By Alia Akkam
When we pulled up to the imposing mansion, I gave the cab driver a more lavish tip than usual. Since he was dropping me off at the Wentworth Mansion, one of Charleston’s most luxurious properties, I felt a little guilty that he had to get back to work while I was in for a generous amount of pampering. The first thing I noticed upon climbing the steps and opening the heavy door to the mansion were the beautiful stained glass windows, glinting in even the partial sun. I planned to gather my light bags and head up to my room myself, but as one employee told me with a stunned look upon her face, “This is the Wentworth. No one schleps here.”
And she was right. The Wentworth Mansion (149 Wentworth St., 1-888-INN-1886; wentworthmansion.com), a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is a place you go to be taken care of. It is an historic home recalling old-world glamorous Charleston, where Scarlett O’Hara would have felt at ease on holiday. Walking down the sweeping staircase, you feel a little bad for wearing something as common as jeans, and that it would almost be more appropriate swishing down each step in a petticoat.
Built in 1886 for Francis Silas Rodgers, a wealthy cotton merchant, he had more than enough room to keep his 13 children comfortable. After his death, the house became a Scottish Rite Temple and, most recently, served as the headquarters of Atlantic Coast Life Insurance. It must have been one sumptuous spot to come to work every day, because it’s clear the Wentworth is meant to be a home. The Wentworth doesn’t feel like you’re in a hotel, but rather that you’re being put up for the night in a friend’s mansion (albeit one with 21 bedrooms).
Dark, elegant decor captures a grand Southern past with mahogany, oak, walnut, lovely tiled floors, and crystal chandeliers. Up on the fourth floor, a spiral staircase leads to the romantic cupola with the most amazing panoramic views of Charleston. One can only imagine how many flustered men have bent down on one knee to pop the question in this serene spot. I was in Room 13, a large, dark, ambient room with a king size bed, a sprawling bathroom with a whirlpool and a gas fireplace (most rooms have these amenities). Lying on my comfy settee, which easily could have doubled as a bed, I stared up at the high ceiling and intricate moldings in awe. For Room 13 at least, there’s no need to pack an eye mask. No blinding light seeps through the shuttered windows, so waking up at 8 a.m. felt like the night was still young. The rest of the property is just as inviting. Guests gather in the parlor to read the paper and drink complimentary coffee in the morning, savor an afternoon cup of tea, or, at cocktail hour, grab a glass of wine and taste canapés like salmon cakes with fennel cream.
Circa 1886, adjacent to the mansion (843-853-7828; circa1886.com), should be a stop on any Charleston fine dining circuit. I still can’t stop thinking about the tomato cobbler, bursting with juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, the appetizer that satisfied me more than my antelope loin entree. In the mornings, breakfast is a low-key continental spread, but you must make room for a slab of freshly made wheat bread, toasted to perfection by Miss Betty, the most precious, affable little lady who’s been working at the Wentworth for ten years now.
Although I did not get to sample the Wentworth’s intimate spa this time around, it scores points for its authentically rustic atmosphere, set in the mansion’s old stable. Another boon for me was its location, set back a few blocks from all the action. While some tourists might fret it’s not right on bustling King Street, I personally loved the hushed neighborhood and the walk to get to the shopping district, passing by lovely homes and part of the College of Charleston campus.
If you can spring for the two- room Grand Mansion Suite on the ground floor, with its original Tiffany chandeliers, you’ll be in the same spot where Reese Witherspoon spent her wedding night with Ryan Philippe. Even though the marriage was doomed, we bet Reese is still thinking about her bed at the Wentworth.
This story originally appeared on itravelishop.com.