The Vendue - A Historic Charleston Hotel
Our historic Charleston boutique hotel has as much of an interesting past as the city around it. Located in the beautiful French Quarter, our charming hotel started as an old warehouse used by French merchants. In fact, our name comes from the vendue masters (or auctioneers) who worked in the area.
The story of The Vendue begins with Samuel Prioleau. An aristocratic French Huguenot, Mr. Prioleau began his business in 1785 and catered to Charleston’s booming shipping industry. On the land he purchased from Thomas Roper, he built Prioleau’s Wharf. The port of Charleston brought in the most business, and Mr. Prioleau, like any sensible businessman, followed the money.
The original buildings welcomed sailors, merchants and bankers. Between loading and unloading the ships, sailors would look for a place to spend their wages, and Prioleau’s Wharf quickly became a favorite.
However, with the sailors came more unsavory activities. Over the years, Charleston’s elite tired of the unscrupulous lifestyle of the Prioleau Wharf’s patrons and began forcing the bars and their rowdy customers to less desirable areas than the stunning waterfront of Charleston. Prioleau’s Wharf evolved with the times. Instead of selling goods that would satisfy vices, the store began trading dry-goods to wealthy aristocrats.
When the Civil War came to Charleston, the trade dried up as a result of the Union blockade. Yet again, the business that would become The Vendue adapted as the people of Charleston spent less and less money. Prioleau’s Wharf became a warehouse, serving the blockade runners that kept Charleston’s shipping industry alive. Weary sailors looking for a place to stay soon encouraged the warehouse to add its first accommodations.
The bombardment of Charleston by the Union navy badly damaged the original building. A few years later in 1872, however, the building was rebuilt by Ms. Ann Ross as a two story stuccoed brick building, preserving the granite post and lintel system built in 1839. Charleston continued to recover after the Civil War, as did The Vendue.
Most of the buildings in the French Quarter were listed in the National Register of Historic Places prior to 1973 when a collection of mostly 19th century warehouses were saved from demolition by the "Save Charleston Foundation", a group of local citizens who conducted a national campaign to raise money for that specific purpose. The irreplaceable warehouses on Queen Street, State Street and Lodge Alley were then conveyed to developers who rehabilitated the properties into valuable commercial businesses.
Historic names have passed through the walls of these famous buildings, including America’s first female newspaper editor, Elizabeth Timothy. Guests can discover a plaque on The Vendue building, dedicated on March 14, 1983, in her honor. Even more famous names can be discovered when staying in the Inn’s historic suites, each one commemorating famous men and women of Charleston and South Carolina.
The Vendue offers more than just a luxurious hotel experience. With every stay, guests have a chance to explore the fascinating history of Charleston and the multiple, amazing buildings that make up The Vendue.