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Combining Style, Service and Southern Hospitality

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By Madison Freeman
One visit to Woodlands Inn provides a clear understanding of why its location has been considered a restorative retreat since the 1800s.

Located in the charming town of Summerville, SC, just a short drive from historic Charleston, Woodlands is among the most decorated properties in the world. Amid 42 acres of loblolly pines and landscaped gardens, you can enjoy a private hideaway as a personal guest in a beautiful, picturesque and welcoming home.

The list of awards is impressive indeed: It is one of only four properties in North America to hold the Mobil Five Star and AAA Five Diamond awards for both lodging and dining. Noted travel authority Andrew Harper rates the Inn as one of America’s top 20 hideaways, while Travel + Leisure has ranked Woodlands as number one in America for service as well as the best value of any Five Star or Five Diamond hotel in the country.

In June 2006, noted entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson purchased the property and now operates it through her company, Salamander Hospitality, which also manages Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club near Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL, and the under-construction Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA. Johnson set about refurbishing and refreshing all of Woodlands’ guest rooms and public areas, as well as adding modern amenities and a casual dining area called Pines. This work, which was overseen by the noted design team of ForrestPerkins, was completed in December 2008.

“The new dcor and design is spectacular,” says Bob Seidler, Woodlands’ general manager. “Our guests love the new twists on their old favorites.”

The setting is perfect for enjoying a variety of leisure activities. Guests can play tennis on the resort’s English red-clay courts, swim in the year-round heated pool, enjoy a game of croquet on the manicured lawn, bird watch, tour the area using one of the bicycles from the estate’s fleet of single-speed cruisers, or pamper themselves at the Day Spa. And, of course, with Charleston so close, guests can enjoy the area’s history, world-class golf, and famed shopping and restaurant scene.

“All of our leisure amenities make Woodlands a very popular group retreat,” adds Seidler. “Not only is there a variety of secluded meeting spaces, but our size makes it easy for small groups, including extended families and wedding parties, to have the entire property to themselves.”

Although the name “Woodlands Inn” dates only to 1995, the history of the property and area stretches much further back. Summerville originated as a “summer” residence for the first families of Charleston. Then, at an 1888 International Congress of Physicians in Paris, it was declared that the climate in Summerville was one of the two healthiest in the world for people with pulmonary disorders. Overnight, this tiny South Carolina village became a renowned retreat for the Northern elite to rest during the winter. Impressed by the area, Pennsylvania railroad baron Robert Parsons bought 100 acres of land in 1906 and constructed his family's winter home, known today as Woodlands.

In 1939, it was sold to Alan White, a noted botanist and internationally known chess expert. During World War II, White entertained servicemen with lavish parties on the estate, and Summerville's young ladies were invited to these well-chaperoned events that included tennis, dancing, singing and roller-skating throughout the main rooms of the house. White left the property to Ruth Gadsden, a local Summerville resident, who ran it as a small bed and breakfast until she passed away. Then, the building underwent 18 months of restoration and reconstruction to open as Woodlands Inn in 1995.

Today, the property features 19 guest rooms and suites which have been recently refurbished to incorporate a traditional Southern style with modern furnishings, oversized whirlpool baths and separate showers, working fireplaces, divine bedding, plush robes, sitting areas and an ever-changing assortment of pastries and confections at turndown each night. A combination of configuration and dcor means none of the spacious rooms are alike, and there is even a room on the third floor with a spiral staircase leading to a cupola.

In addition to its elevated level of service, Woodlands is perhaps best known for its stellar cuisine and extraordinary wine list in The Dining Room. As one of only a select group of Five Star and Five Diamond restaurants in the country, The Dining Room attracts patrons from all over the world to sample the delights of Chef Nathan Whiting’s daily-changing menu and to absorb Sommelier Stephane Peltier’s impressive vintage knowledge. Despite the lofty reputation that Charleston enjoys as a culinary destination, locals often say that “Charleston’s best restaurant is in Summerville.”

The Dining Room is widely known for its innovative, New American cuisine. Taking advantage of local ingredients, Whiting creates new menus every night that reflect the freshest seafood, game and produce of the season. As well as traditional four-and five-course menus, guests can enjoy an ultimate tasting experience at the Chef’s Table. Whiting and his talented team serve up an individually prepared culinary extravaganza, which can easily take four hours to savor.

“Our goal is to deliver a dining experience that ranks among the best a guest has ever had,” says Whiting. “From our homemade breads to our superior service, no detail gets overlooked. We want to exceed your expectations, and invite you to return as our friend, as well as our guest.”

And with an invitation like that, who wouldn’t visit?

For more information or to make reservations at Woodlands Inn, please call (800) 774-9999 or visit

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