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Discover the John Rutledge House Inn, preserving the heritage of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Rutledge, while attending to the 21st century traveler.

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John Rutledge House Inn, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989, dates back to 1763.


One of the organization’s original charter members, the John Rutledge House in Charleston, SC has been a participant in Historic Hotels of America since 1989. The building is also incredibly historic, being among the few holiday destinations in the United States to be identified as a National Historic Landmark. And for good reason, too, for the John Rutledge House Inn’s heritage is deeply intertwined with the founding of the nation. As its name would indicate, the inn once served as the home of John Rutledge, a prominent jurist and politician who was instrumental in guiding South Carolina through the American Revolution. Rutledge himself constructed the quaint, two-story structure during the early 1760s, right when his career as a lawyer and politician was taking off in Charleston. Indeed, John Rutledge quickly emerged as a prominent colonial leader in the South Carolina legislature, organizing protests toward Great Britain’s various efforts to tax the colonies in the wake of the Seven Years’ War. A major opponent to the practice of “taxation without representation,” he even served as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress—one of the first attempts by the American colonists to assert self-governance. In fact, Rutledge was among the representatives to draw up the petition to the British House of Lords that demanded the Stamp Act’s immediate repeal.

Nevertheless, Rutledge remained committed to the idea of maintaining ties to the United Kingdom, arguing for reconciliation during the First and Second Continental Congresses. But when it became clear that the British intended to suppress all dissidence with military force, he accepted the cause of independence openly. Thus, in 1776, Rutledge returned to South Carolina where he helped organize its revolutionary government. While Rutledge was instrumental in forming the new state administration, he had serious misgivings about the character of its constitution. He was nonetheless elected to serve as South Carolina’s first governor, a role he held through most of the American Revolutionary War. The role posed significant challenges for Rutledge, who often had to safeguard the state from the threat of British attack. At one point, Rutledge even had to operate the government entirely by himself when the Royal Army captured Charleston in 1780. Fleeing into the backcountry, he organized a desperate defense of the state alongside famous militia leaders like Francis Marion until General Nathanael Greene liberated the state a year later.

Rutledge was also a central figure in drawing up the new federal system that emerged in the wake of the ineffective Articles of Confederation. A vigorous proponent for a strong centralized government, Rutledge was one of the more vocal delegates to the historic Constitutional Convention of 1787. He arrived bearing unique perspectives, supporting such proposals like a federal assumption of state debt, representation based on wealth, and the election of the President by Congress. Nevertheless, Rutledge’s general outspoken support of federalism earned him great influence and powerful allies—including the likes of George Washington and John Adams—resulting in his eventual appointment to the chair of the Committee of Detail. In this role, Rutledge helped draft the U.S. Constitution and became one of its signers when the delegates finally met to endorse the document. (Interestingly, his brother, Edward—who lived across the street—was one of the signers for the Declaration of Independence.)

When the Constitutional Convention ended, Rutledge returned to his native South Carolina to drum up support for its ratification. He then worked for the new federal government, first acting as a presidential elector before serving as a senior Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. After heading back to South Carolina once more to be a judge on its own supreme court circuit, Rutledge’s old friend Washington nominated him to replace John Jay as the nation’s Chief Justice in 1795. Since the Senate was on recess at the time of his appointment, Rutledge was allowed to briefly serve as Chief Justice for a few months. During his term, Rutledge’s court only saw two major cases—United States v. Peters and Talbot v. Janson. But his nomination would ultimately get repealed following critical comments he made about the then-controversial Jay Treaty. Rutledge subsequently retired from public life, living out his days in his beloved Charleston townhome. Today, the John Rutledge House Inn pays homage to this influential Founding Father, whose contributions to the formation of the nation have been invaluable.

  • About the Location +

    Named after King Charles II of England, Charleston is among the most historic cities in the whole United States. The first settlers to found the city arrived back in the mid-17th century, when the Lords Proprietors—the original officers for the unsettled Carolina territory—began moving colonists from Barbados and Bermuda to the area. Intent on creating a town as quickly as possible, the Lords Proprietors selected a number of sites around the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, before finally finding success at a place called “Oyster Point” in 1672. Despite intending to develop the settlement around a visionary plan known as the “Grand Model,” “Charles Towne”—as it was called then—was never incorporated until the American Revolution had ended. Instead, city officials passed local ordinances in the form of municipal laws that attempted to give some kind of legitimacy to the nascent community. Nevertheless, life in early Charleston was incredibly tough, as the town was beset by hostile groups of French, Spanish, and Native American armies. Pirates posed a serious problem, too, who raided the coastline frequently. In fact, Edward Teach—remembered today as “Blackbeard”—was among the pirates to harass Charleston regularly at the time. Furthermore, malaria and other tropical diseases took their toll on the English colonists, as did natural weather phenomenon like hurricanes.

    Growth only picked up once immigrant populations from Europe began expanding westward into the South Carolina interior. Their arrival also saw the city’s economic fortunes change significantly, as it rapidly emerged as a commercial port for the outlying farms that surrounded Charleston. Rice, indigo, and other cash crops were common exports transported into Charleston’s natural harbor, which helped make the city one of the most prosperous in the Thirteen Colonies. But the new maritime commerce had a considerable dark side, for the transatlantic slave trade had also played a role in Charleston’s rebirth. By the eve of the American Revolution, nearly half of the city’s population—some 11,000 people—were either enslaved Africans or their descendants. Still, Charleston’s size and prosperity as a port made it one of the largest cities in British America, as well as the principal point of entry for any person—free or enslaved—entering into the South.

    Charleston remained a busy port even as Great Britain continuously targeted the city throughout the American Revolutionary War. The city itself was eventually captured after British general Sir Henry Clinton successfully subjected it to a prolonged siege in 1780. Still, even greater economic prosperity awaited Charleston once Eli Whitney’s cotton gin made the cultivation of cotton an incredibly lucrative endeavor for local planters. Cotton soon became the primary staple crop shipped through Charleston Harbor right up to mid-19th century. But the number of slaves transported into the city increased dramatically, too. The local devotion to slavery made the city’s white residents committed to the concept of southern secession—an idea that became reality when South Carolina’s state legislature voted to secede following Abraham Lincoln’s first election in 1860. Charleston soon found itself at the middle of the American Civil War that followed, with the first shots of the conflict fired right within its own borders. Rebel militia under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard specifically bombarded the U.S. Army-occupied Fort Sumter shortly after Lincoln’s call for volunteers in April 1861. Four years of constant warfare came in the wake of the attack, which eventually destroyed much of Charleston and the rest of South Carolina.

    Charleston struggled to emerge from the conflict, as industrialists and other entrepreneurs chose to move their operations elsewhere. But in the early 20th century, Charleston underwent a significant cultural renaissance that sought to highlight the positive aspects of the city’s history and culture. New art and literature appeared throughout Charleston, while many historic structures were preserved for the first time. Race relations also began to improve, with local African Americans gradually gaining access to more rights and liberties by mid-century. Charleston now rates among America’s most diverse communities, as well as one of its most culturally vibrant. People today love traveling to the city to experience its many interesting historic sites, such as Fort Sumter, the Historic Charleston City Market, and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. But visitors also adore the wealth of historical architecture that calls Charleston home, giving it an incredibly gorgeous landscape. Many of those aesthetics—ranging from Greek Revival to Federal—reside within famous neighborhoods like the renowned Charleston Historic District. The Charleston Historic District was even designated a U.S. National Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1966!

  • About the Architecture +

    The John Rutledge House Inn stands as a brilliant example of American colonial architecture, a historic Charleston hotel in the specific subset known as “Georgian.” Architectural historians today generally define American colonial architecture as covering a wide berth, subdividing it into categories like First Period English, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and Dutch Colonial. But most professionals in the field believe that the aesthetics embraced by English—and later British—colonists to be the most ubiquitous, given their widespread cultural influence during America’s infancy. It dominated the architectural tastes of most Americans at the time, until the Federalist design principles overtook them in the 19th century. The style was especially predominant in New England, which quickly saw the creation of another set of two unique subtypes—Saltbox and Cape Cod-style. A different take of English colonial architecture appeared within the southern colonies, as well, which some experts refer to as “Southern Colonial.” The building style resembled the general trends embraced by other colonists in British America, although they differed in that they constructed a central passageway, massive chimneys, and a parlor. Nevertheless, all of the buildings shared strikingly similar qualities. American homes of the age were uniformly simple, and made use of either wood, brick, or stone. Rectangular in shape, they typically extended two to three stories in height. All of the formal parts of the home were located on the first floor, while the family bedrooms occupied the upper levels of the building.

    This simplicity was slowly modified by the arrival of Georgian-style architecture from Great Britain toward the end of the 18th century. Like their British counterparts, most of the America architects who specialized in Georgian architecture specifically embraced the great Andrea Palladio’s earlier interpretations of Classical architecture. As such, the first iteration of Georgian-style architecture was known as “Palladianism,” which encouraged proportion and symmetry based on exact mathematical ratios. Palladianism also embraced Palladio’s strict use of Roman-era stylistic themes. But architects across the United Kingdom began to loosen their observance of Palladio’s treatises as the 18th century progressed. Those artisans began to look more directly at the ancient buildings they sought to emulate, giving rise to the more ubiquitous Classic Revival (or “Neoclassical”) architectural style. Their new structures featured additional motifs from ancient Grecian societies, as well as a few from the likes of medieval Europe. Nevertheless, the style remained immensely popular, even spreading across the Atlantic to greatly influence the British Empire’s American and Canadian colonies. In fact, the Americans formed their own unique spinoff of Georgian architecture in the wake of the American Revolutionary War, which they called “Federal” or “Adams” style.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    George Washington, 1st President of the United States (1789 – 1797)

    William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States (1909 – 1913) and 10th Chief Justice of the United States (1921 – 1930)