Sandlapper Slept Here. . . .

Ann Harper's Bed & Breakfast, 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.

Charleston may have more bed and breakfast homes and historic inns than the rest of the state combined. In fact, Charleston has several bed-and-breakfast organizations (lodging agencies that can match your requirements with the appropriate private home).

My first Charleston stay ever was at Ann Harper's Bed & Breakfast, perfect because it's on Smith Street, just off the beaten path but within walking distance of - well, just about everything. This is a "Charleston single house," circa 1870. The narrow facade faces west; the street entrance opens to a southside exterior passageway; you enter the house from that side.

The guest quarters consist of a main bedroom and a side bedroom (great for parents bringing in prospective College of Charleston students for a look-see), with an unusual, L-shaped corner bathroom (deepest tub I've ever used) and a tiny sort of study with a small TV. I've never seen this configuration in a B&B. I didn't need it all, but I liked it a lot.

Ann is a Kingstree native who retired in 1977 from a career as medical technologist at the VA hospitals in Columbia and Charleston. One minute after meeting her, she's like family. She opened her home to guests in 1983. "So I feel like an old-timer at this business. A lot of the ones who were in it when I started have since quit. It's a business that comes and goes."

She enjoys it because "you meet some of the most interesting people in the world." They've included Lon McCallister, a movie star of the 1940s. And a man from the underwater research firm that has a submarine "that'll go deeper than any other submarine - and it's got a bubble on the front where you can sit and view the fish face-to-face." Ann took his picture the morning he left. When you stay there, she'll take your picture, too, for her photo album. You'll be archived alongside the rich and famous.

Her home is nice, cozy and above all homey, with high ceilings and family heirlooms. The antiques are practical. There's a collector's collection of cookbooks.

But now I have to tell you about breakfast. It's served from the crack of dawn until 9 am, at the guest's behest. My choice was shrimp and cheese grits. The meal begins with a dish of fruit in season (peaches and grapes, when I was there), then Ann's own sourdough bread toast, served with orange marmalade and butter. When you receive the main course, you can blend the shrimp and cheese grits or eat them separately. She seasons the grits with a dash of Tabasco and Worcestershire. The cheese is a sharp cheddar. It's quick grits, but she cooks it (them) 20-30 minutes. The shrimp are sautéed in butter.

Gotta go. Charleston beckons again. . . .

Ann Harper's Bed & Breakfast (56 Smith St., Charleston, SC 29401; (803) 723-3947) has one complex guest suite with private bath; $60-90. Infants and children 10 and older okay. Pets and smoking discouraged.

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