Photo courtesy of King Charles Inn
Charleston can be hard to categorize.
Some will see it for its classic Southern grandeur, manifested in gaslights and historic streets: Walk the battery and you’ll pass stones set in place by British soldiers before the revolution, along with a row of houses built by wealthy plantation owners before the Civil War.
Others will envision it for its more contemporary role as the capital of the new South—with a hip cultural edge and a devotion to the region’s unique style of dress, art and food. (Farm to table was practically invented here, if not perfected.)
The thing is, Charleston’s what you make of it: It’s a classic Southern town drenched in history and lore, but one emerging as the coolest city in the country.
You’ll find all sides of Charleston at King Charles Inn, a hip boutique hotel in the heart of the white-hot Upper King District with a rich history dating back to the early 1800’s.
A Piece of Holy City History
You might not realize it when walking into the polished (if somewhat small) lobby—with its half-flight winding staircase and marble floors—but this on-trend hotel dates back to Charleston’s antebellum gilded age.
Edgar Allen Poe stayed here, purportedly writing “The Gold Bug” during his stay in what was then the Pavilion Hotel while he served as a soldier in Fort Moultrie. (Originally built in the early 1800s, the Pavilion would be renamed the St. Charles and then the Argyle shortly before the turn of the next century. It was officially rechristened the King Charles Inn in 1958.)
Looking at the historic photos that dot the walls leading from the cozy den just above the lobby—with its roaring fireplace and overstuffed leather chairs—it’s easy to see that much has been done to the property in the intervening decades.
A solid bank of windows facing out toward Meeting Street was scaled back to allow for one of the hotels’ coolest amenities: a wide pool deck yawning out over Meeting Street. It’s the sort of gathering spot you’d expect from a big-city boutique hotel; the sort of inspired addition that typifies years of effort to keep the historic property current.
General Manager Maureen Sheridan outlined to me how the hotel’s transformation has been slow and deliberate, updating one area at a time to ensure everything was done right, with minimal disruption to guests. The pool, the on-site restaurant BREW Pub & Café (with its terrace open to catch the sunset), the parking down below: All were carefully added at a deliberate pace in deference to the property’s small footprint.
The result is a property that still carries the traditions and history of a 19th-century icon, but married to the aesthetics of the modern boutique.
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Old and New
If Charleston is a blend of the past and the South’s rising cultural cache, then the King Charles Inn occupies a spot at its crossroads both literally and figuratively.
Walk out the front doors and you’re on Charleston’s famed “Museum Mile,” letting you stroll through centuries of history in this storied city. A block south is Market Hall, with its rows upon rows of local vendors selling everything from spices to seagrass baskets. Head a few blocks north and you’re at The Charleston Museum.
Ah, but head west and you’ll find yourself on King, the epicenter of Charleston’s rebirth as the South's capital of cool.
Trendy eateries from the Butcher & Bee to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit call this area home, as well as high-end shopping from the likes of Aldo, Vineyard Vines and lori+lulu. In between, you’ll find the area’s most celebrated galleries, showcasing the area’s thriving arts scene.
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Accommodations at King Charles Inn smack of elegance, from extra-plush bedding to marbled granite in the bath.
My deluxe king did not have the cast iron tub that some of the more recently remodeled rooms claim, but it did offer a spacious balcony with outdoor seating. The blackout curtains along the outside are a nice touch, allowing you to essentially add a lounge to your room in minutes.
Views from the balcony looked down on the parking, but look up and you’ll find the hotel’s central courtyard is perfectly situated for Charleston’s lush pink sunsets.
Among the 91 rooms, the King Deluxe is the only type with a balcony, but the traditional suites—with everything from two double beds up to the junior suite with its king bed and queen sleeper—all enjoy the same luxury bath amenities as well as small touches like mini fridge, iPhone dock and free Wi-Fi.
Room rates run a little richer, but very much in line with both the amenities offered and the perfect location. Special packages sweeten the pot, offering everything from access to local history tours to theater and aquarium tickets.
Visit the website for more information or to book a room.