side of the nathaniel russell house in downtown charleston sc

Charleston, South Carolina, became an international tourist destination first for its historic homes.
 
Historic downtown Charleston, SC, was in poverty for so long that nothing was torn-down. In the past few decades, America has finally come around to appreciate historic buildings and its history again. And Charleston still has most of its charm.
 

Of all those historic buildings, Charleston is most famous for the beautiful (and impressive) homes on Rainbow Row and South of Broad.  There are plenty of architectural gems to keep any avid fan interested during a visit.
One of the most famous is the Nathaniel Russell House of Charleston, SC.

Welcome to the Nathaniel Russell House

While walking around town is a delight, exploring the inside of some of the most impressive homes adds another level of interest. The Nathaniel Russell House is a draw for those curious about:
  1. historic architecture
  2. historic interior design
  3. how people lived in the height of Charleston’s influence and wealth
Learning about the history of the antebellum South is definitely one of the best things to do in Charleston. It’s difficult to find examples of how the vast majority of Charleston’s inhabitants lived (the slaves and urban poor) back then. That said, there are several excellent examples of the upper crust’s lifestyle. One of the best is the Nathaniel Russell House.
 
This neoclassical styled home most famous for its flying staircase is a must see when looking at Charleston historic homes. This home is one of the best examples of neoclassical architecture in America. The home on 51 Meeting Street has been beautifully restored to its original state by the Historic Charleston Foundation.

History of the Nathaniel Russell House of Charleston, SC

the flying staircase at the nathaniel russell house in downtown charleston scNathaniel Russell and his wife Sarah Hopton occupied the home during the 1800s along with their two daughters. Mr. Russell moved to Charleston from Rhode Island. He gained his wealth as a merchant from engaging in the trade of local goods, such as exporting:
  1. cotton
  2. tobacco
  3. rice
Mr. Russell also participated in the slave trade. Mr Russell married Sarah Hopton in 1788 when he was fairly advanced in age (50), and his wife was 35.
 
Construction began on the Nathaniel Russell home in 1803 on two combined city lots. The family had moved in and was living in the luxurious rooms of the mansion by 1808.

The Nathaniel Russell House Today

The house and gardens are in pristine condition thanks to the Historic Charleston Foundation’s work. Few of the articles currently in the home were actually owned by the Russell family. And yet they are accurate to the period and many are from Charleston.
 
The home was declared a historic site in 1973, and it is one of the many stunning Charleston historic homes in the area.

The Nathaniel Russell House Floor Plan

The Nathaniel Russell house floor plan includes an oval dining room, which is consistent with the geometrical design of the home. All rooms in the house were designed in rectangular, oval and square shapes. There are many ornate decorative plaster pieces in the various rooms that extend to the ceilings.

The Nathaniel Russell House Flying Staircase

A main feature is the flying staircase, which is also called an elliptical spiral staircase. The Nathaniel Russell house staircase spirals up three floors to the roof without any structural support. The staircase consists of mahogany rails, and is a key feature of the house. It reaches up to three floors entirely without any structural support.

holidays at the nathaniel russell house in downtown charleston scVisiting the Nathaniel Russell House

The home is open to visitors, and there are no reservations required for home tours.
This writer’s favorite tour guide, Louise, is a sweet little old French lady with whom this writer would not mind being friends. If you’re wondering, yes, this writer has been here multiple times. It’s a beautiful house. And the tickets aren’t that expensive.
That said, Louise may try to convince you to volunteer for the Spring Tour of Homes if you try to make friends with her and she finds out you’re from Charleston. You’ve been warned.
During the holiday season, the exterior and interior is decorated with Christmas decor. The Nathaniel Russell House is part of the Charleston house tours offered during the holiday season. Holiday house tours feature many events planned at the various houses. The Fall Tour of Homes is also a great opportunity to see several homes over a few days.
The gardens on the property do not require a ticket to enjoy, by the way. They’re one of the best free things to do in downtown Charleston, SC.

Restaurants Near the Nathaniel Russell House

The Nathaniel Russell House is in the South of Broad neighborhood on Meeting Street. That means you need to walk up to Broad Street before you find anywhere to eat. But close-by casual restaurants in downtown Charleston include:

  1. Fast and French
  2. Brown Dog Deli
  3. Blind Tiger

Hotels and Places to Stay Near the Nathaniel Russell House

The closest bed and breakfast to the Nathaniel Russell House is the Two Meeting Street Inn. It’s a beautiful, historic mansion, and arguably one of the best places to stay in Charleston, South Carolina.

Further up the peninsula are many of the best boutique hotels in downtown Charleston, such as:

  1. The Spectator Hotel
  2. Zero George
  3. The Grand Bohemian
  4. The Vendue Inn

Even More Historic Charleston Attractions

The Nathaniel Russell House is within walking distance of many of the best things to do in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

The Aiken-Rhett House

An individual visitor or family will want to also plan to make stops at the Aiken-Rhett house. It is now a museum. The home remained in the family for around 142 years before the Charleston Museum purchased it. It has since been owned by the Historic Charleston Foundation since 1995.
 
moss between the stones of nathaniel russell house in downtown charleston scThe home has many architectural details that make it a stunning Charleston residence. Many former Aiken family purchases still adorn the rooms. Visitors will get a glimpse into the Victorian past of Charleston.
 
Keep in mind that this home is preserved in the shape it was in when the Charleston Museum took it over. There has been little effort to improve appearances as at the Nathaniel Russell House. Work has been done at the Nathaniel Russell House to even determine what paints were used when refurbishing the old home, by comparison.
 
On the plus side, the Aiken-Rhett House offers more parts of a Charleston city plantation home dominated by the house slaves. Visitors are welcome to explore:
  1. the kitchens
  2. the stables
  3. sleeping quarters located above both those locations

More Historic Charleston Homes Nearby to the Nathaniel Russell House

More homes to tour when visiting downtown Charleston include:
  1. the Joseph Manigault house
  2. the Hayward Washington House
Travelers should also take a look at the Charleston Confederate museum, a favorite stop for any history buff. A glance inside of the Powder Magazine of Charleston should give visitors an idea of an even earlier part of Charleston’s history. The building dates back to 1713. Another attraction close to the South of Broad neighborhood is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

Fort Sumter

Other fantastic historic afternoon activities include visiting Fort Sumter. It’s easily accessible with one of the Fort Sumter Tours offered by Spiritline cruises of Charleston, SC.

Charleston, SC, Plantations

More options farther afield include the various Charleston plantations:
  1. Middleton Plantation
  2. McLeod Plantation
McLeod Plantation is a relatively new attraction on James Island. This plantation focuses on the slaves forced to provide the foundation for the elite’s lavish lifestyle.
 
While famous for its restaurants and food scene, Charleston is still an amazing destination for visitors looking to experience the antebellum South.
Photo Credits

By Elisa.rolle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons