Given the chance, I can’t resist peeking into other people’s homes and I’m so glad we stopped to tour the Calhoun Mansion which is the largest private residence in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s located just a few steps from White Point Gardens on the riverfront at 14 Meeting Street.
George Walton Williams built the house in 1876 as a testament to the resurgence of Charleston after the Civil War. At 24,000 sq. ft. and $240,000, it took five years to complete and employed hundreds of out-of-work artisans and craftsmen in desperate need of work after the war. The house is named for John C. Calhoun’s grandson who married the owner’s daughter and lived in the house. After Mr. Williams’ death in 1903, the house had many occupants causing deteriorating circumstances to the house until 1972 when it was condemned.
A native of Charleston purchased the house in the late 1970s for $220, 000. He invested five million dollars over the next 25 years in restoring the Mansion to its former glory. The current owners live in the house and allow tours from 11 -5 daily. If the owners are physically present in the house when a tour takes place, you may not be able to see their office/bedroom but we were allowed to look into all of these rooms.
The mansion is a feast for the eyes with a 65 foot entrance hall, 14 foot ceilings, gorgeous Tiffany chandeliers, and my personal favorite, the music room with a 45 foot glass skylight. It’s NOT a museum and my first thought was “Millionaire Hoarders” but after seeing a couple of the rooms I came to appreciate the
clutter expensive collection. There’s no rhyme or reason, that I could discern, as to how the collection is presented. The rooms are roped off so you have to lean in. Not sure if I would have enjoyed the tour as much with 17 other people (the max on a tour is 20). Also, the tour guide will point out highlights in each room but it helps a lot if you already know about artwork ~ think Matisse, Cezanne, Kandinski and Klimt. We arrived for the 11 am tour the day after Christmas and it was just the 3 of us. The tour we took cost $16.00 per person for an approximately half hour tour. There is another tour for $75 per person which is an hour and a half. It includes the cupola. More information here.
Photos are not allowed on the inside of the mansion but the beautiful garden is fair game: