One of the most interesting and important homes in Charleston has inspired both tourists and artists alike to come and revel in its beauty. Nathaniel Russel might have been one of the wealthiest businessmen in Charleston in his time, but he left behind so much in his legacy and in the home he built. Its inspiration has lasted for hundreds of years. We are not strangers to how stunning this home and its history is, and many of our pieces reflect just that!
Many of our pieces celebrate so many wonderful things about our beautiful city. Its history, the land and natural elements our coast is famous for, its historic homes, and the famous people who lived behind its closed doors. We are constantly adding these beautiful new pieces to our collection and we love celebrating, honoring, and treasuring what makes our great city so unique. The artistry and time we put into each piece celebrates the history we are proud to be apart of and the stories we are helping to preserve and tell. One of the most consistent figures and homes that echos across our collections are Nathaniel Russell and the Nathaniel Russel House. With eight pieces dedicated to his legacy, I would say that we are huge fans. We are going to be dedicating this blog to a little history behind the home and the family that lived there. We challenge you to visit our website and find each piece that was inspired by the Russell house and family, and pick which one is your favorite!
Nathaniel Russell was a merchant and a smart young man when he came to Charleston. He had a dream and dedication and found his success in the Holy City. He was one of the many famous men who helped bring the city to the glory we know of today. Located at 51 Meeting Street in downtown Charleston, the beautiful brick building leaves a quiet hush over the whole neighborhood, even to this day. Hundreds of tourists grace it’s hallways every year, and the stories and history still being discovered are being shared and nurtured as the years go on. Russell was born in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1738. He moved and settled in Charleston at the age of 27 in 1765. He was already an established businessman and merchant, but coming into such a powerful port city, his career took off. He traded goods to New England, the West Indies, South America, Great Britain, West Africa, Asia, and beyond. He exported Carolina Gold Rice, Indigo, Cotton, and numerous other goods that were grown in and around South Carolina. He also gained wealth through the slave trade. Once his wealth was amassed, it was time for him to settle down. At the age of 50, he married Sarah Hopton. Ms. Hopton came from one of the most wealthy and influential families at the time. She was a huge socialite and important woman of her time. She was considered an old maid when they married, already in her 30s. Together they had two daughters. To show off his success and wealth, and to bring promising suitors for his daughters, he decided it was time to build a home worthy of his station. That home is what we’ve come to know and love as the Nathaniel Russell Home.
The home was finished in 1808/1809. The architect is unknown but was built by a local carpenter. The home was said to be one of the most admired and most exuberant created in early America. The home is famous to this day for its amazing gardens, elaborate plasterwork, geometric rooms, and for its three-story free-flying staircase. 18 slaves were employed to run the home during Russell’s ownership. Behind the home stands a large two-story brick building. The first floor of the building served as a kitchen and laundry, the top floor was home to all 18 of Russell’s slaves. There was room between the home, its private gardens, and the large two-story building to grow a garden and have livestock. After Russell died in 1820, the home stayed in the family until 1857 when it was sold to Governor R.F.W. Allston. After Allston’s death his wife still carried on living in the home but, after the attack upon Charleston during the Civil War and its occupation, his wife had to turn the home into a boarding house and a school for women. In 1870 the home was then sold to the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mercy. The sisters turned the home into a school and it was under their operation until 1905. In 1905 the home was purchased and restored to a private residence. In 1955 the home was purchased by the Charleston Foundation, and it became a Historical Landmark in 1974. The home, once it was required as a museum, was restored to its original 1808 finery thanks to forensic analysis and cutting edge conservation technology. To this day, it is credited as one of America’s first examples of Neoclassical Domestic Architecture and is one of the most important examples. One of its true victories is that the home survived whole through the Civil War. Many homes that were contemporary to it were not so lucky.
You don’t have to take our word for it, you can visit the Nathaniel Russell home and learn about the beauty for yourself. It is worth taking the time to make it apart of your visit to Charleston. It is also worth your time to visit our store and see the Nathaniel Russell collection for yourself. These are pieces you don’t want to miss out on!
To view our Nathaniel Russell collection online, visit the link below!
For more information about Nathaniel Russell and his family, visit the link below!