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Interior stairway, Nathaniel Russell House, 1940.

Interior stairway, Nathaniel Russell House, 1940.

We talk so much about the history of Charleston, the gorgeous architecture and all the ways to enjoy it that we sometimes forget the practical, non-romantic details. Plenty of historic sites are readily open to the public (many funded by government endowments and visitor admissions), but many more are privately owned sites in which historic preservation rests solely on the shoulders of the owner.

Owning a centuries-old estate must be terribly rewarding. On one level, the aesthetics of the sprawling historic urban mansions and country plantations in the Charleston area are breathtaking — the homes and grounds are works of art in and of themselves. But the storied pasts of these homes are perhaps more irresistible than the physical structures — they tell of prominent families, enslaved Africans and the making of America.

The purchase of a historic 17th-, 18th- or 19th-century estate is more than homeownership — buying one of these properties means you become a protector of and close witness to the past. You become the owner of a small slice of American history. This feature article highlights beautiful historic real estate for sale in the Charleston area, some recent transactions and what you need to consider if you own or want to own a historic estate. Just click through the following pages (listed at the bottom-right of this post) to learn more.