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Foundation Matters

UPDATE: Nathaniel Russell House Museum

Posted: January 11, 2024

Dear Friends and Supporters of Historic Charleston Foundation,

Last month, Historic Charleston Foundation announced a new strategic plan adopted by our Board of Trustees.  A component of the plan involved a proposal to transition away from the Nathaniel Russell House by offering it for sale. This decision was made not out of disregard for our decades of responsible ownership, research, and restoration of this extraordinary property, but rather out of our concern for the many challenges facing Charleston and our enthusiasm for and deep belief in the importance of the Foundation’s strategic priorities.

We knew the Russell House held a special place in the heart of Charlestonians and in the broader preservation community. We anticipated our decision would not be celebrated. Indeed, the public reaction was swift and rousing.  But, more than that, it was passionate, thoughtful, and compelled by a deep connection to what we all agree is a Charleston community treasure.

In the weeks following the announcement, we committed ourselves to listening to the many passionate voices in the community. We met extensively with donors, leaders in preservation here and across the nation, elected officials, former colleagues, and the museum’s many devotees.

They echoed one common refrain – “Protect this Museum.”

That is why the HCF Board of Directors voted yesterday to reverse its decision.  Historic Charleston Foundation will continue to own, operate, study, and care for the Nathaniel Russell House and its collection. We plan to collaborate with a panel of experts dedicated to reimagining the museum’s operations and its collection.  Our aim is to create a vibrant, sustainable future for both the Nathaniel Russell House and the Aiken-Rhett House. 

To many people the Nathaniel Russell House is the physical embodiment of Historic Charleston Foundation and its preservation and advocacy ethic. However, at our core, we are a community-based historic preservation and advocacy organization. We are grateful for those who advocated for the site’s continued operation as a publicly accessible, historic asset for Charleston’s residents and visitors.

Our mission calls for us not only to preserve our historic structures and communities, but also to champion a future for Charleston that “honors and protects our people, places, culture, and community”.  Our Strategic Plan reminds us that, while we will continue to preserve historic resources such as the Russell House, the Aiken-Rhett House, and over 400 easement properties, we must continue to work toward a balanced and sustainable, future for our city and region. We look forward to sharing more of the tangible aspects of this plan in the weeks ahead.

Thank you, as always, for your engagement, your support, and your shared love of Charleston.


Anne Blessing, Board of Trustees Chair

Winslow Hastie, President & CEO

15 responses to “UPDATE: Nathaniel Russell House Museum”

  1. Gay Corr says:

    This is wonderful news! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Lucille and Jim Cantey says:

    This is a historic moment for all of us who love Charleston. Bravo we are proud of you

  3. Joseph Schachte says:

    AI haven’t spoken with them but am absolutely certain Jane Thornhill and Liz Young approve of your decision! Well done.

  4. Mari says:

    Wonderful news!! Glad you listened to the community.

    Thank from a native Charlestonian

  5. Harriett says:

    Thank you for listening and making the right decision. We learn so much from our history!!

  6. Jesse Bannister says:

    Thank you for this decision. You have addressed the major concern of nearly everyone: that this property be preserved as a publicly accessible museum and not sold to the highest bidder to become a private residence or ahistorical tourist trap. I applaud your reconsideration and rededication to your core mission.

  7. Tobias Lovallo says:

    Thank you, board of trustees. History will confirm that you have now made the correct decision.

  8. Phyllis Carpenter says:

    I am beyond thrilled that you have reversed your decision. , but am still concerned about your reimagining plan. We would all like to hear all of your concepts. This is a fine house with many original items These do not need to be sold or placed in other homes. That’s the beauty of the Russell home

  9. Johnathan Pickens says:

    I love these houses and I love HCF. I will do what I can to help you going forward. Thank you for making this wise decision.

  10. Christine Carson says:

    Although I am a Kansas resident, I have visited Charleston many times. I love the history, the architecture how and both of these come together to make Charleston what it is. Thank you for reconsidering the sale of this gorgeous building. To many beautiful and historical places and neighborhoods have been done away with because of current trends, whether political or financial, that in the future people will hold regret for not saving them. Again, thank you for listening to Charleston and its residents.

  11. Tina Edwards Mayland says:

    Organizations don’t often admit when they are wrong. Bravo! I asked for my contribution back once I was made aware of your decision to sell the Nathaniel Russell House. You sent me a refund. It’s now on its way back to you with my gratitude.

  12. allen denham says:

    Awesome such a national treasure

  13. Ron Savage says:

    Hello from two Canadian vistors, whom for 13 years plus visited your beloved city of Charleston. We visited many times the beautiful Nathaniel Russell Home as well as many others, plantations, museums etc. For history buffs we where hooked on your bountiful history. We were thrilled beyond words to the decision to not sell this remarkable landmark. Keep up the remarkable work that the people of Charleston do in preserving your history. Best to all from

  14. Callie says:

    I am so thankful you reversed your previous decision. We need to preserve our history for our children’s children. There is nothing like seeing it with your own eyes and experiencing it. History from a classroom vs. something tangible makes a huge difference. Thank you!

  15. Stanley Reahard says:

    Being part of the Reahard family which has supported the preservation of the Nathaniel Russell house with serious donations over the years, my husband and I are beyond thrilled at the reversal of the board’s decision to continue to make this incredible property available to the public. Thank you for reconsidering and changing course.

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