The Aiken-Rhett House is significantly different than the Nathanial Russell house. This home has very few furnishings, but it gives you a feel for the slaves’ quarters.
It was a self-guided audio tour where a man talks about each room and its old furnishings. With the audio tour, I felt like I was taken back in time. It includes music and sounds that were a part of daily life in the early 1800s. However, because the audiotape was so detailed, I actually broke down laughing in the beginning of this tour. "Now turn around and walk back through the door. Be careful of your step. Now turn right, and you will see the original fireplace. Look up..." I’m not sure why it struck me as so funny, but I felt like I was blindfolded and someone was guiding me along the way. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Most impressive in the house were the huge mirrors and life-size portraits. Built in 1818, Governor Aiken and his wife also furnished and decorated it with many crystal and bronze chandeliers and classical sculptures and paintings they purchased in Europe. You will see many of these objects in the rooms they were purchased for.
The home has a beautiful front balcony, with lovely gardens below. Especially interesting were the original outbuildings that contained the kitchen, slaves’ quarters, stable, coach house, privies (outhouses), and cattle shed. I enjoyed looking at the old vehicles. I could vision how the slaves lived, with fireplaces in their rooms and using the cookware on display (although I couldn't imagine what life for them was really like). I learned something interesting that I hadn’t thought about before: these old homes didn’t have many closets... hangers weren’t invented yet!
This house remained in the family until 1975, when the Historic Charleston Foundation purchased it. They are focused on conservation, rather than restoration, of this townhouse, which showcases urban life in antebellum Charleston.
They are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 2 to 5pm.