Steve and Marianne Harrison joke that their only experience with the South was seeing it from above on their way to Florida. But in early 1986, they visited a friend in Beaufort, South Carolina, and were almost immediately charmed by its pace and people. “For me, it was love at first sight, but for Marianne, it was probably love at 10th sight,” says Steve. Beaufort’s pull grew stronger, and in December of that year, the two New Yorkers with no hospitality experience—they’re fashion-industry veterans—bought and refurbished Beaufort’s Rhett House Inn, evolving it into a bed-and-breakfast now appreciated for its Southernness and service.
The Greek Revival mansion itself is full of history. Around 1820, Thomas Rhett, a wealthy statesman, built his summer plantation in town (a rarity), and later the building served as a Civil War hospital recovery center. While renovating, Steve and Marianne kept as many original features as possible, like the fireplaces and carved mantelpieces. In the early days, the couple did everything themselves, making guests feel like they were staying in someone’s home. Marianne made breakfast (French toast, five days a week), and the rooms lacked locks.
Nearly 30 years later, they still create the same comfortable experience. The 19 airy rooms in the main house and two cottages are furnished with antiques and bright traditional fabrics, and chef Beverly Mayo cooks her famous sweet-potato pancakes from a family recipe. Personal photographs of the couple and some of the inn’s many celebrity visitors—Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Sandra Bullock—dot the walls. “What we try very hard to do is to open ourselves up,” Marianne says. “We wanted our inn to be thought of as a Southern inn, so we bring warmth, hospitality, and charm into everything.”
Rooms from $279; 1009 Craven St.; 888-480-9530; rhetthouseinn.com.