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Discover the Dewberry, a Charleston luxury hotel which once functioned as a federal office building.

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The Dewberry, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016, dates back to 1964.

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A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016, The Dewberry is among the most luxurious boutique hotels in all of Charleston, South Carolina. Nevertheless, this fantastic holiday destination has not always been a beautiful retreat. On the contrary, The Dewberry once functioned as a sprawling office complex for federal employees. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson specifically commissioned the architectural firm “Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle and Wolff” to construct the first federal structure in Charleston since the end of World War II. The company subsequently designed an ornate, seven-story skyscraper that featured a brilliant blend of Mid-Century Modern architecture. Their approach proved to be peculiar, since the other local contemporary structures had borrowed heavily from the more historical aesthetics that defined Charleston’s iconic downtown core. The firm nonetheless succeeded in creating a stunning office complex that quickly became a beloved landmark among the residents. When construction finally concluded roughly a year later, the Johnson administration decided to name the location as the “L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building” after a noted local congressman named Lucius Mendel Rivers. (Rivers himself had a distinguished political career, representing Charleston in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past three decades.) The office building nonetheless stood as a celebrated symbol for President Johnson’s progressive domestic agenda known as the “Great Society.”

The L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building was proudly occupied for the next 35 years, until Hurricane Floyd caused considerable damage throughout the structure. Abandoned shortly thereafter, the historical structure faced an uncertain future. Thankfully, an Atlanta-based real estate developer named John Dewberry saved the building nine years later. A part-time Charleston resident who had spent part of his youth in the city, Dewberry resolved to restore the structure back to its former glory. He subsequently spent the next several years thoroughly restoring the L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building, transforming it into a wonderful hotel. At the same time, though, Dewberry and his team had also managed to resurrect the erstwhile office building’s amazing Mid-Century Modern architecture, thus, preserving its rich architectural integrity. On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, “The Dewberry” finally opened its doors as Charleston's newest luxury hotel. The LEED-certified Dewberry now offers 155 luxurious guestrooms, and features a Southern brasserie, a timeless living room bar, multiple event spaces, a fitness center, and even a spa. Located near Marion Square in downtown Charleston, this fantastic historic hotel is in walking distance to the iconic historical landmarks, renowned restaurants, and many other different kinds of cultural attractions. Settled deep within the renowned Charleston Historic District, The Dewberry is sure to satisfy the imagination of any cultural heritage traveler.

  • 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 +

    When the architectural firm “Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle and Wolff” originally built the L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building on behalf of the Johnson administration, it chose the aesthetics of Mid-Century Modern design as the source of their inspiration. An offshoot of the earlier International and Bauhaus movements, Mid-Century Modern essentially sought to portray a seemingly contemporary, futuristic aesthetic that reflected the popular concepts of civil progress. Professional architects mainly utilized the style from the 1930s to the 1960s, when American society was rapidly undergoing huge transformations—both social and technological in nature. Architects thus embraced the design ideals of function, simplicity, and rationality in order to create sleek-looking structures that possessed a communal purpose. As such, Mid-Century Modern designs made explicit use of vertical, flat lines and irregular rectangular shapes that conveyed a lack of formality. Overt ornamentation was abandoned, too, as monochromatic brickwork, steel, and concreate served as the essential building blocks for the exterior. Inside, most of the rooms were subdivided into split levels, giving a sense that the structure had undergone a significant change in elevation. Modernist buildings also featured wide, open spaces filled with natural light that represented practicality and comfort. Large widows often functioned as the primary way in which the architects achieved such a feature. The introduction of spacious windows even sought to better incorporate nature into the design, making the surrounding landscape seem as if it were part of the building itself.


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