The first residence to occupy the western lot at the southern foot of Meeting Street was built in the late 18th century by Sen. Ralph Izard (1741-1804). For its design, Izard engaged James Hoban, generally believed to be the architect of America's first White House, which was burned in the War of 1812. Unfortunately, Izard's house here burned as well a few years later..
Shortly thereafter, cotton factor George Robertson, a Scotsman with offices on Fitzsimons Wharf, built this grand three-story antebellum house on a high basement in the Italianate style popular in Charleston during the 1840s and '50s. It is constructed of Charleston's local grey brick laid in the Flemish bond style (though subsequent repairs made after the Earthquake of 1886 did not all maintain this style). A side-hall version of the Charleston single house plan boasting 12,000 square feet, it remains among the largest residences in the city's Old & Historic District and commands one of the most desirable views in Charleston overlooking White Point Gardens and the harbor beyond.
Its primary entrance on Meeting Street features a pair of striking double doors. Though the door frames are original, the glazed glass panels and cast-iron lanterns on either side are later additions. These doors open to an entrance hall on the property's northern wall, notable for its massive proportions. A wide, sweeping staircase rises 22 steps to the second floor. The balustrade curves at its base to form a bold S-scrolled newel. Both the staircase and floor are of original heart pine, found in abundance in the Lowcountry.
Another notable addition is the house's extended two-story bay, which over time began pulling away from the primary structure. Its southern-facing piazzas are masked in brick on their eastern side on all three floors, creating a very balanced appearance from Meeting Street.
South of the hall a pair of palatial rooms are joined en suite by a wide, arched opening and feature tall, wide windows which provide access to the piazza. The rooms' original decorations have been retained, including huge marble mantles in the arched Italianate style; wide moldings, cornices and baseboards; and ornate ceiling medallions indicative of the wealth generated by those involved in the cotton industry.
Robertson sold the house to Williams Middleton (1809-1883) in 1855 for $25,000. The Middletons lived here full time after their Middleton Plantation house was burned in the Civil War.
In 1870, the Middletons sold the house to the Ross family, wealthy Philadelphia merchants and shipowners, whose magnificent collection of Victorian-era art and antiques were displayed here. When the last family member, Mary Jane Ross, passed away in 1922 at age 90, her will stipulated that the house was to be tranformed into a museum featuring their collections in honor of her brothers who had served during the Civil War. That directive initiated a court battle that lasted 22 years and went before the S.C. Supreme Court three times before it was finally determined that the house and its collections were to be auctioned, with proceeds benefitting the South Carolina Medical Society, among other charitable organizations in both Charleston and Philadelphis.
The mansion was then purchased for $35,000 in 1945 by Minnie S. Carr, who also owned the property at 2 Meeting Street. Mrs. Carr converted the house into apartments while very carefully preserving and protecting its ornamentation and architectural elements.
Dr. John and Nancy (nee Dinwiddie) Hawk next purchased the house in 1961. Dr. Hawk was a local surgeon and Mrs. Hawk was widely known a woman of "purpose and drive," according to her 2008 obituary in the Post and Courier. Over the next 47 years, Dr. and Mrs. Hawk raised nine children here, and later entertained an additional 21 grandchildren during Sunday dinners and holidays.
During the Hawks' residency, the house's basement served for several years as the home of “Miss Mason’s School,” an elementary day school that later became Mason Preparatory School, which still exists today.
Following Mrs. Hawk's death, the property's sale generated local controversy when there was a request to divide it into three condominiums, with the kitchen house at 3 Meeting Street serving as a fourth. After heated debate, the request was allowed and its sale closed Sept. 2, 2015, for $4.2 million. The new owners, who maintain a residence in New York, undertook a nearly four-year renovation of the property.