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.
Late afternoon wine and Brie, dinner at a Polynesian restaurant, watching a midnight thunderstorm roll in on the private second-floor patio, waking next morning to a knock at the door and breakfast brought to the room. . . .
Yeah, I could make myself comfortable at The Book & the Spindle, which faces the Winthrop University entrance across Oakland Avenue. Warren and Pam Bowen are wonderful hosts, and the night I stayed they had a delightful assortment of fellow lodgers: officials from the SC Arts Commission, a doctor and his daughter, and Andrew, a professional mime down from Greensboro to present workshops at a Winthrop summer program. Andrew - "He doesn't say much," Pam jokes - discovered this place five years ago and has become a regular guest, as have many others. Since opening in 1989, the Bowens have built a healthy clientele via word of mouth. With a regular procession of parents and academic visitors to the university, "we stay very, very busy," Pam says.
Warren, a Virginian, and Pam, a Georgian, both are industrial engineers. They met while working for Milliken in Spartanburg, where he was teaching and she was in training. They were married in 1981 and moved to Rock Hill in 1984. Though no longer full-time engineers, they still do freelance consulting while operating The Book & the Spindle.
The two-story brick house, which dates to about 1930, was built by William Clawson, "the" engineer at Winthrop at the time. From the beginning, its owners rented second-floor rooms to college personnel; during World War II part of the home served as a tea room and restaurant.
Each guest room is unique and warmly inviting. I had the Camden Suite, whose equestrian motif was conveyed by such items as a brass hunting horn, hunt prints, riding hat and crops. Like the rest of the house, the room is furnished with beautiful and functional antiques. It has a kitchen (full-size refrigerator, microwave, range, sink) and a small, canopied porch.
Next-door, the Glencairn Room (famous Glencairn Gardens is a short walk from here) bears lots of plaid and pays tribute to York County's Scottish/Irish settlers. Children's bagpipes hang on the wall between two wood-handled golf clubs. Across the room is a picture of Warren's family castle in County Angus, Scotland. (A painting on another wall depicts a castle that, as it turns out, is in Germany. Justifies Warren, "It's so damn dreary, it can pass for Scottish.")
Across the hall, you enter the Winthrop Room through a peculiar-angled antechamber. The bedroom offers a pair of French Victorian single beds and a beautiful English dresser. Curios include old hat boxes, one with a small Winthrop banner from decades past stuck on the top.
Last is the Charleston Suite, unlike any guest quarters I've ever seen. Difficult to describe - but on seeing it, you understand immediately why they chose the name. More an experience than a space, it's really a combination of three small chambers: the bedroom itself with a canopied rice bed, a narrow reading nook which once was a "sleeping porch," and a rustic kitchenette with a romantic wooden table for two. The tub in the bathroom is probably as old as the house and has an unusual solid base.
TVs and coffee makers are available in each room - out of view, in most cases. There is more than ample common area for guests, including the upstairs hall-way, downstairs living room and sun room, where Buster the dog likes to snooze near your feet as you munch hors d'oeuvres and sip wine.
The Bowens strive to present the ambiance of an English inn. "When we visited over there, we got very warm receptions wherever we went," Pam says. "Within 30 minutes after you hit town you've been told the best places to eat, places to walk, everything you want to know and more."
In England you can expect a breakfast of English muffins, heavy cream and fruit. Pam typically adds such South Carolina staples as cheese grits and sausage.
What about the name?
Mary Long, the public television hostess from Rock Hill, helped them pick it. It honors the university (the "Book") and the area's textile heritage (the "Spindle").
The Book & the Spindle (626 Oakland Ave., Rock Hill, SC 29730; (803) 328-1913) has four guest suites, each with private bath, $4863 per night. Smoking okay. Small pets okay. Children under parents' responsibility.