Almost a century before it was built, the ground on which George Walton Williams would build his home was hallowed in the tradition of optimistic patriotism. 14-16 Meeting Street in downtown Charleston was originally part of the Lowndes House plot owned by Governor Charles Pinckney, who hosted George Washington three times in 1791.
Williams was highly regarded throughout Charleston as a businessman and humanitarian. Having amassed a great fortune, Mr. Williams decided to build a grand residence at 16 Meeting Street as a testament to his desire for Charleston’s re-emergence from the Civil War. The construction of the house took 5 years and required the talents of hundreds of otherwise unemployable local artisans and craftsmen for its creation.
The Calhoun Mansion was called the “handsomest and most complete private residence in the South” when it was built (Charleston News and Courier.) This outstanding home was built in 1876 for $200,000 and the lot was purchased for $40,000 in Confederate currency. The architect was William P. Russel.
The Calhoun Mansion is a baronial Italianate manor house, widely acclaimed as one of the great post Civil War homes on the Eastern Seaboard. It is Charleston’s Gilded Age Mansion. Recently featured on A&E’s American Castles, the remarkable 24,000 square foot structure consists of 35 rooms with 14 foot ceilings, ornate plaster and wood mouldings, elaborate chandeliers, and has 23 period fireplaces, a stairwell that reaches to a 75 foot domed ceiling, and a music room with a 45 foot covered glass skylight. The grand entrance hall is an astounding 14 feet high by 14 feet wide and 65 feet long. The mansion also includes truly astounding decorative painting and lighting designed and installed by Louis Comfort Tiffany at the end of the 19th century. It was recently named one of the top things to do in Charleston by Travel and Leisure.
After Mr. Williams’ death in 1903, the house went through a succession of occupants and uses, gradually deteriorating until it was condemned in 1972. The house was then purchased by a Charleston native who spent 25 years and $5,000,000 restoring it.
Now, the grand edifice that Mr. Williams first created has been reborn. The Calhoun Mansion, the largest single family residence in Charleston, has been brought back to the standard Williams first created. Although the house remains a private residence, it is open to the public daily for viewing. Please join us to celebrate the Calhoun mansion’s continued uniqueness and grandeur; see for yourself what makes it a jewel in the crown of Charleston’s celebrated historic structures.