Heyward-Washington House ©Author Adventures

Heyward-Washington House, a Charleston Tradition

This 18th century house in Charleston, South Carolina, was once owned by Thomas Heyward, a signer of the US Declaration of Independence. Later, it was briefly the childhood home of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who became early vocal abolitionists against slavery. Years later, it was the home of writer Dubose Heyward.

Dubose Heyward

Dubose Heyward (1885-1940) is a 1920s poet, author, and librettist who is a descendant of Thomas Heyward. The home is now known as The Heyward-Washington House. Read about its history at www.nationalregister.sc.gov/charleston/S10817710014. Arrange a visit through charlestonmuseum.org.

Fee-based tours of the elegant estate are conducted in small groups by guides who explain the history and significance of the home and its residents. After the tour, visitors are welcome to tour the grounds independently in order to see the quarters of the enslaved persons who once lived there and adjacent gardens.

Dubose Heyward is best known as the author of the novel entitled Porgy (1925) and the libretto of Porgy and Bess, which is considered to be the first major US opera ever published. The music for the folk-style opera was composed by George Gershwin. While Porgy and Bess has weathered controversy, it continues to hold a unique place in US music history. The original cast included Leontyne Price and Cab Calloway.

Porgy and Bess exhibit included in George Gershwin exhibit at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC ©Author Adventures
Original Porgy and Bess program included in George Gershwin exhibit at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC ©Author Adventures

The Grimke Sisters

Approximately one century earlier, Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke (1805-1879) lived in the same house in their youth. While their rooms on the top floor are not accessible to visitors, some of their childhood belongings are on display on the lower floors. The sisters, whose father was a state supreme court judge, published abolitionist pamphlets and spoke out against slavery while traveling along the East Coast.

The Grimke sisters are the subject of the bestselling novel The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Read more about the Grimke sisters at the website of the National Women’s History Museum at https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies.

Heyward-Washington House Slave Cabin ©Author Adventures


The Heyward-Washington House is on our South Carolina Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart