Full admission is included with TourPass Charleston

A National Historic Landmark, the Nathaniel Russell House Museum was built over a five-year period and completed in 1808 by Charleston merchant Nathaniel Russell. The house cost $80,000 to build, at a time when the average value of a home was $262. The homes graceful, free-flying, three-story staircase is an architectural marvel with each cantilevered step supporting the one above and below it.

The graceful interiors with elaborate plasterwork ornamentation, geometrically shaped rooms, formal gardens and collection of 18th-century decorative and fine art speak to the wealth of Charlestons elite in the early days of the American Republic. The homes graceful, free-flying, three-story staircase is an architectural marvel with each cantilevered step supporting the one above and below it.

Restored to its original splendor using forensic analysis and cutting-edge conservation technology by our curatorial staff, we ensure the highest standards of old-world expertise to replicate the finishes, fixtures and textiles appropriate for this 200-year old townhouse.

Because restoration is an ongoing process, visitors have the opportunity to see and learn about the meticulous care, craft and consideration that goes into every detail. The 18 enslaved Africans that lived on and maintained the property during the Russell occupancy are an integral part of the history of this one-of-kind house. An exhibit in the original kitchen house features archaeological artifacts, educational panels and stories of the people vital to the history of this property.

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joseph manigault house - charleston sc

Joseph Manigault House Museum

 

 Full admission is included with TourPass Charleston

Charleston’s Huguenot House

A striking spiral staircase accents the impressive central hall, and many of the rooms are restored to their original color schemes. All feature historic pieces from the Museum’s collections including a selection of American, English and French furniture dating to the early 19th century. Outside, a classical Gate Temple overlooks a period garden, and the locations of adjacent historical outbuildings (e.g., kitchen and slave quarters, stable, and privy) are marked with interpretive signs. Descending from French Huguenots who fled religious persecution in Europe in the late 1600s, the Manigaults prospered as rice planters and merchants during the 18th century and became one of South Carolina’s leading families. Joseph Manigault inherited several rice plantations and over two hundred slaves from his grandfather in 1788, and also married well. Arthur Middleton, father of his first wife, Maria Henrietta Middleton, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Following Henrietta’s death, he married Charlotte Drayton, with whom he had eight children. The Charleston Museum purchased the house in 1933, and has preserved and interpreted it ever since.

Tour Pass LogoWant to Really Experience Charleston? Buy a TourPass!

Want to save money and visit all that Charleston has to offer? If so, then we recommend purchasing TourPass Charleston. You can purchase a 1-day pass which will more than pay for itself by visiting only 3 attractions. 

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Charleston Saving Examples

Save $111.40 per person which is 44% off of retail rates with a 3-day pass!

(Examples below are suggestions. You can choose whatever you’d like to do from the available tours/attractions.)


1-Day Pass Savings Example

Retail Price

1-Day Pass Includes: 2 featured tours + visit unlimited walk-in attractions for 1-day
Boone Hall Plantation (featured tour #1)$27
Carriage Tour (featured tour #2)$35
Nathaniel Russell House (walk-in)$12
Aiken Rhett House Museum (walk-in)$12
Charleston Fun Park (walk-in)$20
1-Day Without Pass$106
Cost of 1-Day Tour Pass($72)
Save 5%: Enter Email$3.60
Save per Person: 35% Off Retail=$37.60

1-Day Tour Pass Cost: $72

SAVE $37.60 PER PERSON, 35% OFF OF TICKET PRICES!


2-Day Pass Savings Example

Retail Price

2-Day Pass Includes: 3 featured tours + visit unlimited walk-in attractions for 2-days
Harbor Tour (featured tour #3)$30
Charleston Museum (walk-in)$12
McLeod Plantation (walk-in)$15
Charleston Tea Plantation (walk-in)$12
Deep Water Vineyards 9 wine tasting (walk-in)$7
2-Days Without Pass$182
Cost of 2-Day Tour Pass($117)
Save 5%. Enter Email$5.85
Save per Person: 39% Off Retail=$70.85

2-Day Tour Pass Cost: $117

SAVE $70.85 PER PERSON, 39% OFF OF TICKET PRICES!


3-Day Pass Savings Example

Retail Price

3-Day Pass Includes: 4 featured tours + visit unlimited walk-in attractions for 3-days
Ghost or History Walking Tour (featured tour #4)$30
Slave Mart Museum (walk-in)$8
Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon (walk-in)$10
Gibbes Museum of Art (walk-in)$12
Palmetto Brewing free flight (walk-in)$10
3-Days Without Pass$252
Cost of 3-Day Tour Pass ($148)
Save 5%. Enter Email$7.40
Save per Person: 44% Off Retail=$106.40

3-Day Tour Pass Cost: $148

SAVE $111.40 PER PERSON, 44% OFF OF TICKET PRICES!

There’s no denying the saving and convenience that Tour Pass offers! Plus you can book your tours in advance with our amazing Mobile Pass that includes maps and detailed attraction information. The more you do the more you save. Imagine how much more you could save with a 4 or 5-day pass!

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