Nathaniel Russell House

This 19th-century mansion is remarkable for its circular dining room, self-supporting three-story spiral staircase and elaborate detailing.

Nathaniel Russell House is a neoclassical townhouse filled with art and antiques and surrounded by formal gardens. The Federation-style residence in downtown Charleston was built by merchant Nathaniel Russell in 1808. It features an elliptical self-supporting staircase, among other examples of 19th-century opulence.

The tall windows of the second floor and rosette windows set into the interior doors are designed to let in natural light. The six rooms and staircase feature stunning period decor and art, which was made by artisans from the Charleston area. Antique furnishings fill each room and chandeliers hang from every ceiling. The three-story staircase is a central feature of the house. It appears suspended above the Great Hall.  

Daily tours of the Nathaniel Russell House give fascinating insights into the lives of wealthy families during the economic booms of the 19th century. The 18 slaves who ran the Russell household and tended the garden lived in separate quarters, which are now the museum’s gift shop.

Much restoration work has gone into the building to repair it after earthquakes and hurricanes, and to present the house in its original condition. Ongoing structural improvements mean the house is sometimes closed to the public. Check the museum’s website for details on opening times.

The Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens, which takes place in spring, includes tours of Charleston’s historic places, including the Nathaniel Russell House. Purchase entry for multiple historic sites and receive a discount.

Nathaniel Russell House is at the south end of Charleston’s Museum Mile, an easy walk from downtown. The nearest paid parking lot is about three blocks away. Public transport, including the free DASH bus service, stops at the museum, which is open daily. Come to Charleston for the Museum Mile Weekend in September and take advantage of the reduced entry price to attractions.

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