This architectural masterpiece, located at 350 Meeting Street in Charleston, is known as the Joseph Manigault House. The house was designed by noted architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother Joseph, a wealthy planter, lawyer, member of the South Carolina state legislature, and a College of Charleston trustee. The house was designed in the Adamesque style and though its National Register listing dates the house to 1790, various other sources have it listed as being built as late as 1803.
The Manigault family prospered as plantation owners and merchants, descending from Huguenots, a group of French Protestants who followed the teachings of theologian John Calvin and faced severe persecution by the French Catholic government in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Huguenots fled France in the late 1600s, with many settling in Charleston. Joseph and Gabriel’s father, Peter Manigault, was considered the wealthiest person in British North America in 1770. Gabriel was a successful plantation owner, businessman, and architect, designing such notable landmarks in Charleston as City Hall and the South Carolina Society Hall.
The house’s extravagance and architectural style reflect the wealth of Charleston rice barons at the turn of the 19th century. The gatehouse structure seen at the entrance to the formal garden is known as an architectural folly, which is a building designed solely for decorative purposes. By the 1920s, the land now occupied by the formal garden was sold to the Standard Oil Company, which used the grounds as a filling station, with the gatehouse used as a restroom and spare tire storage. A dry cleaner was also onsite. The house was threatened with demolition when a group of dedicated Charlestonians, led by Susan Pringle Frost, formed a group known as the Preservation of Old Dwellings to save the house. The group was successful in their efforts to save the home. Their group would later develop into the Preservation Society of Charleston, which was the first community-based historic preservation organization in America.
The house was acquired by the Charleston Museum in 1933 and has been preserved and interpreted ever since. The interior of the home is furnished with American, English and French pieces dating to the early 19th century. Paint analysis was done and every room has been returned to its original color scheme. In the period formal garden, interpretive signs mark the locations for the kitchen, slave dwellings, stable, and privy. The house is open seven days a week for public tours.
The Joseph Manigault House is listed in the National Register:
One of the finest examples of the Adam style in America, the Joseph Manigault house reflects the architect’s taste for the classic style. Particularly of note is the small and refined scale of the detail in mantels, door and window mouldings, and cornices at wall and ceiling angles. Robert Adam was the first architect using this classic vocabulary to make a distinction between the scale of temples and the smaller scale appropriate to domestic architecture. The house was designed by Gabriel Manigault for his brother Joseph, and built in 1790. The designer Manigault had studied in Geneva and London before the Revolution. He came back to Charleston before the war and designed several buildings in the city after the war. The house is patterned as a parallelogram, its right angled severity broken effectively by a stairwell bow on the north wall, a bowed piazza to the west, and offset wide porches on the south where the formal garden affords a pleasant view toward the domed gate house. The wooden columns of the portico are mounted on stone plinths to prevent rot and between the subflooring and the heart-pine flooring is a layer of lime to discourage insects. Heavy pine rafters support the slate roof. Listed in the National Register November 7, 1973; Designated a National Historic Landmark November 7, 1973.
Interior Pictures of the Joseph Manigault House
Historic Pictures of the Joseph Manigault House