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:
historic interior design
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
Nathaniel 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:
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.
Visiting 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 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:
Fast and French
Brown Dog Deli
Hotels and Places to Stay Near the Nathaniel Russell House
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.
The 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:
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:
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.
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.
An avid traveler, Colin Pearson loves to settle in an area and discover every little bit of that spot. And having lived on various places on three continents, Charleston, South Carolina, is one of his favorite places he's ever lived.