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Monday, 29 October 2018 12:48

20 Charlotte Street - Joseph Aiken House

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This week we visit 20 Charlotte Street in Wraggborough, next door to last week’s post on 16 Charlotte Street built by merchant and planter Robert Martin. Martin built 20 Charlotte in 1848 for his daughter Ellen who married her second cousin, Joseph Aiken.

Marriage between cousins was not particularly unusual in South Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries; certainly for genetic reasons, marriage between second cousins would be preferable to marriage between first cousins, which is not illegal today in South Carolina.

“Second cousin” means the child of your parent’s cousin. However, when you get to fourth cousins and beyond, people get confused. It is much easier to say either “a cousin, but not a close cousin” or, if pressed, “we share a third great-grandfather” (which many times brings the questioning to a halt). After all, everyone here is probably related; it’s just whether or not you claim each other…

Joseph Daniel Aiken was born in 1817 in Winnsboro and later came to Charleston to practice law; here he married Ellen Martin whose father built the newlyweds a home next door to his. 20 Charlotte is just as stylish as Robert Martin’s home, but looks quite different. While 20 Charlotte would be termed a Greek Revival house, it contains some unusual features.

An arched loggia on the west side of the house overlooks the patterned garden. The four fluted columns on the portico span both floors of the house; each column is topped with a variation of the Corinthian capital known as the “Tower of the Winds,” a capital used extensively in the Greek Revival style. We saw Tower of the Winds capitals months ago in the Diary Post on 138 Wentworth Street. These capitals normally have rows of acanthus leaves beneath a row of palm leaves. The name is taken from a structure in Athens, Greece known as the Tower of the Winds and built in the first century BC; the structure primarily served as an early version of a clock tower through the use of its sundials. 

In addition to being an attorney, Joseph Aiken served as the First Lieutenant of the Ashley Dragoons during the Civil War; he also became a cotton factor or broker, and was an accomplished artist and sculptor. He and Ellen had four children; their son, William Aiken was an architect and designed buildings for the Federal government. Their other son, Joseph Aiken, lived in Winnsboro and amassed a fortune in the textile industry; although he did not attend the Citadel, he admired the military college and bequeathed The Citadel $750,000 at his death in 1953.

Next week we’ll continue exploring the Wraggborough district of Charleston.


Amelia Whaley

Amelia ("Mimi") Whaley

Mimi was born in Charleston and grew up on nearby Edisto Island, one of several sea islands settled by planters due to their close proximity to Charleston. In addition to the Whaleys, Seabrooks, Mikells and Baynards, Mimi is also a direct descendant of Paul Grimball, the recipient of an English land grant of over 1,000 acres on Edisto in 1683; he and his family were the first documented white settlers on Edisto. In Charleston and the Lowcountry, it’s common to hear, "Everyone around here is related; it's just whether or not you claim each other…"

Mimi enjoys sharing the history of Charleston and the Lowcountry. A licensed tour guide, she leads historic Charleston walking tours Wednesdays through Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., leaving from Washington Park in the heart of the old city. Reservations are required for these Charleston walking tours which last approximately 2 hours and end in the vicinity of the Charleston Market. Private tours are also available.

Mimi is also an award-winning Charleston artist working in watercolor, oil, acrylic and mixed media. “I’m so fortunate to live in this area and share this special city through touring, writing, talking and painting – all the things I love to do!”

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