Sandlapper Slept Here. . . .

Twenty-Seven State Street, Charleston

by Dan Harmon

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Sandlapper Slept Here" is a column that appears in each issue of Sandlapper Magazine, featuring bed-and-breakfasts and historic inns throughout the Palmetto State. Here's an example. If you find it interesting, you may want to peruse our back issue listings for information about previous columns.

You would think that in a city with as many bed and breakfasts and historic inns as Charleston, a city so broadly renowned for its history, culture and ambience, the innkeepers might assume certain airs. But I haven't found that to be true. In fact, Paul and Joye Craven, proprietors of Twenty-Seven State Street, are two of the friendliest people I've ever met. They seem to have a positive response to every situation that arises.

For example, ask them their policy regarding guests with children - a touchy subject in a business wherein you're opening the doors of your elegantly appointed home to strangers.

Joye's answer is gracious, tactful and immediate. "We love to have well-behaved children."

And they're having a ball. "This is truthfully a fun thing to do," says Paul. "It's a lot of hard work, but you meet the loveliest people from all over the world."

The home is two blocks from the harbor in the old French Quarter of the original walled city. (That's the sector approximately bounded today by Market Street on the north, Broad on the south, Meeting on the west and the waterfront on the east. Charleston, by the way, was the only English walled city in America, Paul notes.) On the next block is the French Huguenot church from the 1600s. All around you in this part of town, the feeling is . . . well, historic. "I never get tired of walking the street and envisioning what it was like 300 years ago," Paul says.

The image isn't lost to filmmakers, who've used Charleston in the past as the location for period movies. A few weeks after my visit, State Street was scheduled to be a set in the CBS movie Scarlett; the Cravens' B&B; was to be a brothel in the film.

You enter the breezy courtyard through an iron gate and ascend to your quarters via a marble exterior stairway.

And what quarters! All the dimensions are extra large. My suite consisted of a spacious living room separated by massive sliding doors from the bedroom. I had my choice of two queen-size rice beds. Oriental rugs on the hardwood floors, lavish (and comfortable) antique and reproduction furniture, richly colored drapes and old portraits took me far back in time. A collector's set of Stoddard's Lectures and several Dickens classics were to be found in the picture windows. The cypress paneling in this suite is as old as the house (about 1800).

The suite includes a kitchen, although an ample breakfast is prepared by Paul. You can dine in your room, but in fair weather it would be a shame not to take breakfast out on the breezeway, overlooking the verandah and the street below.

The other suite across the way is similar, sans kitchen.

Paul and Joye are excellent sources of tourist information. Bikes are provided to guests, although there is plenty to see within easy walking distance.

The Cravens were among the first B&B; operators in Charleston - but not on State Street. In the 1970s they began keeping Spoleto Festival visitors in their home. Then they opened the Sweetgrass Inn, the city's fourth B&B.; The Sweetgrass now is the restaurant part of the Vendue Inn.

They moved temporarily to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but retained their Charleston home. When they returned, they switched property with Morton Needle, who now owns the Vendue Inn. They opened their first suite here in 1990.

Paul, who is director of corporate and founda-tion relations for the College of Charleston, comes from a long line of Charleston harbor pilots. Joye is from Greenville, where her grandmother kept a boarding house; later, her mother ran the Ware Shoals Inn.

Undoubtedly that explains her conviviality as a hostess. After all, she says, the B&B; industry consists of "people who enjoy being with other people." Twenty-Seven State Street (27 State St., Charleston 29401; 722-4243) has two bed-and- breakfast suites, each with private bath, and three short-lease executive suites; $115-165 high season, $85-155 low season. Well-behaved children okay. No smoking inside. No pets.

Twenty-Seven State Street (27 State St., Charleston 29401; (803)722-4243) has two bed-and-breakfast suites, each with private bath, and three short-lease executive suites; $115-165 high season, $85-155 low season. Well-behaved children okay. No smoking inside. No pets.

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