Consider Yourself Invited
Make yourself comfortable in Michael Bennett’s long-awaited Hotel Bennett – Charleston’s new living room on Marion Square.
It has been a few centuries since Charleston cut loose from monarchy, but this past January a newly crowned head rose to preside over the Holy City. Stretching skyward nine stories over historic Marion Square, Hotel Bennett is a paradox in the world of grand hotels. While on the one hand, it is as regal and elegant as any nobleman’s residence, on the other it welcomes visitors and residents alike with the warmth and hospitality of an old friend. That contradiction is no accident, and the fingerprints of the man behind the plan are on every detail that marries Old World European elegance and the charm of America’s most gracious city.
It took over a decade for the stars to align and set the course for hotelier Michael Bennett’s ambitious, upscale dream to begin the ascent to its present nine-story perch overlooking one of the South’s most historic cities. Built at 404 King Street on the site of the west wing of the old Citadel, which in 1960 became the home of the main branch of Charleston County Public Library, the building adjacent to Marion Square was iconic in the memories of generations of Charlestonians. Bennett purchased the site in 1994, but it was 2015 before the permits were all signed to allow construction to begin.
For Bennett, the location was everything. During the Great Depression, his father shined shoes nearby, and his mother, Virginia, who was born on Americus Street, also worked downtown. Though the hotel bears his last name, Bennett says it is a tribute to his parents and represents his family’s personal stake in downtown Charleston.
Bennett set the bar high for the multi-million dollar luxury hotel and set out to create a design that would offer equal comfort and convenience for guests and locals. From the King Street lobby, where a new generation of Charleston brides will undoubtedly stand atop elegant staircases to capture their special day, visitors step into the hand-painted history of Charleston’s 18th Century harbor, and first feel the embrace of Hotel Bennett’s hospitality, and a welcome that extends into the Grand Court Lobby’s seating areas.
In Hotel Bennett’s 179 guest rooms and suites, guests enjoy upscale accommodations that set a new standard for luxury, with custom furnishings that are a true reflection of the charm and grace of the city famous for its hospitality. Twice a day housekeeping service, designer pedestal tubs and luxurious linens guarantee a relaxed and restful stay, and many rooms offer balconies with spectacular views of Marion Square and King Street. The 9th floor, 35-foot-long swimming pool with sweeping views of Charleston’s cityscape and private poolside cabanas featuring luxurious day beds and individual televisions is a guest destination not to be missed.
For those seeking exclusive comfort and ease, The King’s Club provides a private oasis for their stay with meticulous service, distinctive amenities and exclusive access to the city. VIP treatment includes champagne at check-in, customized itineraries, a dedicated concierge, King’s Club access with stunning terrace views of King Street, and the Chef de cuisine’s food and beverage presentations throughout the day and evening.
Managed in a collaborative partnership with world-renowned Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Bennett is more than a hotel, it is Charleston at its finest, and an experience for visitors and residents alike. Locals are invited and encouraged to make use of the beautifully appointed “sitting rooms,” throughout the lobby, which are perfect for a small meeting, coffee with a friend, or simply as a place to relax and gather your thoughts. In the design phase, Michael Bennett called for the comfortable settees, thick rugs and artwork celebrating local scenes to give Hotel Bennett the feeling of “Charleston’s living room.” The gentle murmurs of conversations that drift from these areas are proof that the city has accepted his gracious invitation.
From the hotel’s signature lobby bar, The Plaza serving craft cocktails, shimmering oysters, Belgian frites and more of Executive Chef Michael Sichel’s selection of starters in the beautiful gathering spot, and on the terrace opening up onto Marion Square. Nearby, the enchanting two-story Gabrielle’s signature dining room experience delivers intimate spaces, fine wine, premium steaks and sustainable seafood on a menu derived from Chef Sichel’s European and New Orleans culinary background.
Across the Grand Court Lobby, Camellia’s Champagne Bar awaits those with discriminating taste, tastefully trimmed in pink marble reclaimed from the façade of the Public Library that once stood on the hotel’s site. In addition to Camellia’s extensive collection of bottle and by-the-glass offerings, champagne-inspired cocktails, caviar, ceviche, tartare, and a tempting dessert collection, the Faberge egg-inspired oval room also offers afternoon tea. With vintage elegance, Camellia’s provides a modern take on the time-honored tradition for ladies and gentlemen alike.
Adding to the European ambiance, La Pâtisserie, Hotel Bennet’s French bakeshop opens onto King Street early each morning, serving the Holy City’s fresh, handmade breads, sweet and savory pastries, alongside its full coffee bar. Guests may dine in or pop in for a delicacy to take along with them. Throughout the day, the sweets and sandwiches prepared by renowned French Pastry Chef Remy Funfrock ensure both authenticity and freshness, and the feeling of a brief escape to Paris.
Take the elevator to the 9th floor, where Fiat Lux’s rooftop bar and terrace offer a sight few have ever seen, with its sweeping birds-eye views of the Holy City skyline, Charleston harbor, and Marion Square. In the sleek and sophisticated bar, an extensive list of vodkas, local beer, and a Mediterranean-inspired dining menu are available all day, and in the evening the stunning space also offers pool access and bottle service.
When Michael Bennett opened the doors to his long-awaited dream, his goal was to share the vision with everyone who entered and to create a new and beautiful strand in the fabric of Charleston’s daily life.
Hotel Bennett is more than a hotel in Charleston – it is Charleston’s hotel. Consider yourself invited to make it yours.
By Susan Frampton