Today we’re sharing the blog spotlight with Emily Gerson from BedandBreakfast.com, a fantastic site which the John Rutledge House Inn and its sister Charming Inns of Charleston properties are members. Emily interviewed our Innkeeper, Kathy Leslie, to learn about our Charleston bed and breakfast’s special features and hear what Kathy loves most about being an innkeeper. Emily also gained some insider information on the John Rutledge House Inn’s upcoming 250th anniversary. We thank you Emily for such a fun feature. Enjoy, y’all.
Emily Gerson: How long have you worked at The John Rutledge House Inn?
Kathy Leslie: I’ve been here since March of 2002 and expect to be here for quite a bit longer!
EG: What made you decide to move to Charleston and take this job?
My husband and I started coming to Charleston sometime in the mid-90s. We just fell in love with the city. It’s such an incredible place. Everyone is so friendly; it’s so different from where we lived. I was in Toronto, so it was a huge move. My husband didn’t want to shovel snow anymore. I’ve always had a service orientation and finally decided to get into hospitality. I always felt like I had a calling to take care of people. If I had started earlier, I might have opened my own inn, but this is the next best thing. I treat the inn like it’s mine. I treat the guests like they are coming into my home.
EG: Can you tell me about the inn’s special history? I know it is about to hit a huge landmark.
KL: The house will celebrate its 250 anniversary in 2013. John Rutledge, builder of the home, was a signer of the U.S. Constitution. We’ve had presidents visit. We believe the Letters of Secession for the Civil War were drafted in the home’s original carriage house. When I started here, I didn’t fully understand the significance of the house. But as I’ve been here 12 years, it’s been amazing for people to come in and tell me about the house when it was a boy’s school, how it operated in the confines of the house, what rooms were used for administration. One woman even told me she used to live in one of our carriage houses.
We have Rutledge family members visit all the time. It is so exciting, because where else would I ever meet the descendants of someone so important? We had two guests here at the same time that were both descendants. I couldn’t manage to get them together at the same time to talk. One actually had a family tree with them, and it was incredible to see these documents. You’ve got a family with all of this history and they were so politically important, it’s really mind-blowing.
EG: What else sets The John Rutledge House apart from other bed and breakfasts in Charleston?
KL: Our location makes us stand out. We’re right on Broad Street, which divides the Historic District and the Commercial District. Everything south of Broad Street is where the old homes are—I don’t think anything was even built in the 1900s. We’re in walking distance of The Battery, from where you can see Fort Sumter.
We only have 19 rooms, which makes us one of the smaller inns and bed and breakfasts. We often compete against places like 400-room hotels, but we offer services that many larger establishments can’t offer. We have someone here 24/7 to print boarding passes and put together to-go breakfasts for guests with early flights. In the house itself, there are marble fireplaces and parquet floors, all different patterns with designs based on French castles. Every other floor pattern in the house is different. To even think of those floors being over 150 years old! Our parlor was John Rutledge’s actual library. We have a ballroom. We have photos of the front of the house when it was hit by a cannon in the Civil War.
The inn is historic and elegant, but it’s also bright and sunny and fun. Our guests don’t feel like they have to be quiet and sedate. We’re always laughing here. We have great staff, which is one of our big successes. Some of our staff has been around since our 1989 opening. I’m only the second innkeeper.
EG: What are some of your favorite breakfast dishes that the inn serves?
KL: The shrimp and grits are incredible. (You can get our Shrimp and Grits recipe here.) We get our grits from North Carolina and they are dynamite. On Sundays, we do a savory strudel with smoked turkey, pesto, and mozzarella cheese. I’ve never been a grits person because I’m not a Southern girl, but I saw a guest put brown sugar in theirs. I tried it, and it was really good! So Northerners should try their grits with brown sugar. It makes a big difference.
She-Crab Soup was first served at the John Rutledge House. President Taft visited, and it was asked by his staff that something special be cooked. Taft was one of the first foodies and enjoyed his food. Now it’s served all throughout Charleston. While it is not currently served at the inn, next year we’re planning an event around She-Crab Soup to celebrate our 250th anniversary.
EG: What are some of your best Charleston travel tips for visiting guests?
KL: Make sure you allow yourself enough time. There is so much to see here. We have plantation homes built in the 1800s where some families still live. There are places people don’t even think of visiting like Sullivan’s Island, home of Fort Moultrie which was fully functional through World War II. My guests also enjoy visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation. There is only one in the US, and we’ve got it! The plantation offers a great tour- you can actually see how the tea is grown and produced. It’s a different experience than walking around town looking at historic homes.
EG: Finally, what do you enjoy most about being an innkeeper?
KL: I get to meet so many wonderful people, many of whom come back often. We just had a comment from a guest who said they’ve been here five times. We have one guest who visits every year on December 26th and stays in the same room. We really get to know our guests. In some cases, they’re like family. Another thing I enjoy about being an innkeeper is problem solving. While it’s stressful for some people, I love it—it keeps me going. I don’t think I could just do a job by rote. It would be too boring. Here it’s different every day.
Charleston was recently voted ‘Best City in the World’ by Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards and the John Rutledge House Inn was named one of the Top 100 Hotels in the World! We’re beside ourselves. We know this is a great spot, but when others think it’s great, that makes it even better—definitely makes everything worthwhile.