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American Period Rooms

The Charleston Drawing Room



Come in and have a cup of tea.

This room was once a part of a house owned by Colonel John Stuart of Charleston, South Carolina. Like many mansions in 18th-century Charleston, it was built in the style of a London townhouse—one room wide and several stories high. Because Charleston has mild winters and hot summers, the house had a balcony bordering one side to let the cool ocean breezes in. High ceilings and large windows also helped keep the house cool.

The drawing room, located on the second floor, was used for lavish entertaining and leisure pastimes. The various objects in the room give us a good idea of what went on there. Small tea tables, set with a porcelain tea service, are ready for teatime. On a card table, a chessboard is set up for a game. Near the card table stands a harp. With a little imagination, you can envision people using these objects: elegantly dressed women sipping tea, two men playing a friendly game of chess, a young woman practicing the harp.

As you look around the room, it is pretty clear that Colonel Stuart was a wealthy man. Just about everything is ornately decorated—the fireplace mantel, the door frames, the carved wood and upholstered furniture, the oriental rug, the chandelier. Like many rich merchants and planters, Stuart wanted his home to reflect his wealth and social status. The furnishings also show Stuart’s strong ties with England. Much of his furniture was imported from England or designed in popular English styles.

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1. This room was once part of a house in Charleston, South Carolina.
2. Tea parties were popular social gatherings during colonial times.
3. Some objects in the room, like this porcelain vase on the mantel, came from China. These items would have been imported to the colonies through England.


February 2005