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“The most worthwhile tour we took while in town”
Review of Aiken-Rhett House

Aiken-Rhett House
Ranked #21 of 248 things to do in Charleston
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Aiken-Rhett House Museum, 48 Elizabeth Street, c. 1820, Is unique in many ways. For example, it remained in the hands of family descendents for 142 years until it was sold to The Charleston Museum and opened as a museum house in 1975. Historic Charleston Foundation purchased the house in 1995 and adopted a conservation approach to the interpretation of this important house and its outbuildings.
Reviewed April 17, 2009

A local suggested this "urban plantation" to us while we were touring Boone Plantation. The tour is self-guided via mp3 player and allows the option to pause and look around each room at your leisure. The most interesting thing about this house is that it has been preserved but not restored, so you are seeing the house and artifacts just as they were in the 1850s -- some of the other plantations are more misleading.

3  Thank halfhisorange
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"audio tour"
in 243 reviews
"own pace"
in 129 reviews
"slave quarters"
in 285 reviews
"urban plantation"
in 62 reviews
"self guided"
in 74 reviews
"wall paper"
in 21 reviews
"original wallpaper"
in 18 reviews
"original state"
in 33 reviews
"art gallery"
in 21 reviews
"preserved home"
in 22 reviews
"historic charleston foundation"
in 25 reviews
"combo ticket"
in 32 reviews
"step back in time"
in 28 reviews
"pre civil war"
in 13 reviews
"answer questions"
in 23 reviews
"visitor's center"
in 23 reviews
"take your time"
in 14 reviews

1,282 - 1,286 of 1,310 reviews

Reviewed April 3, 2009

The Aiken Rhett House is not simply a showroom for museum quality pieces. Home to a long line of Aiken descendents, including Governor William Aiken, 200 years of history unfolds in multiple layers at every bend of the circuitous 45 minute tour. This is just the kind of house and history that would have inspired Tennessee Williams. Though the magnificent double parlors and the sky lit art gallery would qualify as beautiful by any standards, something seems far more organic about this enormous old house. The house as a whole may not be the prettiest, most symmetrical, most polished or best furnished, house in downtown Charleston, but I would argue that it does offer the best and most complete historic house tour.

There were several moments within the tour that I found to be simultaneously disturbing, haunting, and interesting. The walk through the brooding and dark slave quarters was one of those moments. These quarters housed the twelve house servants. Governor Aiken was thought to have over 700 slaves on his Edisto River rice plantation. Another moment was when the tour pointed out the shadows of a canopy crown that remain on the ceiling of the grand ballroom. Harriet Aiken chose to take to her death bed to the ballroom in 1892 and the doors to this room remained shut for some fifty years after her death.

Subsequent generations closed off more and more of the house until the last descendents were living in just a two or three rooms. The magnificent art gallery would be opened only for the annual family Christmas party held by Francis Dill, the last family member to live in the house. Perhaps this is why, though it remains in a state of arrested decay, a great deal of the original furniture remains in the house. The whole saga does play out like a Tennessee Williams screenplay. The drama added by the excellently scripted and scored MP3 tour, only serves to underscore the authenticity of the Aiken Rhett House. It is more than echoes of the past, it is the embodiment of the past. The Aiken Rhett House it is more authentic than anything you will see on the silver screen.

10  Thank Darren C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 7, 2009

Worth the extra walk, it was wonderful that the property is preserved as is was. Walking through the slave quarters was very interesting. Truly a chance to experience history close up.

4  Thank crecords
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 25, 2009

We are both in the museum business, and this site was one of the best we have seen. The uncontrolled environment causes some wincing from a curatorial standpoint, but the interpretaton of spaces within this urban plantaion is excellent. Most compelling are the kitchen and stable places out back--which the foundation interprets honestly and with a sense of historical justice. Though we are not big on audio tours, this one was excellent--simple and thoughtful. We learned a great deal and, more importantly, were inspired to learn more still.

4  Thank johnh127
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed January 1, 2009

If you are interested in what historic homes actually look like when they have been preserved and the history behind them, tour this home. I love the audio tour so you can easily hear and go at your own pace. The slave house and stables are especially interesting in this home because they have been so well preserved and you feel like you are taken back in time! This was a truly amazing experience and my favorite one on my trip. You can purchase a combo ticket for $16 to tour this home along iwth the Nathaniel-Russell home.

5  Thank bmason1003
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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