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Object ID # MEETING.051.001
Title Nathaniel Russell House (51 Meeting Street)
Object Type Collection
Scope & Content Constructed 1803-08; altered 1857, 1908, 1915; restored 1955, 1990s. Completed in 1808 on an original lot of Charleston's Grand Modell, the Nathaniel Russell House is recognized as one of America's finest examples of Neoclassical domestic architecture. Its builder, Nathaniel Russell (1738-1820), was a prominent merchant from New England who came to Charleston as a young man of 27 and quickly amassed a huge fortune as one of Charleston's last tycoons of the transatlantic trade, engaged in commerce with China, Africa, France, and England. In landscape setting Russell's house differs from most of Charleston's early urban dwellings; it sits back from the street approximately 30 feet, creating a front garden entrance through which the house is entered at ground level. Wrought-iron balconies on the 2nd exterior wrap around the house and overlook the garden. The main house was originally part of a large townhouse complex that included the 2-story brick kitchen and laundry connected to a larger 2-story, T-shaped brick carriage house with stables, storerooms, privies, and quarters for the Russell's approximately 18 slaves on the 2nd floor. Running along the south side of the property is Price's Alley, a thoroughfare since the 18th century that housed Irish immigrants and African American tradesmen in the antebellum period. This house points to a reliance on architectural pattern books for detail, although the architect for the Russell House remains unknown. The 3-story house contains only 3 rooms on each floor. Each floor utilizes the geometric patterns of a square room, an oval room, and a rectangular room. A free-flying, or cantilever, staircase connects the 3 floors and is perhaps the most stunning interior architectural feature in the city.

In 1809 one of Russell's daughters, Alicia, married Arthur Middleton, and the house served as their residence for the next 10 years. Sarah Russell, another daughter, married the Reverend Theodore Dehon, whose death 4 years later of yellow fever sent Mrs. Dehon and her 3 children back to live at the Russell House. After Nathaniel Russell's death in 1820 and his wife's death in 1832, the house was inherited by Sarah Russell Dehon, who continued to live there with her daughter, her son-in-law, and their 12 children. In 1857 the house was purchased by Gov. R.F.W. Allston. He, his family, and their slaves were forced to evacuate the house during Charleston's 500-day bombardment by Federal troops. The house survived intact, although after Gov. Allston's death one year later, Mrs. Allston had to open it as a boardinghouse and a female academy. In 1870 the Allston executors sold the property to the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy who owned the house for the next 38 years, after which it was returned to single family residential use. Purchased by HCF in 1955 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1974, the Russell House is today open to the public as a house museum.

Collection consists of:

Series: History, Architecture, Archaeology. Historical, architectural, and archaeological information about the Russell House, Russell family history, and information pertaining to the operation of the house as a museum. (Two boxes.)

Series: Restoration/Renovation/Conservation. Correspondence and other documentation related to restoration, renovation, and conservation efforts, the bulk relating to the mid-1990s restoration and the 2013 renovation. (Two boxes.)

Series: Garden/Landscape. Documentation related to the garden and landscape. (One box.)

Series: Furnishings. Documentation related to house furnishings and decoration. (One box.)

Series: Russell Family Members. Biographical information and other documentation related to various Russell family members and business associates of Nathaniel Russell. Includes photocopies of correspondence, excerpts from publications, research notes, wills and other legal documents, etc. Much of correspondence to/from non-family members pertains to shipments of cargo and slaves and other financial transactions. (Note: Manuscript materials came from a variety of repositories and were presumably acquired by or provided to HCF researchers over the years. Many files also include the correspondence from repositories. (Six boxes.)

Series: Photographs. B&W and color prints, negatives, and other transparencies of the exterior and exterior features, interior and interior features, and people (both family members and photos of various at the NRH). (Three boxes.)

See Container List for more detailed descriptions of box contents.
Subjects Nathaniel Russell House (Charleston, S.C.)
Nathaniel Russell House (Charleston, S.C.)--Designs and plans
Nathaniel Russell House (Charleston, S.C.)--Family
Nathaniel Russell House (Charleston, S.C.)--Finance
Nathaniel Russell House (Charleston, S.C.)--Interpretive programs
Russell, Nathaniel, 1738-1820
Historic buildings--South Carolina--Charleston
Historic house museums--South Carolina--Charleston
Nathaniel Russell House (Charleston, S.C.)--Administration
Historic house museums--Educational aspects
Historic house museums--Interpretive programs
Art collections
Brochures
Business enterprises
Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
Color in architecture
Deeds
Family trees
Fund raising
Furnishings
Genealogy
Guest books
Land titles
Museums and collections--Inventories
Plats
Tour guides (Persons)
Trompe l'oeil
Wallpaper
Search Terms Meeting Street
National Register of Historic Places
Loutrel Briggs garden
Physical Description ~5 lin. ft.
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View Location on a Map https://www.google.com/maps/place/32%C2%B047%2729.2%22N+79%C2%B056%2705.3%2
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