A historic downtown lodging with close ties to some of the city's most prominent players during the American Revolution is up for sale.
The Governor's House Inn, also known as the Laurens-Rutledge House, is listed by the real estate firm Handsome Properties for $8.3 million.
The circa 1770 Georgian-style home at 117 Broad St. most recently changed hands in 2015 when it was purchased for $5.3 million by Governor's House Inn LLC, headed by Mount Pleasant attorney Karl Novak, according to Charleston County property records.
Novak said he saw it as an interesting business opportunity, and, over the past several years has devoted "tens of hundreds of hours" to researching the home's notable owners. From that research he compiled histories that are now provided in each of the inn's 11 guest rooms, which are named for prominent families and individuals with connections to the property.
The house was originally built for the wealthy merchant James Laurens on a site that was once an orange grove used as a popular outdoor music venue during colonial times. Laurens' brother, Henry Laurens, a wealthy planter and slave trader, was the president of the Second Continental Congress.
Henry's son John was also a well-known South Carolinian but, unlike his father, was an ardent abolitionist. John was also an assistant to Gen. George Washington and a close friend of Alexander Hamilton.
Novak said that James Laurens would have only lived in the Broad Street home for a very short time. Not long after it was completed, he moved back to England and started renting the house out to an attorney who became the home's most well-known owner: Edward Rutledge.
At 26, Rutledge was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. He served in the Continental Congress and later the State legislature and, in 1798, became governor of South Carolina. Rutledge lived in the Broad Street home until he died in 1800.
Largely because of its connection to Rutledge, the house is designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, a distinction that's meant to mark an "outstanding aspect of American history and culture."
The house has also been occupied by other prominent Charlestonians, like F.W. Wagener, who immigrated from Germany and was a successful entrepreneur. He built the Wagener Building at the corner of East Bay and Queen streets which, at the time of its completion in 1880, the News and Courier described as "a landmark in the history of Charleston trade."
For about a dozen years, from 1962 to 1974, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston owned the house and used it as a retirement home for nuns. After that, it was used as a private residence again for a little over two decades before being converted into a bed and breakfast.
Novak said he's in no rush to sell, but he is hoping to "find the right person" to step in as owner of the inn. In addition to his research, Novak said he's also spent most of his free time over the last four years doing work around the property.
All of the walls on the inside and outside of the house have been repainted, he said, and the majority of the interior walls have been re-plastered. The home had "seemed tired" when he bought it, he said, and he wanted to "bring the house up to what it deserves."
The property could continue as an inn — it first opened as one in 1998 — or it could be converted back to use as a private residence, Novak said.
The more than 8,000-square-foot main house features 12-foot ceilings and seven fireplaces. The inn has 11 rooms available to guests, but the city allows up to 14 accommodations units at the address. Altogether there are 12 bedrooms and just as many full bathrooms, according to the listing.
The main floor features a grand entry with a sitting area, a piano room, a parlor, a kitchen, an office and a powder room. The grounds include 14 on-site parking spaces and landscaped gardens.
Two of the guest rooms are located in the kitchen house, which was also built in 1670. Both suites have separate sitting areas and private piazzas.
Stays at the inn are sold for between about $300 to $445 a night, according to its website.