History of the Thomas Smith Rhett House, CA. 1820
The Rhett House Inn parlor’s beautifully carved mantel piece.
Among Beaufort’s ethereal canopy of Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss and coated with Resurrection Fern is a nearly 200 year old “in-town plantation house”. The Thomas Rhett House is a short walk from the historic district shops and world class restaurants, and the Inn has been in operation since 1987, slowly expanding to surrounding properties several years later.
Click the above image for a brief history of the South Carolina Lowcountry, Beaufort, the Thomas Rhett House Inn and the Rhett House Inn. (pdf)
With his newfound inheritance, Thomas Rhett was able to build this fine 6,000 sq. ft. Greek Revival mansion, with a two story wrap around piazza just one block from the Beaufort River. The house is adorned with Adam-style decorative mantels and dentil mouldings that remain today. The mantels top the four original fireplaces remaining in the main house. The fireplaces in the Parlor and Dining Room are wood-burning and used regularly during the winter, inviting guests curl up with a good book next to the fire. The other two fireplaces are in upstairs guest rooms.
Guests step on the piazza through gibb (sometimes spelled gib, and pronounced “jib”) doors. These doors, original to the home, are made from 8 foot windows that lift above and door bottoms – similar to a Dutch doorway – that are disguised as part of the wall, but open outward to the veranda. History has two stories for why these doors were built: some speculate it was because of a tax on doors, thereby motivating architects to disguise doors as windows to lower tax bills; others say the doors simply open up the house for better air flow, since most Gibb doors face the waterway.
Page from “The Works in Architecture”
by Robert Adam
Seven of the Inn’s rooms are found in the Cottage just across the street from the back of the property. This building, was built in 1846 as a store for freed slaves to buy and sell goods. It later became a school, then dormitory-style housing for seminary students. In 1996, Rhett House Inn owners Steve and Marianne Harrison bought the two-story building and renovated it into 7 additional guest rooms, all with fireplaces, whirlpool baths and separate showers.
Sabal Palmetto fronds detailing.
Overlooking the garden is a large room that typically serves as the bride’s room, a honeymoon suite or a great spot for anniversaries. In the 1980’s, when the Harrisons were just starting the inn – after successful careers in the New York fashion industry.
Room 10 was their bedroom while they operated the other five rooms. About 12 years ago they built a home at the back of the inn that blends perfectly with the rest of the neighborhood with its red tin roof.
Oak with Resurrection Fern.
Steve and Marianne Harrison have transformed a group of buildings with their own charm and history into the breathtaking Rhett House Inn. In the 25 years that the Harrisons have owned the Inn, is has been the location of many celebrity visits, celebrations, and countless weddings, including that of the Harrison’s daughter Elizabeth who was married there in 1997.