Experience History & Hospitality
By Charlene & Richard Mixa
As one of America’s best loved travel destinations, Charleston, South Carolina boasts a vibrant culture, rich history, exquisitely-preserved architecture, and a celebrated dining scene all with a welcoming southern hospitality. We agree with travelers who named Charleston the “South’s Best City” in Southern Living 2018 South’s Best Awards.
Arriving at 8:00 PM, we quickly check-in to the John Rutledge House Inn. Dating back to 1763 the Inn’s luxurious restoration from a bygone era offers 19 elegant rooms and suites. At the top of the stairs, the John Rutledge Suite, a two-bedroom, 900-square foot suite with 12-foot high ceilings, features a spacious bedroom with a canopy bed and expansive living room, formerly the library. The suite has Italian marble gas fireplaces, period antiques, reproduction furniture and a spacious modern bathroom with whirlpool tub and walk-in shower. Massive original wood doors separate the sleeping and living areas. Flat screen TV’s in each room, Tempur-Pedic beds, Wi-Fi, and mini-fridge add the modern conveniences for today’s travelers. Located in Charleston’s Historic District, the Inn is steps away from enchanting, historic, and vibrant Charleston.
Just a short walk from the Inn is 82 Queen Street, one of Charleston’s oldest and most celebrated restaurants. Luckily, it’s open late! While the restaurant spreads throughout three buildings, we opt to dine in the turn-of-the-century courtyard under a mammoth Magnolia tree. Boasting gracious Southern hospitality and fresh local cuisine the intriguing description of the Chef’s Special, Soft Shell Crab and Shrimp in a cream sauce with diced tomatoes, spinach, Vidalia onions over cheese grits, makes it our choice. Flavors abound in this tasty dinner with its tantalizing sauce.
Back at the Inn, we savor delicious chocolates with the turndown service, as well as, complimentary evening brandy. Sipping brandy, we learn the history of John Rutledge. A historical figure, John Rutledge served in both the First and Second Continental Congress, was a signer of the United States Constitution and was President of South Carolina. In fact, the Inn is the only home of a signer of the United States Constitution that is now a living national historic landmark and a grand inn. Now we can boast that we slept in the bedroom of a signer of the Constitution and South Carolina’s only President.
Perfectly clear Carolina blue skies greet us as we delight in our made-to-order gourmet breakfast on the Inn’s upper porch. With comfy walking shoes we’re off to follow cobblestone streets and alleyways of the Historic District. Next door is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist a magnificent structure of Connecticut tool-chiseled brownstone. Inside the church has gleaming white marble and beautiful stain glass windows. The rose window is the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist. A walk down Meeting Street is like reliving history in this oldest city in South Carolina. Here the city’s peninsula features homes that range from pre-Revolutionary War and Antebellum to Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Victorian that were added in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. The fragrance of Confederate Jasmine waifs in the air as we stroll admiring the huge side porches for which Charleston is known, elegant entrances, manicured formal gardens, intriguing fountains, and window boxes bursting with color. Each home is unique yet still abides by the preservation requirements.
Meeting Street ends at the Battery, the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula with a scenic promenade and historic park. The Battery is a fortified seawall where the Ashley and Cooper rivers empty into the Atlantic Ocean. White Point Gardens, initially a prominent landmark used as a public garden in 1837, with the outbreak of the Civil War, became a city fortification. Despite its macabre history with pirates and hangings, the Garden’s gorgeous trees and benches are welcoming in this relaxing setting with expansive water views of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor, while the pristine historical homes bring images of Charleston in its prime.
Continuing our self-walking tour along East Bay Street we pass the remains of the original wall that surrounded Charleston. A photo stop is Rainbow Row, the name for a series of thirteen colorful historic houses in Charleston, that represent the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States. Charleston’s Waterfront Park with its Pineapple Fountain, lush grounds along the river, and large splash pad has a wharf that extends into the Cooper River offering sheltered swings to kick back and relax. Giggles abound with tots running in and out of the splash fountain. Arriving at the Charleston City Market featuring several hundred artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs, we find a wide variety of handmade crafts and more. From the infamous Sweetwater baskets to jewelry to foods, any shopper will delight in the options at the City Market. My Fitbit shows our leisurely stroll through Charleston covered over 5 miles so it is time for a rest.
Refreshed we head down King Street, one of America’s most visually spectacular avenues. Running from Charleston Harbor to uptown, King Street has three sections rightly known for shopping opportunities — the Design District on Upper King, the Fashion District on Middle King, and the Antique District on Lower King. Since1670 King Street has been a central pathway for its settlement and growth as an important retail destination. Today over 190 local businesses make their homes on King Street. Here we find just about everything from used books, religious shops, design, fashion and antiques. After a few purchases and more “steps” we are ready for the afternoon “Informal Tea” at the Inn. Delicious appetizers provided by Circa 1886, a noted restaurant in Charleston, are excellent. Sitting on the upper veranda we delight in these treats. A favorite is the cranberry pecan, broccoli salad on crostini with aged balsamic.
After a day of walking the Historic District, the City Market, King Street Fashion District, and delightful afternoon treats, we are seeking only a light dinner. Meeting at Market is a new upscale sports bar with a modern decor and plenty of TV’s for sports enthusiasts. We finish our evening in Charleston with a relaxing walk as we watch the city transition from daytime to nighttime activities. Meeting Street is blocked off for a culinary event, restaurants are opening, visitors and locals are strolling to selected eateries, and music is in the air. To us Charleston epitomizes being a “living museum.”
If you go:
Charleston Area Convention, 423 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401
John Rutledge House Inn, 116 Broad Street, Charleston, SC 29401
Note: The John Rutledge House Inn is one of four Charleston’s Charming Inns, which includes the Fulton Lane Inn, the Kings Courtyard and Wentworth Mansion. These Inns bring an enchanting blend of history, hospitality, culture and even cuisine. We recommend visitors check out these various Inns to see which meets their preference. Additionally, look for specials that include tours and dining with a stay.