The stories of South Carolina’s past come to life at historic inns across the state. From surviving the destructive forces of war to serving as residences for famous folk to offering respite to significant historical figures, these special establishments pay homage to bygone days and the people who occupied them. Here is a sampling of some of the state’s most historic inns, each steeped in old-school elegance and operated by proprietors who want to share their property’s particular history with guests. If you have a penchant for the past, book a stay and travel back in time while enjoying Southern hospitality and the luxury of modern amenities.
Bed & Breakfasts/Country Inns
Abingdon Manor, Latta
Proprietors: Mike and Patty Griffey
Construction of this stately country inn commenced in the early 1900s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was the home of wealthy planter James H. Manning, who served as Dillon County’s first state senator. The Greek Revival mansion features 40 columns, each sourced from trees on the property. Reminiscent of an English country estate, the inn has gorgeous gardens and seven opulent guestrooms outfitted with antique furnishings. It is a AAA Four Diamond property—a distinction shared by its on-site fine dining restaurant.
Bloomsbury Inn, Camden
Proprietors: Bruce and Katherine Brown
Nestled in the quaint town of Camden, the Bloomsbury Inn is an 1854 manor house with four glorious guestrooms. It was the home of author Mary Chesnut, most famous for her Civil War diaries, many of which were written from this residence. During your stay at the Bloomsbury, you can spend time reading all about Chestnut and her interesting observations while basking in the historical appointments and architecture of the inn, including the sweeping veranda where wine is served in the afternoon. At breakfast, you’ll be treated to a lively, comprehensive oral history of the home and town, courtesy of Bruce. The Select Registry property is routinely ranked in the top tier of bed and breakfast inns by travel writers, national magazines and tourism organizations.
Breeden Inn, Bennettsville
Proprietors: Wesley and Bonnie Park
Bennettsville attorney and farmer Thomas Bouchier built this gracious home in 1886 using profits from a single cotton crop. It was a gift to his bride, Shadie Townsend, whose father was a prominent member of the SC House of Representatives. He had gifted the land to Bouchier for the purpose of building the residence, which stood next door to Shadie’s childhood home. Originally reflective of the Victorian style, Bouchier hired English architect Ernest Vincent Richards in 1905 to make additions, including a columned, wrap-around veranda. The house is now considered an example of Beaux-Arts architecture and is named for the Archie Breeden family, who lived there from 1919 to 1973. Today, the property features four houses (including a renovated carriage house and cottage) and 13 well-appointed guestrooms. Antiques, architectural features and artwork impart a strong sense of the 1700s. Not only is the Breeden Inn listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but its lush grounds are designated by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat.
Chesnut Cottage, Columbia
Proprietor: Mary Sparrow
Mary Chesnut is once again commemorated at this 1850s home she shared with her husband, one-time U.S. senator General James Chesnut. A prolific writer and Civil War documentarian, she was a mover and shaker in her time, enjoying a well-connected social life. The cottage survived the infamous fire that ravaged downtown Columbia during the war. Legend has it that General Sherman, out of respect for James Chesnut, stopped the blaze before it reached the residence. The white frame home features arched windows, a columned porch and an ironwork balustrade. There are five elegant, themed guest rooms, each with a story to tell, as well as Civil War memorabilia and a library for those wishing to deepen their understanding of the turbulent times in which the Chesnuts lived.
Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens, Spartanburg
Proprietors: Pontheolla and Paul Abernathy
Clevedale’s original house dates back to the late 1700s. It operated as a 440-acre farm and was named by Jesse Franklin Cleveland, who hailed from a prominent family with deep English roots; notable members include Cleveland, Ohio founder Moses Cleaveland, and President Grover Cleveland. The current main dwelling is a colonial-style structure with a columned portico. It was built in 1913 as a wedding gift for Conrad P. and Louise Cleveland. The greenhouse and other outbuildings were erected to indulge the interests of their son, Conrad Cleveland, Jr., an enthusiastic horticulturist. He lived at Clevedale from the 1940s until his demise in 1985. The property changed hands a few times before being acquired by the Abernathys in 2012. It features three luxurious suites and six event venues.
15 Church Street B&B, Charleston
Proprietors: Jack and Annelise Simmons
This circa 1842 home is situated on property once owned by Revolutionary War officer Captain Timothy Phillips. Built by the prominent Yates family, it was used to house a Civil War hospital and endured four cannonball strikes. Two of the spent artillery now crown gate posts on the grounds. Thomas Pinckney is responsible for its Adam-style wall paneling and famous Charleston artisan Philip Simmons for its appealing ironwork. When the fourth story of the home was ruined in the notorious 1886 earthquake, it was renovated and a distinctive mansard roof added. Though small, this lovely home encompasses Old Charleston charm and features two spacious guestrooms infused with history as well as modern conveniences.
John Rutledge House Inn, Charleston
Proprietor: Charming Inns
This National Historic Landmark was built in 1763 during the American Revolution. The former home of SC politician and U.S. Constitution signer John Rutledge, this property oozes with history that helped define not only Charleston but the nation. It is said that Rutledge edited versions of the Constitution within the rooms of this home. From its kitchen, legendary African American chef William Deas is thought to have concocted the recipe for one of the city’s most famous dishes, She Crab soup, in honor of special house guest, President William Howard Taft. George Washington, himself, indicated in his diaries that he dined at the home in 1791, though it isn’t clear if he ever slept there. In 1836, the house was sold to the Right Reverend John England, Roman Catholic bishop of Charleston, and in 1902, Charleston mayor Robert Goodway Rhett assumed ownership. Today, the John Rutledge House is a boutique inn with 19 unique rooms and suites and two carriage houses, each exuding unparalleled history and refinements enjoyed by its guests, famous and otherwise.
Kilburnie, the Inn at Craig Farm, Lancaster
Proprietor: Johannes Tromp
The history of this property is two-fold: one part house and one part land. Kilburnie is the inn, a dwelling thought to be Lancaster’s oldest remaining structure. It was built in the Federal style in the 1820s by Joseph Lee, an area dentist, and in 1834 was bought by Ann Beard Phifer-Crawford, a recent widow. She named the house for her late husband’s ancestral home, Kilbirnie Castle, in Scotland. Over time, the spelling morphed into “Kilburnie” and the home underwent various architectural transformations under its new ownership, with the additions of a second story and piazza that imparted a Greek Revival look. The home changed hands a few more times over the years, becoming a rental property for a while and, at one point, undergoing a Victorian makeover. By the 1990s, it had fallen into disrepair and was saved from demolition by John E. Craig, Jr. and Johannes L. M. Tromp. They moved the home a bit north of Lancaster to Craig Farm, the 400 remaining acres of a land grant given to John E. Craig, Esquire, by King George III in 1772. The house has undergone meticulous renovations and regained many of its original features, including the ornate frieze on the walls of the parlor and breakfast room by SC artist Jim Shore. Five themed rooms are available to guests, who come to learn about Kilburnie’s rich history and soak in the pastoral beauty of Craig Farm.
Rhett House Inn, Beaufort
Proprietors: Steve and Marianne Harrison
The Rhett House Inn is a gracious plantation house that blends perfectly with Beaufort’s mossy live oaks and nearby historic district. Thomas Smith, who assumed the surname "Rhett” to honor a dying uncle’s wish for his family name to be carried on, used his inheritance to build a mansion in 1820. The 6,000-square-foot Greek Revival became known as the Thomas Rhett House and still boasts Adam-style mantels, ornate molding, a stunning piazza (which was expanded in the late 19th century) and “gibb” doors—distinctive for how they blend seamlessly with surrounding walls. As was the case with many such homes, the Thomas Rhett House was confiscated by Union troops and used as a hospital during the Civil War. Photographs from the inn’s collection document some of this history and give guests a visual of the many ways in which this stunning home has changed and remained the same. There are 20 gorgeous guestrooms spread among three buildings: the Rhett House Inn, Newcastle House and the Cottage, which once housed seminary students.