Thursday, March 14, 2013

Outside is Nice...What Does the Inside Look Like?

I was dying to know....all these gorgeous, stately homes, worth millions today, worth the equivalent "millions" in 1800's dollars.  Wealth purchased with money made from indigo, rice, cotton, slave trade.  And so much of it!!  Blocks and blocks of mansions, cheek-by-jowl on the narrow streets. 

So what do these look like on the inside?  I figured the best way to find out was to take a tour of one of the half dozen that are now museums.  One of the best of the bunch is the Heyward-Washington House on Church Street, built by Daniel Heyward in the 1770's. 

I walked the few blocks to get there, paid my $10, and took the private tour.  What makes this house remarkable is the fact that the city of Charleston rented it from its owner for the use of George Washington in 1791.  He stayed there for two weeks and thereafter the house was referred to as the Heyward-Washington House.  It is a beautiful 3-story brick house with outbuildings in the rear, a couple of which are still standing today.  And a large garden in the rear, too, planted with species similar to what might have been planted there more than 200 years ago. 

The kitchen and laundry were housed in a fairly large brick outbuilding, and they've been restored to appear similar to how they would have in the 1770's. 

The interior is decorated and furnished in period pieces, though none are original to the house.  It was exquisite!  The home is part of the Charleston Historic Society and they've taken pains to match the paint as nearly as possible to the original colors.

Nearly all of the furnishings that have been assembled for this museum were made in Charleston SC in the 1700's and early 1800's.  The docent told us that there were over 80 fine cabinet-makers in Charleston in its heyday. 
A triple chest, one of only three known to still be in
its original set.  Gorgeous!!

Fine furniture overload!!  These two large pieces have
been together since they were originally made, and have resided in only
two other houses, still under the same ownership.  They were
purchased by the Charleston Museum and moved to the
Heyward-Washington House

Gorgeous chest-on-chest

This is the Holmes Bookcase, generally considered to be the finest piece of American cabinetry ever  made:

Before visiting this house I stopped at the Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street.  It's in the original structure, the only structure of its kind still standing.  It was interesting to be standing in the actual room where slaves were sold and bartered.  The exhibits are simple, just some murals and photos.  But the most interesting item was the voice recording of a slave who actually passed through this mart in the 1860's.  He was 93 years old when his story was recorded. 


  1. I think I would have paid the $10 to tour the grand old place as well.

    The slave mart museum would have disturbed me. I did click the link and read the history of it. Our country has such a sad history at times.

  2. We love Charleston, SC and we want to get back there one day. We passed thru there in 2009 on our NPT. Nice read and will come back here when we are due to his Charleston again.