Chinaberry (or Chinaberrie)
441 York Street, S.E., Aiken, SC
circa 1824;circa 1930
Signficant Architectural Features:
2 1/2 story weatherboard house on low brick foundation. Front slope of medium gable roof with boxed cornice is broken by a large shed dormer; a smaller wall dormer with shed roof interrupts the rear slope. Extending from the north end of the rear is a gabled, 1-story wing with interior chimney. Windows are double-hung sash, predominantly 9/9 lights on the 1st floor, and 6/9 on the 2nd. All but the rear windows and those in the front dormer are flanked by louvered shutters. Front: symmetrical; small porch with slender Tuscan columns shelters the central entrance, which features double doors, rectangular sidelights, & semielliptical fanlight; on either side of the front porch and 2 small windows above it in both the 2nd floor and dormer, are 2 windows. Sides: SE side characterized by a large, partially-stuccoed brick exterior chimney slightly to the right of the ridge of the roof, and a recessed porch in the east, comer; SE side probably once had a second exterior chimney, as does the gable end of the NW elevation. Rear: placement of doors and windows in the rear elevation and 1-story wing is irregular; at the north comer of the rear dormer is a 4th exterior chimney. Interior: central hall plan; the 4 main rooms of both the 1st and 2nd floors, with the exception of the kitchen, have high hand-hewn board ceilings, heart pine floors, wainscoting, 4' wide paneled doors, and wide baseboards; walls, which are covered with .plaster or paper, are said to be constructed' of wide pine boards; antique wallcovering in dining room depicts scenes of America; Federal-inspired mantels of varying designs are found in 5 of, the 8 original rooms. OUTBUILDINGS: L-shaped weatherboard building with gable roof & cupola (apts. and stable).
altered ; ca. 1930, J. W. Converse reversed the plan of the house, changing the front entrance from the NE to the SW side. Converse also added 3rd floor space. In the room now used as a kitchen, the original mantel has deen replaced, and the ceiling lowered.
Thought to have been built by Dr. William White Williams, who was influential in the decision of the Charleston & Hamburq Railroad to locate its route and to plan a town on his land. Andrew Alfred Dexter, who was in charge of the most difficult section of the railroad's route near Hamburg, boarded with the Williams family, and married Sarah Williams. Dexter is reputed to have layed out Aiken’s unusual town plan. During February 1865, it is believed that the Williams house was used as a headquarters for Confederate General Wheeler' cavalry during a skirmish with a detachment of Federal troops under Kilpatrick. In 1926, John Williams Converse of Pennsylvania bought and modified the Williams House for use as a winter residence. Converse, a well known polo player in the early days of the sport in the U.S., was a director of the Baldwin Locomotive Works partner in the Philadelphia banking firm of Cassatt & Co., director of the General Steel Casting Corporation and of the Bryn Mawr Trust Co., and was a trustee of the Drexel Institute of Technology. Converse is reputed to have installed Chinaberry's dining room wallcovering, which is similar to that in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.
Source of Historical Information:
National Register nomination, prepared in 1979-80.;Mrs. J. V. Burgess, & members of the Historic Aiken Foundation, Inc.
Aiken - City - Winter Colony Historic Districts Survey, 1982
Box 11, Series 108042, Survey of historic resources (county by county data on surface properties), circa 1971-2014