Introducing 'Miss Sayé's Charleston Mansion & Carriage House'
By Rob Young
Photos by Jim Somerset
How's this for an engagement present? Here, darling, I gifted you the Joseph Aiken House.
Built in 1848, the three-story brick home in downtown Charleston originally served as a wedding gift from Robert Martin to his daughter, Ellen Daniel Martin, when she married her second cousin, Joseph Aiken. Apparently, some things never change.
More recently, Dr. Jeffrey Neal gifted the Joseph Aiken House as a wedding present to his fiancée, award-winning Iranian-born actress Sayé Yabandeh.
The pair met in Aspen, CO., in December 2018. Neal was visiting to ski, while Yabandeh was on hand to play in a celebrity match during the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
"We first laid eyes on each other at the St. Regis Hotel," Neal says. "Her energy and magnificence are what drew me to her. Our connection was pretty immediate. Everything flowed naturally and smoothly—that's how I knew she was going to be the one."
“It was almost like divine intervention,” Yabandeh recalls.
"Ironically a woman walked up to our table the week that we met and said to him directly, 'Why haven't you married her? This is who you have been waiting for. If you marry this woman you will feel happy for the rest of your life,'" Yabandeh says. "We found out later that she was a clairvoyant who is well known in Aspen—Barbara Marks of Mystical Wonders. At the time I don't think either one of us gave it much thought, but looking back we both realize how right she was."
For his part, Neal made sure to watch Yabandeh play polo the next day.
"She was the first to enter the arena and she definitely stood out on her white horse, long dark hair with a lioness helmet, helicoptering her mallet in the air, yelling like Tarzan, and making the spectators go wild," Neal says. "I knew I had caught my star."
Later one evening they met a friend for dinner and connected. "We've been inseparable ever since," Neal says.
Ringing in a New Home
The couple’s engagement was officially celebrated during the 2019 St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship where Yabandeh was playing, nearly one year to date after they first met.
"It was a magical moment," Neal recalls. "I had been so excited to get to Aspen for Snow Polo, and now I was even more thrilled about spending the rest of my life with someone whom I've known from the beginning is the person I am meant to be with. Being back where everything first started has truly been special."
The home was another display of Neal's love for Yabandeh.
"When I purchased the home, I had a vision of making it a home for my family and had been dreaming of Sayé to come and bring her elegant touch to the home long before we met," Neal says. "The house was originally built as an engagement gift. In keeping with that tradition, I've gifted this home to my fiancee and we've renamed it, ‘Miss Sayé's Charleston Mansion & Carriage House.’"
Between their travels, the couple expects to spend their down time on the peninsula.
"We love Charleston and this incredible history that it holds. There is so much to offer here and it really gives us the down time that we need considering our busy lifestyles," Yabandeh says.
"We both travel frequently for work and missions and being able to spend time here in between the hustle and bustle is a true blessing."
Their generous traits also drew them to one another. Yabadeh's work involves helping underprivileged communities, and she also serves as the global ambassador to the Global Citizen Foundation and founder of her non-profit organization SayeOrg.com. Her work has brought solar panels and sustainability education to villages and orphanages throughout the world.
Neal's charitable endeavors include performing cleft surgeries on children in several countries. He attended the University of Virginia for his undergraduate and medical education. Neal also completed his five-year otolaryngology head and neck surgery residency at the Medical University of South Carolina.
"I've been involved with Cleft Lip & Palate surgeries since I was a third-year (medical student) in college. I first went on a trip to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with Operation Smile," Neal says. "There was a huge untapped demand at that time for these medical services in those areas. I saw lines of nearly a hundred people waiting to be seen by a physician. I really enjoyed the experience and went on a few trips after that. While I was in medical school, I traveled to the Philippines and spent two weeks assisting with cleft palate surgeries. That was what kind of pushed me to working in otolaryngology."
Notable Home Features
Neal coveted the Joseph Aiken House when he first lived in Charleston. He didn't really consider another residence.
"I bought my first property in Charleston during my residency and lived on Elizabeth Street. At the time it was the only place that I could afford. I fell in love with the neighborhood and would scope out all the historic homes in the area," Neal says. "From the day I spotted the Joseph Aiken House, I always dreamed of living in this house. To me, it stood out as the most historic home, and frankly, the prettiest, in the area."
The home's blend of style sets it apart.
"With the Joseph Aiken House, you have the Greek portico style in the front, the Italian loggia on the sides of the home, and then the Federal designed architecture in the back area with the carriage house," Neal says.
Yabandeh enjoys the home's natural elements.
"I've grown accustomed to the fast-paced life of living in Los Angeles and traveling around the world for work," she says. “This home allows me to connect with nature, which is so vital for me and the life we live. The maze garden is a beautiful place for me to tend to the plants and do yoga outside. The property really utilizes and enhances its natural structures around the home, making it a tranquil and zen environment.”
"I also love the drawing room. Dr. Neal and I have made it a custom to enjoy tea with each other every evening as we wind down from the day. It's become our favorite place to sit and talk and host guests for conversation. The room captures the light from the evening sunset so perfectly—it's my favorite room in the house!"
Neal admits the home needed a little "TLC" when he first bought it. But in time, it's approached perfection.
"The interior structures were pretty much intact, but there was some maintenance on the exterior and the property that we needed done," Neal says. "We redid the landscaping and made sure the carriage house apartments were updated and running. There were so many people involved in different areas. Over the years, we've had some incredibly talented people help us maintain and improve the property."