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Visit The Heyward-Washington House

Updated on August 26, 2016
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ReadMikeNow is a freelance writer who loves to travel. He likes to find unique stories about interesting places.

Front of Heyward-Washington House
Front of Heyward-Washington House | Source

The city of Charleston, South Carolina is a place where a lot of American history has taken place. It is recognized as a city where people can get a glimpse of what life was like in colonial America. Preserved for visitors is a Georgian-style double house built between 1770 and 1772 called the Heyward-Washington House. It was owned by Thomas Heyward, Jr. who was one of the signers to the Declaration of Independence. The home was built for him by his father Daniel Heyward, who was a wealthy rice farmer. Those who go to see this house are able to experience amazing 18th century furniture as well as a kitchen showing things used to make food during the 1740s and later. There are formal gardens at the Heyward-Washington House. They have plants that are common to South Carolina and were popular during the 18th century.

Sign Outside Heyward-Washington House
Sign Outside Heyward-Washington House | Source

Historic House Museum

The city of Charleston rented the Heyward-Washington House during the late 1700s. It was used by George Washington when the president spent a week in Charleston during May of 1794. The house was sold to John F. Grimke in 1794. Grimke was a Revolutionary War Officer. His two daughters were Angeline and Sarah Grimke. These women were well-known for their work with the abolitionist and suffragette movements. It was obtained by Charleston Museum in 1929. In 1930, the Heyward-Washington House was open to the public as the first historic house museum in the city of Charleston. It was Listed in the National Register April 15, 1970, and in 1978, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Staircase In Heyward-Washington House
Staircase In Heyward-Washington House | Source

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

He was born in July of 1746 and passed away in March of 1809. He was one of four representatives from South Carolina to sign the U.S. Declaration of Independence. He also signed the Articles of Confederation. Heyward was born in what is now Jasper County, South Carolina. He obtained his primary education at his home and then traveled to England to study law. In 1775, Heyward was elected to serve in the Continental Congress. After signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he returned to his home in South Carolina in 1778 and served as a judge. Heyward commanded a militia force that was active in fighting the British. He was taken prisoner by the British during a battle for Charleston. When the Revolutionary War was over, he resumed his duties as judge and retired from serving on the bench in 1798. Thomas Heyward, Jr. passed away in April of 1809 at the age of 63. He was buried at his family's cemetery next to his father. This cemetery is a state-designated historic site in Jasper County, South Carolina.

Heyward-Washington House Tour

Georgian-Style Architecture

The Heyward-Washington House is a Georgian-style home. It is an architectural style that was popular from the early 18th to the early 19th century. This style was named after the first four monarchs from England named George I, II, III, and IV. They ruled England in succession from 1714 to 1830. The Georgian-style home became popular once again in the United States during the late 19th century. It was then referred to as Colonial Revival architecture. During the early 20th century in Britain, it was known as Neo-Georgian architecture.

Entertaining Room at Heyward-Washington House
Entertaining Room at Heyward-Washington House | Source

Georgian-Style Characteristics

This type of architecture uses a variety of traits from Renaissance design. The buildings are created with rigid symmetry. This is evident in the door and window placement as well as the layout of it's interior rooms. In the southern United States, these type of homes were often constructed with stucco and stone but brick was most popular. The brickwork would use a horizontal belt course for the home's first and second floors. Windows have double-hung sash windows and use small panes of glass. Doorways are usually enhanced with impressive brick patterns.

Colonial Chair/Toilet in Heyward-Washington House
Colonial Chair/Toilet in Heyward-Washington House | Source


The Heyward-Washington House presents a huge block appearance. It is almost square in its appearance. It has a roof that is low pitched and hipped with only one dormer facing the front street. The chimneys are high. They are corbelled, and the windows of the house have brick jack arches above them. It is one of the biggest houses used during early Charleston. This is considered a double house because of its floor plan. The house has four rooms or a center hall common with Georgian-style homes. In the back of the house is a courtyard. This is where people can see the laundry building, kitchen as well as servants quarters and the carriage house. There is also a garden for visitors to view with plants that were common during the late 1800s.

Chest at Heyward-Washington House
Chest at Heyward-Washington House | Source


People who visit the Heyward-Washington House are able to see an impressive collection of wooden furniture made in colonial Charleston. One of the most impressive pieces is the Holmes Bookcase. Experts agree it is one of the best examples of American-made furniture available for public viewing. This is recognized as one of only three colonial complete triple chests in the United States. It also features a number of furniture pieces done by the well-known Charleston cabinetmaker Thomas Elfe. This includes a mirrored secretary. There is also a double chest that was once the property of William Washington. The breakfast table and chairs are also impressive. Visitors are able to see a Windsor chair that was once owned by Francis Marion, who was a famous Revolutionary War General from South Carolina.

Building Where Kitchen Is Located At Heyward-Washington House
Building Where Kitchen Is Located At Heyward-Washington House | Source
Kitchen At Heyward Washington House
Kitchen At Heyward Washington House | Source

Preservation Efforts

During the late 1800s, a portion of the home was made into a commercial bakery. The entire home was restored to it original appearance in 1929. This was done by the Charleston Museum working in conjunction with the Society for Preservation of Old Dwellings. It was soon open for public viewing as Charleston's first house museum. During the 1940s, a payment was due the bank, and there were no funds available to pay it. A newly formed organization know as the Historic Charleston Foundation was able to raise the necessary funds to save the house from foreclosure. Spring House tours were created to generate revenue and make the needed bank payments. This is still a very popular event held at the Heyward-Washington House. It continues to draw people from all over the world.

Garden at Heyward-Washington House
Garden at Heyward-Washington House | Source

Porgy and Bess

The Church neighborhood where the Heyward-Washington House is located impressed a descendant of Thomas Heyward Jr. His name was Dubose Heyward. The area is filled with cobblestone streets and pastel-colored houses. This part of Charleston is also a short walk from Charleston Harbor. Dubose Heyward is the author of the 1925 novel “Porgy.” His wife later adapted the novel into a play. It eventually was transformed by George Gershwin to became one of the most popular operas in the United States known as “Porgy and Bess.”

Contact Information


Heyward-Washington House

87 Church St

Charleston, SC 29403




Monday-Saturday: 10 am -5:00 pm (last tour at 4:30 pm)

Sunday: 12:00 - 5:00 pm (last tour at 4:30 pm)


Location Of Heyward-Washington House

87 Church St, Charleston, SC 29403:
87 Church Street, Charleston, SC 29401, USA

get directions


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