The Joseph Manigault House stands majestically as one of Charleston’s most fascinating tourist attractions at the corner of Meeting and John streets in the historic Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood – a far cry from the house’s situation a century ago.
Completed in 1803 as a “garden villa” overlooking open meadows in the Charleston peninsula “neck”, the grand Adam-style house was an exquisite design completed by local architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother Joseph, a wealthy rice planter.
Distinctive features of the Adam style, also known as Federal style, is the focus on unusual color, which has been meticulously restored in the house, open for public visitation as part of the Charleston Museum. Another noteworthy detail is the sense of spaciousness created by a grand central staircase built in elliptical shape.
Like many Charleston houses, the structure fell on hard times after the War Between the States, deteriorating badly as the surrounding area gave way to factories and rail lines. By 1922, the property was sold to the Standard Oil Company, which turned the grounds into a filling station, and the beautiful Gate Temple entrance was converted into a restroom.
The Depression ended the gas station venture, and in 1933, the house faced possible demolition when the Charleston Museum purchased it in a public auction.
During War World Two, it was leased to the federal government as a women’s USO club.
Today, the house is beautifully restored and displayed, with features that include a stunning garden and an opulent interior that still dazzles.