One of the oldest homes in South Carolina’s oldest city, the William Rhett House in Charleston was built in the early eighteenth century for Colonel William Rhett. Rhett was a merchant and militia leader who triumphantly protected the city against a French and Spanish invasion in 1706. His greatest fame, however, came as a pirate hunter when he captured “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet in 1718 on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The site of his capture is now known as Bonnet’s Creek.
The Gentleman Pirate was given his moniker due to his status as a wealthy and educated landowner from Barbados who abandoned his privileged life for one of piracy. After being sentenced to death by Judge Nicholas Trott, Bonnet and his men were hanged for their crimes in Charleston’s White Point Garden. A marker within the park bears the story of Rhett and Bonnet. Interestingly, Judge Trott married William Rhett’s widow, Sarah, in 1727.
Colonel Rhett’s house was built between 1712 and 1720, at the time outside the city limits. Rhett called his estate and its surrounding 28 acres Rhettsbury. The acreage was later subdivided and given to his granddaughters, Susannah and Mary Hasell. In 1807 wharf owner Christopher Fitzsimmons bought the home. His grandson, South Carolina governor and United States senator Wade Hampton, was born in the home in 1818. Architectural changes were made to the William Rhett House in the nineteenth century, including the addition of piazzas.