Rutledge House Memories

John Rutledge House
When I was first enrolled at old Gaud School for boys as a fourth-grader in 1961, classrooms were in the 1760’s John Rutledge House on Broad Street. This venerated Georgian structure had been home to Rutledge, who was a signer of the US Constitution, and was later remodeled with details added by the great Charleston iron master Christopher Werner. In the early 20th century, it was home to Robert Goodwyn Rhett, Charleston mayor and good friend of President William Howard Taft, who visited the house on several occasions, and it was here that Rhett’s cook, Henry Deas, created the famous she-crab soup as a treat for the President.
Not only noted for its great beauty and historic connections, the house famously survived the great fire of 1861, which literally passed by next door and ruined 540 acres of Charleston, with the Rutledge House only slightly scorched on its west side.
After all this, however, there came three years of young school boys who went to the extent of their creative and delinquent genius to forever change the old building. Exquisite parquet floors became scratch pads for initials, enchanting marble mantels were targeted daily with spitballs, hand-carved doorways were peppered by paper airplanes equipped with needle noses, time-worn iron railings rattled with outlandish yo-yo tricks, and classic staircases were lined with peeled bumper stickers turned upside down to stick on teachers’ shoes.
In the same spaces where a Constitution signed dreamed great thoughts and a President was hailed, the swish of rubber-band/ruler guns and the clatter of rolling “steelies” made the Rutledge House a challenging place…not to learn, but to see who could outdo the other in new, entertaining mischief.
Alas, the Rutledge House room with which I was most familiar was the second floor area reserved for detention, and I actually found myself there one Christmas Eve, writing “I will not release my ant farm in class” 250 times.
Gaud School moved out in 1965, and some people in the neighborhood swore that, from the old Rutledge House, they heard a gigantic sigh of relief

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