Tag Archives: AIken-Rhett House

Aiken-Rhett House: The Outside

Elizabeth Street is the main entrance of the Aiken-Rhett House , making it appear more modest than it is. Many Charleston streets have the houses arranged this way, with the narrow part of the house facing the street. This was done to maximize space, not reduce taxes as the myth is often told.

This house is a little unusual as it sits at an intersection so there is no house immediately to the right and that it encompasses a “townhouse complex” that includes several outbuildings which indicate the original owner’s wealth. The orange color is also not the norm.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House

Wide piazzas on the first two main levels of the house run the length of the building. Below is the first level, with one of the enormous windows open, which serves as a door from the drawing room onto the piazza. Manipulating the breeze was essential to comfort during Charleston’s humid summers.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House first floor piazza

Large windows with shutters were used throughout the buildings, including this one that housed the kitchen, laundry, and slave quarters.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House Property, domestic services building with slave quarters

The property, encompassing just over one half acre per Charleston County records, runs all the way from Judith Street on the piazza side of the house to Ann Street.

A  privy stood in each back corner of the property. The photo below was taken from inside one of these little buildings.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House property from rear privy

At one time the entrance from Ann Street was lined with a row of Live Oaks, making a stately entrance through a gate for the horse drawn carriages. Horses were stabled along with their carriages in the building on the right below. Additional slave quarters were overhead.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House, domestic building on left, rear of the main house, stable and carriages on the right

Click on any photo for larger view.

Aiken-Rhett House: Looking Up

The Aiken-Rhett House is a historic museum in downtown Charleston, SC. Last renovated in the 1850s the house is full of well crafted details, many you have to crane your neck to see. The back stairwell is crowned by a ceiling medallion three flours up.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House

Most of the rooms are big, with high ceilings. This drawing room sported one of many large chandeliers in the house.  The gigantic mirror and its gilding would help reflect the light into the room.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House

This metal chandelier had a simpler ceiling medallion. but the room was well decorated with crown molding and carved woodwork.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House

Ringed by these serious faces, this light fixture was never upgraded from gas fuel, even though the house was occupied by Aiken descendants into the 1970s.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House

Light was enhanced in the home’s art gallery with a skylight that had its own ceiling decorations.

Aiken-Rhett House
Aiken-Rhett House

The four sides of the skylight have windows to capture light indirectly, protecting the art work. This image taken out a window on the second floor shows the skylight from the outside.

Aiken-Rhett House Skylight
Aiken-Rhett House Skylight

Click on any photo for larger view.