Charleston Sights

Edmondston-Alston House

  • 21 E. Battery Map It
  • South of Broad
  • House/Mansion/Villa

Published 10/16/2017

Fodor's Review

In 1825, Charles Edmondston built this house in the Federal style on Charleston's High Battery. About 13 years later, second owner Charles Alston began transforming it into the Greek Revival structure seen today. The home is furnished with family antiques, portraits, silver, and fine china.

Sight Information

Address:

21 E. Battery, Charleston, South Carolina, 29401, USA

Map It

Phone:

843-722–7171

Sight Details:

  • $12

Published 10/16/2017

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Feb 5, 2017

Restored Federal / Greek Revival Home

My spouse and I visited the Edmondston-Alston House on a Saturday afternoon in mid-November 2016. The museum is open for guided tours from 10:00 am until 4:30 pm Mondays through Saturdays, and from 1:30 pm until 4:30 pm on Sundays. Admission is $12 for adults (which is included in the Charleston Heritage Passport). Docents lead 30-minute guided tours on the hour and the half-hour so that you can view the home, which is furnished with family antiques,

heirlooms, and furnishings, including paintings and portraits, silver, and fine china. It is necessary to climb a flight of stairs to travel between the first and second floors, and you must also climb steps to reach the front door or side piazza; therefore, this house tour may not be suitable for the mobility-impaired. The Middleton Place Foundation manages this house museum located on High Battery overlooking the Cooper River. City walls that protected against invasion once surrounded the city of Charleston, but as the city grew, workers built a new seawall to reinforce the street beyond the walls, and divided the wetlands into lots for houses. In 1817, merchant and wharf-owner Charles Edmondston purchased land on East Bay Street, and in 1825, built his house in the late Federal style. Years later in 1838, the financial depression forced Edmondston to sell his home to Charles Alston, a member of one of the wealthiest rice-planting dynasties in South Carolina. Alston made some exterior changes to conform to the popular Greek Revival style, including adding a third-floor piazza and a parapet (a low protective wall along the edge of the roofline) that contained the family coat of arms. The Alston family still owns the house today; a family member resides on the third floor in the original bedroom areas. (Tours cover only the first and second floors.) Historically, inside the home, the resident families received visitors in the first-floor parlor. A dining room and warming kitchen also occupied the first floor. The families entertained in the East and West Drawing Rooms on the second floor, and they could open the doors to the second-story piazza in appropriate weather. The library and the bedchamber are two other rooms that you can view on the second floor. The kitchen was located behind the house in a separate building in case of fire. Today, the old 19th-century two-story carriage house hosts a bed and breakfast. The Edmondston-Alston House was one of the first homes in Charleston that was piped for gas lighting after it was introduced to the city in 1846. The piazza provides unobstructed views of the harbor; General Beauregard joined the Alston family to watch the bombardment of Fort Sumter from the home’s piazza in 1861. Later that year, Robert E. Lee took refuge at the Edmondston-Alston House when his uptown hotel caught fire. We enjoyed our visit to the Edmondston-Alston House, particularly because it offered a sharp contrast to the Aiken-Rhett House, the other mansion that we toured that day. While Edmondston-Alston is a “restored” (or “renovated”) home, whereas Aiken-Rhett is a “preserved” home.

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