The Nathaniel Russell House was completed in 1808, and offers a fine example of the architecture of the time. Once the home of Nathaniel Russell, today it's a National Historical Landmark and is one of America's most important neoclassical dwellings.
Construction began on the house in 1803 by respected Charleston merchant Nathaniel Russell, and it was finished 5 years later. In 1808, 70-year-old Nathaniel and his family, as well as their 18 slaves, moved into their new home. It was considered to be one of the finest dwellings in Charleston of the time. The house remained in the family until 1857, when it was sold to the Allston's after daughter Sarah's death. It has since been owned by a number of families and organizations, before being opened to the public as a museum in 1956. Despite being under attack from hurricanes and earthquakes alike, the house still stands in fine form.
Visitors can still appreciate the grandeur of the house today. It sits in spacious formal gardens and has a magnificent interior, full of ornate plasterwork and even a huge free-flowing staircase. The geometrically-shaped rooms are styled beautifully, really showing the styles and architecture of the time. It's furnished with much of the original pieces that the Russell family purchased for their home, and truly showcases the life of the elite. Period antiques and fine art fill the house, making it a museum in its own right.
Today, visitors can see not only what life was like for the elite, but for the slaves of the time as well. The house has been home to generations of African-American slaves as well as the Russell's and other families, and they were key to the running of the home. Living in the upper rooms of the building, often the kitchen/laundry and stable buildings, the slaves were responsible for the daily operations of the home. Their quarters can still be seen, offering a marked contrast between their lives and the lives of the rich.
The main rooms offer the finest architectural designs of the time, and they're all decorated in turn-of-the-century style. Located in Downtown Charleston near High Battery, the house is the most southern point of Charleston's historic Museum Mile, offering the best collection of cultural sites in Charleston.
Tours operate daily, with guides being on hand to offer a wealth of knowledge. Being well versed in the history of the house and the time period alike, it would be well worth waiting for the tour to really understand what life was like and to experience the half a dozen rooms open to the public. Also spare time to wander around the beautiful gardens to the exterior of the property.
The house is open daily, Monday-Saturday 10am until 5pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm. Tours operate every day for visitors to really understand life of the time, with the last tour starting at 4:30pm. Entry costs $10, but if you fancy making a day of it why not take a trip to the nearby Aiken-Rhett House as well. Tickets are $16 for them both.
Read about other Charleston tourist attractions:
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- South Carolina Aquarium - Charleston, South Carolina - large public aquarium with over 300 animals
- Edmondston-Alston House - Charleston, SC - Historical Dwelling on Charleston's High Battery
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