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Calhoun Mansion Visitor Tips

Updated: December 22, 2023

A Guide to Visiting the Calhoun Mansion

It doesn't matter whether you are a fan of architecture or not - a visit to the Calhoun Mansion is sure to take your breath away. This mansion is the largest residence in the area of Charleston and it boasts of having 35 rooms. The main design of the building is Italianate, giving it an elegant and almost regal feel. During a tour of this mansion, visitors will find themselves on a whirlwind journey through Japanese water gardens, a grand ballroom, high ceiling staircases, private elevators, piazzas and even Koi ponds.Calhoun Mansion Visitor Tips The house is built on over 24,000 square feet of ground, which means that there is a lot more to this property than most people would believe.

Those who do appreciate architecture will be happy to know that the Calhoun Mansion is a testament to the architecture within this area. It has not only been featured in the Architectural Digest, but it has also been shown in Forbes, American Castles and the Wall Street Journal.

First Impressions

The moment you walk into the mansion, expect to be taken aback by the decor, since it is anything but simplistic. No expense was spared in creating a scene of elegance and luxury, so it is home to an enormous number of antiques. Each piece has a long, rich history, making every corner of the mansion something to be explored and discovered. It is not only the interior of the mansion that makes this "American castle" so unique, but also the gardens, which have been perfectly restored. The best thing about taking one of the longer tours of this mansion is that you get to take your time to really take everything in, and this is important in a property that is so jam packed with history.

A Short History Of The Calhoun Mansion

The grounds on which the Calhoun Mansion are built are interesting enough without the mansion. Before the property was constructed, the plot was originally the grounds on which the Lowndes House stood. This home belonged to Governor Charles Pinckney, and it was in this house that George Washington visited Gov. Pinckney not once, but three times during 1791.

George W. Williams

The Calhoun Mansion was built as a private residence by George W. Williams back in 1876 for around $200,000, which was most definitely a tidy sum back in those days. The lot, on the other hand, was purchased for a further $40,000. It was the architect William P. Russel who designed and constructed the building and it was quickly labeled one of the greatest homes to be built in the post Civil War era on the Eastern Seaboard.

When Mr. Williams made the decision to purchase the grounds, he wanted to use his fortune to build a testament to the city that had once again begun to flourish at the end of the Civil War. It took about 5 years for the construction of the house to be completed and Mr. Williams hired many local craftsmen and workers to do the work, creating jobs in the process. When Mr. Williams died in 1903, the house was passed from person to person, until eventually, it was condemned in 1972.

It was not until the house was purchased about a quarter of a century later by a local resident of Charleston that it was restored. This resident had to put in more than $5 million in order to complete the restorations.

Touring the Calhoun Mansion

These days, the home can be seen hosting thousands of tourists each year, and it doesn't take more than a couple of minutes for people to fall in love with it. It should be noted that the tours take place from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., and each tour will last about 35 minutes. The cost for the tour is $15 and can be paid for in cash or credit card on the day of the tour from the gift shop around the back.  The contact number is 843.722.8205.  There has recently been added a New Grand Tour that costs about $50 and lasts around an hour and a half. Those who are looking to purchase tickets for this tour can do so at the rear entrance located by the Museum Shop.

Visiting Charleston just isn't the same without taking a tour of the Calhoun Mansion. This stately home is not only a landmark in the city, but it also gives visitors a real glimpse into a time where people wore tuxedos to dinner and always watched their P's and Q's. Anyone who is looking at getting a full view of the city, including the architecture within it, simply can't miss out on this top class tour.

Calhoun Mansion Visitor Tips

  • Not everyone who visits the house is impressed.  A common critique is that you do not get to see the whole house.  As always, do your homework.  Check our the reviews of the Calhoun Mansion on TripAdvisor and other review sites.
  • Don't go in thinking that John C. Calhoun lived in the Calhoun Mansion.  He didn't.  The house was built for his grandson, who married the owner's daughter and lived there.
  • If you love antiques, then the Calhoun Mansion tour will not disappoint.

About The Author

Scott Nelson

Scott has led over 2,000 tours of Charleston and has more than 1000 5 star reviews. He started working in museums at the age of 16 (Unsinkable Molly Brown House) and hasn't looked back. He was the Executive Director of Heurich House and on the historic interpretation/ education staff at Mount Vernon, both in Washington DC, for over 6 years. Scott moved to Charleston in 2012 for a job with the Historic Charleston Foundation and began leading tours for Free Tours by Foot.
Updated: December 22nd, 2023
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