on July 10, 2001
The girls wanted to visit here after reading how the owner, Col. Williamson made his fortune blockade running and may have even been the inspiration for Rhett Butler (sigh). The local residents of Charleston so distained how he acquired his fortune that they refused to refer to the house by his name and choose the name of Calhoun Mansion in honor of John C. Calhoun, a much more genteel choice. (This is not included in the history you will be presented with the tour. We came across it elsewhere.)
From the street the house is not that imposing, although it has a rather large garden area. Once you walk around the garden, on the brick walkways, you realize that it is very large, by in town standards and actually takes up most of a full lot. The fountain is very peaceful and beautiful. It is a wonderful place to wait for the tour to start, and viewing the balconies to whet your appetite for the wonders within.
You approach the front entrance from either of the twin stairs to the front door. The stoop is not huge, but is tiled in stunning mosaic of tiles. Take the time to get some deep breaths because once the door opens and you enter you are apt to be overwhelmed by the splendor and opulence of the wonders within. The entrance hall alone will have you craning your neck to see all within, and you are not apt to be able to absorb it in the short time you have. The tour is not rushed, but there is so much to see, tiny details like the tiles around the fireplaces, wondrous furnishings, and beautiful imports from all around the world.
The tour covers only the first two floors, since the third floor is reserved for a private residence. The guide gives you the history of many of the items in the room, pointing out details that you might miss, and then lets you take it all in. They are happy to answer questions about any aspect of the furnishings and house.
The highlight is the music room, with the phenomenal skylight that had been shingled over and was discovered during renovation. The whole house is a showcase, but the music room is such a wonder that I was really glad that they saved it for the last.
The Calhoun Mansion is now for sale . You can still tour it, but if you like it you can even buy it -- furnished or unfurnished. So now when you tour it you can truly visualize living there! :-).
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