Inside the Heyward-Washington House

A few hundred years ago, John Rutledge was a big deal in Charleston. He was a political power player, American Revolutionary and U.S. Constitution signer. The home he built in 1763 for he and his young wife was converted to a historic inn just two decades ago. Rutledge and his contemporaries were like the equivalent of modern day celebrities. There were no flash bulbs and paparazzi then, but incredible records of their life and times in Charleston are left behind.

In celebration of the John Rutledge House 250th anniversary, Bulldog Tours (recently voted Charleston’s Best Tour Company!) pieced together a special tour to highlight Rutledge’s stomping grounds. In the upcoming months, we’ll offer a glimpse at a few stops on their specially-created Birth of a Nation’s Constitution tour. Follow along for some little-known facts about our inn’s history and learn more about landmarks like the Old Exchange Building, and St. Michael’s Church and graveyard, where John Rutledge is buried. For now, we’ll start by introducing a famous house on the tour route- one that’s just around the block from the John Rutledge House Inn.

Charleston is a city that has aged very well. Even its centuries-old homes and gardens have retained their original beauty. Along our tour route, the Heyward-Washington House stands out – for its architecture, beautiful setting, formal garden, and preserved kitchen house. And, just like the Rutledge House, its original owner played a pivotal role in American history.

Heyward-Washington House Charleston

The history behind the home at 87 Church Street is incredible. The home was named after two VIPs in Rutledge’s life- Thomas Heyward, Jr. and President George Washington. The three story brick building was a town home for Thomas Heyward Jr., a gift from his father. The city of Charleston rented the home for President George Washington (who Conde Naste Traveler named an ‘accidental hotel promoter’) for a week-long trip to Charleston. During this trip, the President stopped by 116 Broad Street to have breakfast with Mrs. Rutledge.

The Church Street neighborhood is marked by a skyline of steeples, cobblestone streets and pastel-colored homes, all a stone’s throw from the Battery overlooking Charleston Harbor. Its beauty is so profound, that Dubose Heyward set one of the country’s most iconic operas, Porgy and Bess, in the neighborhood. Though not officially recorded in Rutledge history, we imagine John and Thomas spent time at the Church Street home, chatting about American independence, of which they both fought tirelessly for.

Scenes from Heyward Washington House

If you plan a springtime trip to Charleston, we recommend you take another fantastic tour de Charleston, via the Festival of Houses and Gardens. Now in its 66th year, the Historic Charleston Foundation highlights historic neighborhoods and secret gardens with a series of downtown walking tours. You can see more of Rutledge and Heyward’s neighborhoods, with a tour down Broad Street on April 12th + 15th and Church Street on April 16th + 19th respectively.

The special Birth of a Nation’s Constitution tour is offered to guests of the John Rutledge House Inn. You’ll embark on the Birth of a Nation’s Constitution tour and return to the inn with a new found sense of appreciation for Charleston’s living history. The tour is featured in its namesake package, and in our Semiquincentennial Celebration Weekend and Steeping in History packages. Plan a trip to the John Rutledge House Inn and play your own role in the house’s ever-evolving history. Call us for more information at 800-476-9741.

Thanks to Charleston Museum for lending the beautiful photos!

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