Beloved landmark. Photogenic backdrop. An example of fine Southern hospitality for nearly 200 years. Welcome to the spirit of Charleston. At The Mills House, the threads of history are inter-woven with the irreverent, passionate heart of the modern South. In a thriving city that’s full of Southern charm and rich in history, our pretty pink hotel fits right in. Yet is a real stand-out.
A Rich History of Charleston’s Beloved Pink Landmark
1836 – Local businessman Otis Mills purchases a private home from Mary Grimke on the Corner of Queen & Meeting Streets with plans to develop it into a grandeur hotel.
1852 – Mills commissions architect John Earle to reconstruct and revise the property to create a hotel that he could be proud to have bear the Mills name. Two stories were added and it becomes the first structure in Charleston to have both running water and steam heat.
1853 – The newly constructed Mills House Hotel costs $200,000 to build and opens to the public. It’s termed “the finest hotel south of New York City”. During these early years, The Mills House was a beacon for innovation and modern tastemakers. This month we celebrate some of these stories. Joseph Rainey – one of the most influential freedmen in Charleston and the first African American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives – operated his barber shop on the ground floor of The Mills House. Professor Jerry Thomas, widely considered the father of the modern cocktail (the creator of the first “fire” show cocktail and the Tom Collins!), was a bartender at The Mills House’s Best Friends Lounge.
1861 – The Mills House withstands the flames of Charleston’s Great Fire. Guests, friends and family desperately fight the flames from the hotel windows and save the structure. The Mills House also withstands the destruction of the Civil War but continues to slowly to decline.
1901 – President Roosevelt stays at the hotel while attending the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition.
Early 1900s – Ownership changes in the early 20th century, and The Mills House becomes known as the St. John’s Hotel.
1967 – New owners from New York City purchase the hotel, with the intent to restore it, but find that the structure was unsalvageable. The owners form the Charleston Associates, a company comprised of local and national investors who rebuilt The Mills House. The famous iron balconies were salvaged, and two more floors were added to the design. Plaster artisans who still performed the traditions of their ancestors were bought in to duplicate ceiling, chandelier, and archway moldings.
1970 – The Mills House reopens as Hyatt at The Mills Hyatt House
1983 – The Mills House becomes the Holiday Inn Mills House Hotel
2013 – The Mills House becomes The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel
2017 – The Mills House is sold to the current owners, RLJ Lodging Trust and becomes operated by the current management company, Davidson Hospitality.
2022 – The hotel completes a reimagination of the entire hotel, including new dining concepts, renovated guest rooms and the addition of premium suites, while maintaining the old-world charm and warmth for which Charleston is known. With the renovations, The Mills House transitions to Curio Collection by Hilton as the portfolio’s first hotel in South Carolina.
2024 – We cheers to 171 years of The Mills House! Thank you for being part of our history!