Roper House, built in 1838 on the recently completed High Battery, commands a sweeping view of the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. The view looks past Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started, and on to the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Built by Robert William Roper, a prominent cotton planter, the house is an outstanding example of early 19th Century Greek Revival architecture in a city better known for its 18th Century Georgian-style appearance. Roper House is built on a monumental scale, with massive two-story high Ionic columns raised above a first floor arched loggia pedestal base. Ceiling heights are 18 feet on the piano nobile
, with tall windows extending to the floor. The piazza, opening off the double parlors, has the finest view in Charleston. It is said that Mr. Roper intended his showcase home to be the first residence seen by visitors approaching Charleston from the sea.
The architect of this imposing house is undocumented, but some architectural historians have attributed its design to Charles Friedrich Reichardt, a highly regarded German architect, working in Charleston at the time on the new Charleston Hotel. This was the City's largest and most fashionable hotel built in the Greek Revival style. Reichert had studied in Berlin under Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Germany's preeminent neoclassical architect of the early 19th Century.
The Roper House was acquired by Richard H. Jenrette in 1968, and he has filled it with classically-inspired antiques and art of the early 19th Century period. Unlike Mr. Jenrette's other houses, there are few traces of the original owners. Roper was only able to enjoy his magnificent home for a decade, succumbing to what was probably malaria in the late 1840s. The Ropers had no children and his wife Martha Rutledge Roper elected to sell the house. The house stood empty during the Civil War as the area was subject to bombardment. After the Civil War the ownership passed to the Siegling family who owned it for 56 years. There was a devastating earthquake in 1886, but Roper House once again survived. The Sieglings then added a three-story ballroom wing to the rear of the house, incorporating the originally detached kitchen. Solomon Guggenheim of New York bought the house in 1929 from the Sieglings and maintained it well during the Depression years. Drayton Hastie, owner of Magnolia Gardens in Charleston, purchased the house in 1952. Members of his family resided there for the next two decades.
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