Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston, SC - Pt. II

Photo by TheGoodReverend via Flickr

After Frances Rhett donated the Aiken-Rhett house to the Charleston Museum in 1975, work began to protect and stabilize the dilapidated building. The museum installed a new roof and rebuilt the piazzas which had become unsafe. From 1982 until 1989, the house was open for tours until Hurricane Hugo slammed into Charleston destroying the chimneys and several outbuildings, pouring rain into Harriet’s bedroom that the family had worked so hard to preserve.

The Charleston Museum continued it's restoration efforts, rebuilding the chimneys and outbuildings. However, attendance began to dwindle and the museum was forced to close the house for tours in 1993.

The house remained closed until Historic Charleston Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the architecture and cultural character of Charleston, took over ownership in 1995.

The HCF reopened the house for tours and soon after developed an integrated plan of conservation and restoration. Exterior components such as the shutters, windows and doors were restored to protect the interior historic fabric in it's original condition.

Photo by megnificence via flickr

Photo by megnificence via flickr

Photo by megnificence via flickr

Photo by Rick Rhodes, HCF

Photo Carrroll Ann Bowers, HCF

The most striking change has been to the exterior. In 2006, the weathered masonry walls were given an application of deep yellow lime wash and stenciled white lines were applied to simulate stone blocks, returning the house to it’s 1858 appearance when the Aikens did their last alterations. The lime wash is not only decorative, it adds a protective and breathable coating to the masonry.

The Aiken-Rhett house is located at 48 Elizabeth Steet in Charleston, SC and is open 7 days a week. A self-guided audio tour takes visitors through each room, from basement to parlors and into the carriage house and servant’s quarters. One of the most unique house tours you’ll ever see and highly recommended.