9 East Battery was built around 1838 by William Roper, a wealthy cotton planter. If you're standing on High Battery, imagine that the 2 houses to the left of 9 East Battery don't exist, and you will have a sense of the landscape in front of this Greek Revival mansion. With no houses in front of it on East Battery until 1848, the Roper House with its massive columns was conspicuous to each ship entering Charleston harbor, a monument to Roper's wealth and stature.
When I'm on High Battery, this house almost takes my breath away. I think that was Mr. Roper's intention, and he would be pleased that 9 East Battery still has that effect 180 years later. The property, comprised of two lots, it huge. The house is huge. The five columns are huge. Even the rope molding around the front door is huge. Roper bought both lots in 1838 for less than $10,000 and built one of Charleston's grandest houses with an exquisite view of Charleston Harbor.
When the Confederates evacuated Charleston in the last months of the Civil War, they blew up the cannon in White Point Gardens. A large piece of it still remains lodged in the attic of 9 East Battery -- it is too heavy to get down the stairs! But the house did survive the Civil War. The house also survived the great Charleston earthquake of 1886; the lions' heads on the exterior are really decorative covers for the ends of the earthquake bolts that were installed to reinforce the structure after the earthquake.
The owners of 9 East Battery have been wealthy, influential, and devoted stewards of this house. Roper was a businessman and also a philanthropist. 9 East Battery was purchased by the Siegling family in Charleston in 1877. Rudolph Siegling was a publisher of the Charleston News and Courier, and his initials are on the front door. In 1929, Solomon Guggenheim purchased the house, and in 1936 the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston exhibited his modern art collection for the first time. From October 22, 2016 through January 15, 2017 -- eighty years later -- the Gibbes brought back that same exhibition to Charleston.
The house has been a National Historic Landmark since 1973, and the present owner is Richard Jenrette of the Richard Hampton Jenrette Foundation. Jenrette is responsible for an extensive restoration of 9 East Battery, including period furnishings and historic artwork.
A grand house deserves grand guests. HRH Charles, Prince of Wales was a guest at 9 East Battery in 1989, and other notable visitors include President Ford, President Bush (43), Bishop Tutu, Colin Powell, Margaret Thatcher, and the Emperor of Japan.