John Rutledge, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, built this mansion for his wife in 1763, and she even entertained George Washington there in 1791. Today it is a luxurious accommodation within walking distance to many of Charleston’s great restaurants and shops. If you love American history, you will be completely satisfied. But, even those without that affinity will appreciate the inn’s comfortable grandeur and the perfect location for exploring the charms of Charleston.
Of the 15 homes remaining from the original 55 signers of the United States Constitution, John Rutledge House Inn is the only one where overnight guests are welcome, according to the owner based on his careful research. It is easy to see why this inn is a National Historic Landmark. John Rutledge not only signed the Constitution, he was also one of the original five Supreme Court Justices nominated by President George Washington.
According to a plaque attached to the house, subsequent owner P.H. Hammarskold altered the house in 1853 and added the elaborate ironwork in the front, which was designed by Christopher Werner. Both an eagle and a palmetto tree are incorporated into the design representing John Rutledge’s service to both his country and his state. After that ironwork was in place, the house sustained a direct hit from a Union cannon during the Civil War.
Originally, the home had only two bedrooms and was used primarily for the kind of entertaining befitting John Rutledge’s status as President of Carolina. In the years since 1763, the home was a private residence for the majority of the time before it was renovated and rented as apartments and was the site of the Gaud School in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Afterward, the building was used as law offices until 1983. Fortunately, it was only vacant for five years before being purchased with the intent of transforming it into a bed and breakfast inn.
Large and opulent guest rooms
Nineteen rooms are offered to guests of John Rutledge House Inn. You may choose among the opulent suites and enormous rooms of the original mansion or one of the eight rooms in the two secluded carriage houses behind the back courtyard. Two rooms in the Ashley Carriage House are the most wheelchair accessible because of their level entryway. Four rooms are designated as pet friendly, specifically for dogs.
All of the rooms feature period antiques, reproduction furniture, private baths, complimentary bottled water, cozy bathrobes and Tempur-pedic beds. Before you finalize your reservation, be sure to take into account whether there is a shower only or a shower-tub combination, depending on your needs or desires. Because of the historic nature of the buildings, no elevators are available, but staff members are quick to offer help with luggage if needed. Deluxe rooms in the main house feature 12-foot (3.66 m) ceilings, Italian marble gas fireplaces and original wood floors.
Parking in Charleston is a huge consideration. There is a small parking lot behind the inn for guests for 14 USD per night. Wireless internet access is free, and a nearby fitness club is available for a small fee.
A diner's choice for breakfast
Each night guests are asked to make their breakfast choices for the following morning and hang the request outside their door before midnight. The choices available are extensive. First, you can decide what time you want your breakfast with 30-minute increments listed from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The all-important coffee, however, is ready in the lobby beginning at 6:00 a.m. Then, guests choose where they want to eat breakfast: in their room, in the ballroom or in the courtyard.
Next comes the impressive menu. Guests circle desired beverages, ranging from juices to milk, coffee, hot chocolate or tea. Every day, hot and cold items may be selected such as eggs any style, omelets, French toast stuffed or plain and bacon or turkey sausage. But there are also daily specials, like chicken and biscuits on Wednesday, vegetable quiche on Thursday, shrimp and grits on Saturday or eggs Benedict on Sunday.
Miscellaneous selections can be made for toast, cereal, oatmeal, grits, croissant, granola, Greek yogurt and fresh fruit.
The next morning when you are ready, you just call the front desk, and breakfast appears where you want it and how you’ve ordered it. Compared to many bed and breakfast offerings, the ones at John Rutledge House Inn are unusually vast.
Afternoon tea, chocolates at bedtime and evening port
With the sultry Charleston heat starting as early as April, it is appropriate that iced teas and lemonades are offered in the ballroom for afternoon tea. During a recent visit, two savories and two sweets were also waiting to be enjoyed. All were prepared by Circa 1886 Restaurant. Brussel sprout puffs with strawberry sauce, smoked bass in tomato filo cups, apricot thumbprint cookies and chocolate ganache in tart shells with whipped cream were delicious and very special.
Port, sherry and brandy are waiting in the ballroom every evening, and each guest receives a nightly bed turndown service complete with a chocolate treat. All of these amenities combine to ensure guests have a pampered experience.
Unbeatable location for exploring Charleston
John Rutledge House Inn’s superb location on Broad Street is the perfect launching place for exploring Charleston. The parking lot actually opens onto King Street, so, depending on your mobility and physical fitness, it is possible to leave your car there and walk to hundreds of shops, restaurants, churches, historic cemeteries, Charleston City Market and even the harbor. Charleston is often referred to as “The Holy City,” so the churches are especially interesting, and the boutiques, art galleries and specialty stores on King Street make it a strollable paradise.
Well-known restaurants within a few short blocks include Husk, Poogan’s Porch, 82 Queen, Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub (which has nightly live music), Hank’s Seafood and Slightly North of Broad, to name only a few.
The Charleston City Market features artisans crafting sweetgrass baskets, one of the oldest and most beautiful products made by the Gullah people of African descent. Near the city market, you can also book a carriage ride to learn more about Charleston history while you pass numerous examples of the city’s distinctive architecture.
A place that combines the best of Charleston
Charleston has been referred to as “the friendliest and most welcoming city in America.” From my experience, John Rutledge House Inn embraces that philosophy as its own. The concierge and staff are friendly and extremely helpful to guests wanting to have the best experience possible in this hospitable Southern city.
The rooms and amenities are first class, and the breakfast goes way beyond what is offered in most inns. For a combination of history, comfort and convenience, it would be difficult to find a better lodging choice than John Rutledge House Inn.