So was the Aiken-Rhett house when the curator from the Charleston Museum entered the neglected mansion accompanied by two decedents of the family that had lived in the house for 150 years. The last occupant of the house, Frances Rhett, had moved out of the house three years prior, and had recently donated the house to the museum. Her late husband, I’on Rhett and his brother Andrew Burnet Rhett, Jr., occupied the house (with staff) as bachelors for many years, spurning any ideas of modernization, living just like their ancestors had.
The fourteen room mansion was built in 1817 by John Robinson, a wealthy merchant, who only lived in the house for a short time until he was forced to forfeit it to his creditors when several of his ships were lost at sea. One of the creditors, William Aiken, took possession of the house until he was killed in a carriage accident and the house passed to his son William Aiken, Jr.
William Aiken passed away in 1887, followed by his wife in 1892. At Harriet’s death, her daughter Henrietta began a custom that was followed by successive members of the family, her mother’s room was simply shut-off, her belongings left untouched.
Henrietta and her husband, Major A.B. Rhett, raised their family in the house. When Henrietta passed away it was divided between her children and their heirs. Burnet Rhett, Jr and his brother I’on Rhett, followed by his wife Frances were the last occupants of the house. Little by little, rooms not needed were closed and left for time to take it’s course.