Nathaniel Russell House – Charleston, South Carolina
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51 Meeting Street
$10 for a 35-40 minute tour.
BOTTOM LINE: The 6,500 sq. ft. house is in excellent condition, fully furnished (not with original furniture, but museum quality from the same time period) and refurbished to its original condition. For $10, the 40-minute tour will give you a good balance of history of the time and the Russell family, as well as a detailed account of the features and furnishings of the house.
Located in one of the prettiest – and oldest – parts of the peninsula, the Nathaniel Russell House has drawn visitors since it was built in 1808. If you’re looking for a more typical urban historical home to visit, this is your best bet (go to the Calhoun Mansion (our review) to goggle over the collection; the historical value of that house takes second place).
With a federal style exterior, the Nathaniel Russell House isn’t your typical “Charleston Single,” but you’ll see more of the style of the family who built it way-back-when. Nathaniel Russell actually came from Rhode Island, and was a merchant who made all of his money in Charleston just after the Revolutionary War. Our guide was quick to point out the details of the house that were in fashion when the house was built: an Adamesque style using complex pastel color schemes and neo-classical motifs — basically: dramatic, colorful and impressive, teeny-tiny details in just about every aspect of the house.
Situated on the second floor to escape the sounds and smells of dirty street life–just like the Londoners–the parlor is truly exquisite with extreme attention to detail: elaborate cornices trimmed with gold leaf and tortoise-shell finished doors.
The most luxurious part of the house, in my opinion, is the spiral staircase that doesn’t even touch the wall. It was built one step at a time, with the previous step supporting the next. It’s pretty amazing – and you’ll just need to see it for yourself.
As with any proper “mansion” for the super-wealthy, the house sits on a large lot–well, large for city standards–with its fair share of beautiful gardens. Check it out: