Throughout its history, the mansion at 20 South Battery has been known for its gatherings. Just last month, a historic marker was installed in front of it, naming it as the birthplace of the now 100-year-old Preservation Society.
Founder Susan Pringle Frost hosted the organization’s first-ever meeting in the house in 1920. About 50 years before that, Colonel Lathers of the Union Army made the mansion a place where U.S. senators and New Yorkers met with locals.
Now-owner Dr. Jack Schaeffer, a native Charlestonian and part-time Sullivan’s Island resident, hopes the property’s reputation as a host will continue under his guidance. He’s just spent 18 months restoring the 1843 mansion after buying it in 2018. It was reopened as an 11-room boutique hotel on Sept. 10.
While the coronavirus pandemic has put his plans for utilizing the house’s large ballroom on pause, Schaeffer said a large part of his “philosophy and vision for the house” is to fill it often with special gatherings and charity events.
“I love bringing people together,” he said.
It would be like “Great Gatsby Charleston-ized,” he said, referencing the literary character’s reputation as a frequent host for fine parties, though his planned functions are much more low-key than Gatsby’s: An annual literary festival, for examples, is planning to host a small number of guests there later this year.
Formerly called the Battery Carriage House Inn while under the ownership of the Drayton-Hastie family, the property now goes by its address, 20 South Battery. All guest rooms have been redone and outfitted with new amenities, like Smart TVs and redone outlets, and antique beds dated pre-1870, Schaeffer said.
It’s right across from White Point Garden. Schaeffer said he remembers taking walks there with his uncle as a kid and looking at the house. The restoration has been a “labor of love,” he said.
The mansion itself has been painstakingly returned to “exactly how it would have been” at its peak, he said. Guests will be able to explore the first floor and roam the gardens, which have also been revived. It’s going to take about three years, at least, Schaeffer guessed, for the gardens to fully develop.
Because of COVID-19 safety precautions, Schaeffer said, they had to make some changes. Their plans for a breakfast spread every morning were put on hold, and extra cleaning staff was hired. Items in the rooms are sterilized and wrapped in plastic in between stays.
“I like a good, basic clean room anyway,” Schaeffer said. “I’m a doctor.”
The property is Schaeffer’s first foray into any type of hotel business — he’s an optometrist with a practice in Alabama — so he’s handed over management to Hay Creek Hotels, a New Hampshire-based hospitality firm that has a few other Charleston boutique hotels in its portfolio, including Zero George and The Quarters on King.
They’re looking to appeal to “upscale weekenders, leisure travelers and group clientele,” according to a reopening announcement. Pieces from Charleston’s David Skinner Antiques are featured in the hotel, and some are available for purchase.
Prices have been increased to reflect the property’s updates, Schaeffer said. Room rates start at $469 a night.