This house was built by Charleston merchant John Robinson who, with the fickleness of early nineteenth century fortunes, lost it soon afterwards. Several trading ships he owned were lost at sea. The house was sold to cover his debts though he was not legally responsible.
During the bombardment of Charleston, many of the grand houses were pounded into rubble, but this house escaped due to its placement further up Charleston’s slender peninsula. However, when Charleston fell to Union forces in 1865 the house was looted and William Aiken arrested and taken to Washington for trial. He was later released due to the intervention of northern politicians he’d made friends with during his political heyday.
Unlike many of the old houses here there was a large parcel of property. Behind the main house there are stables and quarters for a large number of enslaved people.
Prior to the US Civil War William Aiken was not only a wealthy planter/merchant he was also the states governor.
Though their house had been looted, abused, and most of its valuables stolen, the Aiken family managed not to lose their home to federal taxes like so many did. They hung on and stayed on, as did most of the old families in Charleston. Too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash, as the saying goes. In the Aiken’s case, this meant wallpaper peeled, and carpets grew threadbare. It meant fabrics and plaster began to disintegrate, and in some places dry rot set in. With little money for wood or coal to heat large spaces, grand rooms were shut up entirely. It meant multiple generations lived together, paying expenses as best they could. Their descendants occupied it until 1975.
Note; much of the information above was provided by the South Carolina Picture Project.