June 4, 2005
It was originally built as a summerhouse for Joseph A Manigault, a rich rice planter. It was designed by his brother Gabriel, an amateur architect, who is credited with designing Charleston 's City Hall and the South Carolina Society Hall, as well as his own home. Gabriel had spent time in Europe and was influenced by the style of Robert Adams. Completed in 1803, it has one of the most graceful staircases in Charleston
and is a prime example of Adams Federal Style. Joseph Mainigault and his second wife Charlotte Draton were the parents of eight children. The family lived here from May to October to escape the heat that made life upriver miserable in the summer. The style of the house is perfect for the climate in Charleston. It has high ceilings, lots of windows, and two-story porches. What surprised me about the house was that there were not any guest bedrooms. The docent explained that most of the friends and family of the Manigualts would have had their own houses in Charleston. Be sure to look for the copy of a Gilbert Stuart portrait of Joseph Manigault.
We all need to grateful to the ladies of Charleston who rescued Manigault House from demolition. The Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings recognized the need to make sure that modern development didn’t destroy all the old historic homes in Charleston. This house has survived some very hard times; it came close to being torn down in 1920. Step in the ladies. To preserve it, they had to sell some of the property and finally turned it into a tenement to pay for it. It was acquired by the Charleston Museum in 1933. During World War II, it served as the USO. It first opened to the public in 1949, and in 1974, it became a National Historic Landmark. Today, it is used as a showcase for some of the museum’s fine pieces of English and French furniture. There is only one piece of original furniture in the house - the secretary in the entrance hall. The house must be visited on a tour.
There are not a lot of grounds to visit, but be sure to check out the gatehouse. It is a beauty.
From journal Charismatic Charleston