There is an art to amplifying a moment, which John Dewberry intimately understands. Whether as quarterback of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, manning his commercial real estate firm, Dewberry Capital, or transforming one of Charleston’s most iconic buildings into a five-star luxury escape, Dewberry isn’t an average player. The Dewberry is an experience and continuation of the past: of the land it rests on, the structure it occupies, and its new tale of exquisite accommodations, service, and first-class amenities. It’s the story of Dewberry, himself—his near-obsessive effort to include historical elements, artistic layers, and Charleston-only touches in every nook and marble-laden cranny—and his desire to honor his father, Gary Dewberry, by naming the hotel in his memory, as well as the fathers and daughters of Charleston’s former glory.
That past is alive and well inside (and out) of the hotel, where the catalogue of symbolic references and intricate details is almost as fine as a Carolina beach. Peeling back these layers isn’t necessary to enjoying the space, but, like being in the home of a careful curator, the surprises and special touches endear guests to the place.
Time & Again // From its midcentury throwbacks to modern-day accents, The Dewberry invites guests to revel in history while also making their own. The Dewberry boasts 155 rooms, 24 of which are corner suites called Charleston Flats.
The hotel occupies the former L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building, commissioned by President John F. Kennedy before his death in 1963. When Hurricane Floyd roared through Charleston in 1999, it damaged the property, which officially closed and stayed unoccupied, and decaying, for nearly a decade. Enter John Dewberry in 2008, who bought the building with the intention of transforming it into a luxury hotel. Though at times derided for the length of time he spends on projects, Dewberry got the last laugh, opening the five-star property in 2016—after a $77 million renovation—with Charleston’s upper King Street area hot and thriving. Its midcentury design, hundreds of floor-to-ceiling windows, and refurbished exterior embody The Dewberry’s formidable history and sterling future, all at once.
My room is a revelation. Upon entering the Charleston Flat, one of 24 corner suites in the 155-room hotel, I gasp. Late afternoon light floods the space, catching fire to golden-hued curtains and a prismatic chandelier, its 511 square feet nearly all windows and a western-facing view. What shocks me is the Citadel Square Baptist Church’s steeple right beside my room, seemingly so close it appears at arm’s length. Another steeple, that of St. Matthews Lutheran Church across Marion Square on King Street, is perfectly framed by my bathroom window, providing an apropos backdrop for the near-holy, deep-soaking tub right beside it.
That’s Suite // The brass bar of the award-winning Living Room lounge.
While pages could be written on the bathroom, crafted in marble that Dewberry and his wife, Jaimie, discovered in Danby, Vermont, my room’s added touches are certainly worth mention: a king-size bed enrobed in sheets by posh Irish linen company, Liddell; a sitting area (and liquor selection) straight out of Don Draper’s dreams, with Danish midcentury furniture and a television console co-designed by New York’s Workstead design shop and Studio Dewberry; and an elegant Stickley armoire with a clever story. The armoires in each room reflect seventeenth-century Charleston, when homeowners would be taxed per bedroom. Because bedrooms were defined based on closets, armoires became the fashion for hiding clothing while also keeping taxes at bay. Spartanburg artist Becca Barnet created the floral pattern on the armoires, with details of plants indigenous to Charleston and the South. Artists William Halsey, Douglas Balentine, Thomas Swanston, and more, feature throughout the hotel, each creator intentionally selected by Dewberry.
The Living Room, the hotel’s award-winning cocktail lounge directly off the cherry-paneled lobby, entices me out of my suite. Led by cocktail wunderkind Ryan Casey, the lounge, with salvaged wood flooring from a Virginia tobacco barn and Danish midcentury furniture, was recently named 2018 Cocktail Bar of the Year by Imbibe magazine, and it stands to reason, with its focus on dark liquor, hand-stamped ice cubes, and deft execution of both signatures and classics. I enjoyed two gin-based drinks along with a plate of deviled eggs, an option of several bar bites supplied by in-house restaurant Henrietta’s, where I had dinner later. In Dewberry fashion, Henrietta’s takes its name partly from Henrietta Rag (a daughter of Joseph Rag, on whose land the hotel now sits) and Mendel Rivers’s mother. Offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant is locally sourced and French-influenced—think exceptional steak frites by night and lobster omelets by day.
Steeple Chase / Catch a completely unobstructed view of the Holy City from The Dewberry’s rooftop just off the Rivers Room, which is named for the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, as well as the L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building, which the hotel now occupies.
Admittedly, it was difficult to leave The Dewberry, and I don’t mean for good. It was hard to break just for lunch, a walk down Meeting Street, and even for dinner at one of Charleston’s best restaurants. John Dewberry’s creation is the essence of Charleston sophistication and Southern hospitality—a hotel that feels like home and blissfully beyond it.
The Dewberry, 334 Meeting St, Charleston. (843) 558-8000, thedewberrycharleston.com