Guest Author - Nick Greene
One of the more unique historic homes in Charleston was very nearly not available for our viewing pleasure. Built in 1803, the house at 350 Meeting St was close to ruin by the 1920s. A Standard Oil filling station had been constructed in the garden and old tires discarded in the temple.
Rescued by the Society for Preservation of Old Dwellings in the 20s, the Joseph Manigault house still wasn't out of danger. The Great Depression of the 1930s nearly completed the job that time, nature and neglect had started. Unable to keep up mortgage payments, the Society needed rescue itself. The Charleston Museum stepped in and found a benefactor to rescue this magnificent home.
Mrs. Henrietta Politzer, widow of the A&P heir Edward Hartford, donated $3000.00 to purchase the house. To help get renovations started, she also contributed the beautiful chandelier, which still hangs in the foyer.
The Manigault family were wealthy plantation owners in colonial South Carolina. The brothers, Joseph and Gabriel both traveled abroad to study. Gabriel became fascinated with architecture, and later designed and built this home for his sibling. Besides being a plantation owner, he is also credited with designing Charleston's City Hall and the South Carolina Society Hall. Joseph, who also owned plantations, was a state legislator and became a trustee of the College of Charleston, the nation's first municipal college.
There is a connection between this home and The Heyward-Washington House, besides the fact that the Charleston Museum maintains them both. Although this home hadn't been constructed at the time of his travels through South Carolina in 1791, George Washington did spend an evening as the guest of Joseph Manigault at his Salt Ponds Plantation home near what is now Awendaw. That house is no longer standing. Also, like the Heyward-Washington House, the furnishings of the Manigault home are extraordinary. The collection, dating from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, includes three pieces documented to have belonged to the Manigault family.
Today, the house is set up to show what life would have been like not only for the wealthy rice-planting Manigault family, but also for the slaves who did all the work. Efforts have been made to restore original colors and decorations. Outbuildings, which no longer exist (kitchen, slave quarters, stable, and privy), are marked with interpretive signs.
Holidays are a special time at the Joseph Manigault House. The Garden Club of Charleston use live plant materials that would have been available in the Lowcountry in the brothers' time to create beautiful holiday arrangements and decorate the house.
This home has been featured on the television show, "America's Castles" and is a registered National Historic Landmark. Tours are available 10AM - 5PM, Monday - Saturday and 1 - 5PM on Sunday.
Joseph Manigault House
350 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29403
Telephone: (843) 722-2996