Shirley, the tour guide, was explaining the room and some of its furnishings. The families that had lived there before the Civil War made a fortune from rice plantations, worked with slave labor, and the glass lamp shades of the gas light fixture had rice stalks embedded as a design. That room was used for business. Well worn Oriental rugs were placed here and there over the original wide floor boards. A huge double pocket door was rolled open making the dining room and business room one large space. Antiques owned by the Alstons and related families furnished the house. Most of the wealthy families in Charleston were interrelated and many valuable antiques in the house had survived from one generation to the next. A genealogical chart in one room explained how the ownership of the house passed from the origianl owner to the most recent owner and included many of the most prominent citizens of Charleston.
Upstairs we looked out of the library window facing the battery and Charleston Harbor and we could see Sulllivans Island, Fort Sumter and James Island. General Beauregard watched the same view from the same window while his plan for the bombardment of Fort Sumter was being carried out at the beginning of the Civil War. Next was the music room where a beautiful harp was on display. We walked out onto the second floor piazza and again saw a magnificent view of the bay. Shirley said that waves forty to fifty feet high have come crashing over the thick walls of the battery during hurricanes causing severe damage to the house.
Results 1-7of 7 Reviews
Winston-salem, North Carolina
April 24, 2008
July 7, 2005
21 East Battery is a very historic site. One of the earliest forts in Charleston, Fort Mechanic once stood here. The mansion was constructed in 1825 for Scottish merchant Charles Edmondston. It is designed in the Federal style. He was able to enjoy it for less than 10 years before reverses on fortune forced him to sell it. The second owner was Charles Alston, the son of one of the wealthiest planters in South Carolina. He updated the house by adding the porches; the parapet, with his coat of arms along the roof; and the cast-iron balcony that graces the front of the house. Federal goes Greek Revival.
You purchase your ticket inside and then are moved out on to the porch to wait for your tour guide. While you are there, you will be irresistibly drawn to the jogging board. I have been trying to figure out where I could put one at my house. They are a ball. You sit on this long board and bounce. It was the only exercise most Southern ladies ever got.
Carol was our guide. We begin our tour in the front parlor, where we got to look at some paintings of the house before the Alston’s altered it. Ninety percent of the contents of the house is from the Alston period, including the library. In the hall, we saw some excellent examples of pendant and ball molding, and in this case, in the form of acorns. One interesting fact we learned was that the Charlestonians have been compared to the Chinese. Both love rice and honor their ancestors.
This house has seen some very important visitors. General P.T. Beauregard watched the attack on Fort Sumpter from the piazza on April 12, 1861, and Robert E. Lee sought refuge here when fire made his hotel unsafe in December, 1861. There is an original copy of the Ordinance of Succession in the house, as well as Race Week memorabilia in the dining room. Every year in February, Charlestonians have race week. The tour takes about a half-hour. You are not allowed to linger, because there will be another tour coming right behind you.
From journal Cultural Charleston
by Mary Dickinson
April 3, 2005
From journal More Charleston
Charlotte, North Carolina
March 26, 2005
The house was built in 1825 by shipping merchant Charles Edmonton. Finances forced him to sell his beloved house to rice-planter Charles Alston. The house still remains in the Alston family. Today, the house is run by the same organization that runs the Middleton Plantation. The house has been painstaking decorated to look is if you were visiting the original owners themselves.
Your tour starts in the main dining room. This room is decorated with beautiful antiques and family heirlooms. You also get to visit the dining room, kitchen, and several rooms upstairs’ rooms. The third floor is not open to the public. In the dining room you can't help but marvel at the very huge dining room table. You could serve a small country on this table! The rooms are just gorgeous, and anyone who loves antiques will fall in love with this place, though I did see quite a few antiques very similar to my own collection. They had a Duncan-Phife that looked just like mine, which makes me very thankful that my relatives took such care of their furniture. You also see many family heirlooms, such as photos and journals.
It is interesting to note that General Robert E. Lee stayed here when a fire destroyed the hotel he was staying in. And, in 1860, General Beaureguard and the Alston family got a front-row view from the second-story piazzas as Ft. Sumter was bombarded. The tour only last about 45 minutes, and tours run until 4:30pm. If you get a chance afterwards, you really should check out the lovely Middleton Plantation. A large portion of the movie The Patriot, starring super-hunky Mel Gibson, was filmed here. You can check out the website at www.middletonplace.com for information on Middleton Place and click on the Edmondson-Alston house for further information on this lovely house.
From journal Charleston, the grand dame of the South
by Taylor Shelby
Charleston, South Carolina
January 14, 2005
The house was built in 1825 and has managed to make it through hurricanes (there are some crazy pictures of the damage done my hurricane Hugo in the house), earthquakes, bombardments, and fires.
It's most notable feature is the huge piazza. On nice days, the view from the second floor piazza is one of the most beautiful sights in Charleston. There is a lovely breeze from the harbor, and you can clearly see Fort Sumter. It is very easy to imagine yourself sitting on the piazza in 1835, drinking mint juleps and gossiping with friends.
The home is full of various antiques of the families, but the most impressive room is the library. It has hundreds of antique books and some really interesting furniture. For some reason, this house, more than any other in Charleston, really gives the visitor a good feel for life in the Ante Bellum South. I'm not sure if it is the furnishing of the house or the accessibility of the rooms, but it feels like you are stepping back in time.
To me, the most interesting thing about the house is that it is still a private residence. The family lives in the top floor, and the first and second floors are open to tours. I can only guess that they are very generous people for opening their home like that, and I am most appreciative.
The house is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4:30pm and Sunday and Monday 1:30pm to 4:30pm.
From journal House Museums of Charleston
by smmmarti guide
April 9, 2002
Family portraits, painted in Paris, English Regency furnishings, and an elaborate 1811 harp made in London still occupy the drawing room. Brass, bronze and ormolu chandeliers, still perfectly intact dazzle visitors with their intricacy and beauty. But the piece de resistance is the original copy of the signed Articles of Succession (the printer made 200, one for each signer, of which Alston was one). We are told that Alston and General P.G.T. Beauregard watched from the piazza of this home to see the bombardment of Fort Sumter.
Touring the house brings up details of the challenges of life to those who lived before the establishment of such modern-day necessities as supermarkets, air conditioning, central heating and sewage treatment plants. Even the rich entertained visitors only on the second floors, since livestock and the ensuing odors and waste products were all too evident on the ground floor. Even with a staff of 23, including 8 "body servants" as this family enjoyed, only one meal per day could be assembled and served properly considering the enormous amount of effort that it required.
If walls could talk this house would tell great tales. Regardless of its silence, the remnants and relics of its history still speak of a truly memorable history of great families and grand days in a budding republic interrupted, but not discouraged, by periods of utter devastation. If the wars and economic blows were not enough, nature also has taken many a shot. Even rather recently hurricane Hugo dealt the home a tremendous disservice when it battered Charleston and left two feet of swamp mud in the home’s first floor. You would never suspect any of this if it weren’t for the pictures in the historic gallery room that offered proof.
Amidst all this bustle, an heir to the Alston family still resides in the third floor of the home, which explains the volunteer ladies’ call for decorum and hushed tones during the tour. Considering that, I would like to offer thanks to the Middleton Place Foundation, www.middletonplace.org, its supporters and volunteers and the extreme generosity of the current resident, who continue to love and cherish this piece of American history while welcoming the throngs of visitors who traipse through it daily filled with wonderment and awe in having a glimpse into its historic past.
From journal Charleston Charms
Waiting in the vestibule for the 4 p.m. tour a small crowd began to mount. We were advised by the little ladies who keep the peace there that we could also wait out on the veranda, but strictly nowhere else until our guide arrived.
We huddled in the wicker rockers and tried our hand at the "courting bench" apparently created by the owner as a means to keep an arthritic relative "active." A sort of long see-saw on rockers, younger folks tried out the contraption for the fun of it and leaned that the rocking and swaying also managed to bring them eventually closer together as they edged toward the center. At the unique moment of unity, a kiss and a promise was expected.
The guide began her tour of the interior explaining that it had been built originally by a young man who had come to the new world at the age of seventeen from Scotland to build his fortune. In a short time he had earned enough from his rice plantations to build one of the first homes in the new area of Charleston’s waterfront on reclaimed wetlands. He married and raised thirteen children in this home until speculations on another commodity, wheat, and an ensuing financial panic forced him to sell the home. (Don’t worry, he recovered beautifully, later on.)
The new owner, Charles Alston, from a wealthy rice plantation dynasty, bought the house and offered changes to increase its original grandeur, including the addition of the upstairs verandas and columns which emulated the Greek Revival style of that period. Most of the furnishings which visitors see in the home are originals that had been keep safe by his offspring and heirs over the centuries following.
What treasures they are! Faux marble wall finishes, popular even back then, adorn most of the walls in colors that have been authenticated by scientific analysis. One of the first gas chandeliers installed into the city hangs ever still in the front foyer, lighting the series of Italian engravings from the 18th century which hang there, acquisitions from the families European travels.
A Girandole mirror, circa 1810 hangs in the dining room and 18th century silver pieces from renown smiths in London are displayed in a glass cabinet. Upstairs, a magnificent library with a collection of 2,000 leather bound rare edition books collected by three generations of the Alston family are on display along with an impressive 18th century telescope and rifle made by James Purdey. We are told that a man was judged not only by his wealth, but by his collection of books. Great critieria!
Read part two, for more fascinating facts.