The Roper House was acquired by Richard H. Jenrette in 1968, who has since filled it with classically-inspired antiques and art of the early 19th Century period. Unlike Mr. Jenrette’s other houses, Roper House bears few traces of the original owners. Robert William 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 Robert Roper’s wife, Martha Rutledge Roper, elected to sell the house.
The architect of this imposing house is undocumented, but some architectural historians have attributed its design to Karl Friedrich Reichert, a highly regarded German architect who was working in Charleston at the time on the new Charleston Hotel. Reichert studied in Berlin under Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Germany’s preeminent neoclassical architect of the early 19th Century.
The house stood empty during the Civil War as the area was subject to bombardment. In its roof, a cannon fragment still remains from a Confederate ammunition depot that was destroyed by approaching Federal troops. After the Civil War, ownership passed to the Siegling family who owned the home for 56 years. There was a devastating earthquake in 1886, but the 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 into the Depression years. Drayton Hastie, owner of Magnolia Gardens in Charleston, purchased the house in 1952. Members of his family, including his mother, resided there for the next two decades.