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The Chestnut Cottage Bed and Breakfast is located in Columbia, South Carolina, in the heart of the downtown historic district. It is a civil war home built in a southern cottage style. One thing the bed and breakfast is well known for is its extensive history. Not only did it survive the famous local fire that burnt down most of Columbia during the Civil War, but the cottage also served as the home for Mary Boykin Chestnut—a well-known historical figure who wrote the book "A Diary from Dixie." The property hosts five unique guest accommodations, each showcasing a different part of the house's history, as well as extensive backyard gardens, a front porch living area, and a Speakeasy room in the basement. Nearby, guests can visit a comprehensive list of attractions such as the local zoo, a national park, historic downtown, and the various shopping districts.
The Chestnut Cottage Bed and Breakfast is located in historic downtown Columbia, South Carolina. Built after a southern cottage style, it is an 18th-century historical civil war home. The house is 4,200 square feet in size and is two stories tall. The outside of the home is painted a light blue color with white trim and dark window shutters. Out front, small flower gardens line the walkway to the front porch—a covered outdoor living space lined with white columns complete with some lounging chairs, a porch swing, potted flowers, and hanging plants.
The backyard is a private garden comprised of expansive flower beds, a small grass area, and several trees. A small walking path trails through these and leads to a centrally placed gazebo. The gazebo contains several cushioned chairs surrounding a small garden table and is decorated with hanging plants and lights so that guests can enjoy spending time there after dark. Also in the garden is the carriage house which houses one of the guest accommodations on the property.
Other common spaces guests of the Chestnut Cottage Bed and Breakfast can utilize include a central living room with some couches and chairs and the attached dining room, which has a table for serving breakfast. Additionally, guests can go to the basement to the Speakeasy room. Here there is an abundance of memorabilia, books, music, and pictures that share the cottage's history and the local area. This is something the owner of the bed and breakfast, Mary Sparrow, has on display because she finds that many guests appreciate the history of the home. In the Speakeasy room, there is also a bar area guests can lounge or spend time in.
There are a total of five rooms located in the bed and breakfast. They are called the Mary Boykin Chestnut, the General Chestnut, the President's Room, The Carriage House Suite, and the Garden Suite. Though they each share a common historic inn theme with antique furniture, all of the guest accommodations are unique in their décor, layout, and personal history. For instance, the Chestnut rooms are named after the woman and man that first built and lived in the home back in the 1850s. Each guest accommodation also has its own private bathroom and places to lounge or relax. Some of the included amenities consist of fresh linens and towels, king or queen-sized beds, whirlpool tubs, jacuzzi tubs, and other basic features.
The Carriage House Suite is unique because it is located in its own private building—the carriage house in the backyard of the property. It has a jacuzzi tub, a four-post-full kiester bed, and vaulted ceilings. The Garden Suite also has its own private entrance accessible from the garden in the backyard. Both of the suites also come complete with a refrigerator and an in-room coffee and tea maker.
Breakfast on the property is included with each guest's stay and is served each morning. Reminiscent of how Mary Boykin Chestnut—the original owner of the house in the 1850s—ensured that her visitors were always well-fed, Mary also tries to provide that same service. Some of the dishes on the breakfast menu include eggs, bacon, waffles, pancakes, toast, biscuits, and grits. Mary describes her breakfast as a southern breakfast, something she says her more "Yankee" customers really appreciate.
The culture at the Chestnut Cottage that the owner Mary Sparrow tries to create is one of comfort and luxury, with the added charm of staying in a historic home. She wants her guests to feel comfortable and happy as they stay on the property, saying she does the best she can to make it work. One of the ways that she does this is by trying to always have a friendly face and interacting with the guests in a cheerful manner. Often she'll spend much of the morning, during breakfast especially, interacting with the guests. This is something many of her guests mention they appreciate in reviews and to her personally. One such review reads, "We enjoyed our stay very much. Our hostess, Mary, was the epitome of southern hospitality. She made our stay interesting and one to remember. We stayed in the carriage house suite with its own private outside entrance. The room & accommodations were all that we could have asked for."
Guests often mention the breakfast they were provided during their stay. The historic nature of the Chestnut Cottage is another thing that Mary finds many of her guests enjoy and find interesting. She mentioned that many people love "the charm" it provides. One guest who appreciated the history of the cottage said, "Mary is a perfect host. She is attentive, charming, and fun. The cottage is a rare treat in that not only is it classy and cozy; it also has a fascinating history to it. The accommodations are comfortable and elegant. The breakfast was delicious."
The Chestnut Cottage is unique because it is the only bed and breakfast in Columbia, South Carolina, according to Mary. She describes it as "one of Columbia's best-kept secrets." Because of this, many visitors to the area find the cottage. There is also an abundance of returning guests due to the property's longevity as a place of lodging. The typical demographic of the bed and breakfast are couples, primarily because each room can house only two people. Mary mentions that beyond this, however, the demographic is very varied and that she gets all sorts of guests coming to the area for different reasons. A unique policy of the bed and breakfast is that they are pet-friendly.
Another aspect that adds to the culture of the Chestnut Cottage Bed and Breakfast and makes it unique is its location. Mary describes Columbia as being very comprehensive in many cultures, such as being a university town, an army base town, an artistic town, a government center, an industry town, and an ideal way stop for people traveling through. Because of its central location in the historic downtown Columbia, she also says that many of her guests find the Chestnut Cottage to be an ideal home base for "hitting up the town." One guest, in particular, who stayed at the bed and breakfast said it's in "a great location for seeing Columbia-which is a gem of a city in every way; restaurants, shopping, cultural events, and beautiful places to walk, to name just a few."
Some specific attractions nearby that Mary recommends to her guests are the State Museum, which exhibits the culture, history, and geography of South Carolina, and The Columbia Museum of Art, where guests can peruse paintings, glass and pottery sculptures, furniture, and other art pieces on display. Also nearby is the Congaree National Park, which has an abundance of nature walks in the woods and hills of South Carolina, and the Riverbanks Zoological Park and Gardens, a nationally recognized zoo famous for its endangered species and animal care. Guests wishing to learn more about the history of the area can visit Historic Columbia—the district the Chestnut Cottage resides in.
Within walking distance of the Chestnut Cottage is the West Columbia Riverwalk walking path that runs by the river, and Columbia's Main Street, a place lined with restaurants, a movie theater, and other shopping places. A popular activity guests of the cottage can participate in on Sundays is the Soda City Market. Happening every week, the market hosts a variety of vendors in a traditional European-style street market. A specific place Mary recommends her guests go and eat at is her own restaurant, the Oyster Bar—a "local hangout" that serves steamed or raw oysters, scallops, shrimp, and beer.
The Chestnut Cottage Bed and Breakfast has been in business for nearly forty years, opening in the mid-1980s. The current owner and hostess of the premises is Mary Sparrow, who has owned the inn for three years. She bought it from the previous owner and founder, who ran the bed and breakfast for more than thirty years. Before purchasing the property in 2018, Mary was a real estate broker. However, she decided to enter into the lodging industry because she wanted a place to live that would pay for itself and because she loves to interact with people. Since her time there, Mary has made many upgrades. These changes have primarily been renovations to the rooms of the property in an effort to provide guests with all the modern amenities expected in bed and breakfasts. During these renovations, however, Mary tried to make sure to preserve the historical nature of the home—something it is well known for.
Despite being in business as a lodging place for over thirty years, the Chestnut Cottage itself is nearly two hundred years old. It was initially built in the 1850s and served as the cottage home to General James Chestnut and his wife, Mary Boykin Chestnut. These people are whom the cottage gets its namesake from. Mrs. Chestnut is well known in Columbia and South Carolina as a historical figure. It is said she was well-versed in leading men and women, and was a woman of intelligence and wit. She is primarily famous for the book she wrote called "A Diary from Dixie." This book details the feelings and thoughts she had during the Civil War, as she lived in the cottage and her husband served as a general.
One story of the property that many guests find to be quite interesting is how it survived a famous local fire that destroyed most of downtown Columbia during the Civil War. The fire was started by General William T. Sherman and reduced much of the historic city of Columbia to ash. However, the general decided to stop the fire before it reached the Chestnut Cottage due to his respect for General James Chestnut. Because of this, the cottage and the surrounding neighborhoods are some of the only historic buildings still standing in downtown Columbia today.
Historical Civil-War Cottage
General James Chestnut & Mary Boykin Chestnut