“This was my fourth grade classroom,” said one party attendee as he peeked inside the Elizabeth Grimke Room.
Opening the door a bit wider and stepping inside, he explained the room’s configuration, pointing out where the blackboard and desks once were. What is now a deluxe guest room at the John Rutledge House Inn was once simply a classroom inside Charleston’s Gaud School for boys. From 1961-1964, instead of travelers filling the rooms of the John Rutledge House Inn, students, teachers and classrooms occupied the space.
To kick off a celebratory year for the John Rutledge House Inn (our 250th anniversary!), we partnered with the Porter-Gaud School to host a reunion for the boys (now men), who attended classes at 116 Broad Street. This special and unique part of the inn’s past was commemorated with a cocktail party on Friday, January 25th inside our Signer’s Ballroom. The ‘Gaud School boys’ have grown into businessmen, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and many other fascinating members of the community.
The cocktail party was buzzing with stories.
The wife of a 1964 Gaud School graduate- a class whose commencement ceremony was at the Dock Street Theater- recalled a tale of the couple backpacking through South America early in their marriage. She remembers her husband being able to easily navigate and communicate abroad because of the Spanish he’d learned at the Gaud School.
Other men shared stories of football and recess in the backyard – an expanse that reached present-day Queen Street. A difficult site to imagine now, as boutiques, shops and homes have filled the space.
“I never made it upstairs – that’s where the older boys were” one guest explained. He went to class at the Rutledge House when he was just old enough to attend school. Of the home’s three floors, the bottom floor was reserved for the lower school. The higher floors had classrooms for the older boys and housed the library- a room which some attendees joked that they had quite gotten around to seeing.
This cocktail party was the first time many men had step foot in the house since their last day of school there. Their memories however, remain so vivid you’d have thought the bell just rang.
The Rutledge House’s current owner and inn proprietor, Rick Widman, welcomed the crowd and introduced the real highlight of the evening. The ballroom’s original pocket doors opened to the adjoining guest room to reveal a piece of Porter Gaud School’s “present.” The Trebletones, Porter Gaud’s 4th and 5th grade chorus, gave a surprise performance, singing a handful of tunes for the party. The fun, mischievous air that filled the house during their performance is surely reminiscent of the energy that filled the house just sixty years ago.
A big thank you to our friends at Porter-Gaud School and to all the party goers for sharing their school memories. We have many more celebrations planned – we invite you to visit this year and play your own role in the inn’s living history.