Meetings at The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston

Meetings at The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston
As a member of the Historical Hotels of America, the The Francis Marion is one of the oldest hotels in Charleston with her first grand opening in 1924. Today, she shows her age just a bit, but historical sites normally do. This is a lovely and historical place to host a business meeting and for the right price.

The last time I visited Charleston on business, I must say, I had a bigger budget to plan the event. I had stayed in a hotel in the heart of the town which wasn’t in the budget for my most recent trip. Therefore, we had to scale back a bit and I relied on my right hand assistant Amy Leece to find another venue. Although I am a bit leery of choosing a hotel simply from the pictures on the internet, the Francis Marion seemed quaint and regal. Most importantly for us, the price was significantly less for multiple rooms and a conference room than at other hotels in the area that could offer the southern charm I wanted to enjoy.

Upon check in, we were greeted in the ornate lobby that drips with history. It felt oh so Charleston. I almost expected the staff to be in seersucker suits. I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything less in the space that served as the social hub of Charleston in the roaring twenties. The lobby was restored in 2008 after a long period of economic ups and downs. It barely survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and the hotel actually served as a refuge to survivors and construction workers during the aftermath.

I booked a deluxe room at this hotel. Honestly, it was a bit smaller than I had hoped. But then there was the view! The water looked magnificent and right as I looked out at it, a tall ship under full sail passed right by. I proceeded to unpack and realized that the bathrooms were terribly small. I forgot to fill out the suggestion card when I left, but if I had, I would have recommended that they add a floating shelf to one of the walls to help fit toiletries in and around the sink. Then I discovered that there was a second bathroom in my room. Two small bathrooms are still not as good as one large one.

For my meeting, I hosted about 10 people that included colleagues and technical people with equipment. A woman named Karen Swedrock helped us with all of our reservations including the conference space we utilized. The rate was very reasonable and Ms. Swedrock was happy to upgrade us to a conference space on the Penthouse level for the same price. We were given the Bridgeview room. Ms. Swedrock seemed very enthusiastic about making us happy. The room consisted of a conference table, a sitting area with a sofa and chairs, a flat screen television, and a full size kitchen. The space was catered with coffee, sodas, water, candies…the usual. The kitchen allowed us to also place drinks in the fridge to keep them cold, especially for those who don’t like ice.

The only real complaint I had (and my colleagues shared) is that the room was sweltering when we first arrived. Yet customer service at the hotel was very helpful and the problem was handled promptly. The Bridgeview conference room had an even better view than the room I stayed in with a panoramic view of the waterfront and part of the city. The conference room was located on the top floor so the higher vantage point made the view even better.

The restaurant onsite is called the Swamp Fox, a nice southern name. We ate lunch there during the trip and we were very pleased. The menu consisted of a nice mix of southern cooking and some healthier fare that won’t send your cholesterol through the roof. Of course, since I grew up in the south, I had to take advantage of the southern tasty bites lest I not have an opportunity to return for a while. Half an Oyster Po’ Boy sandwich and a cup of She Crab soup did the trick. I halted on the fried okra and cornbread. I like to keep some semblance of a girlish figure and since I had no time to visit the gym, I exercised my better judgment and resisted my southern gastronomic vices.

Again, this hotel is considered historic. If you are looking for the fresh and modern atmosphere of a chain hotel like a Hyatt or a Ritz, this might not be the venue for you. But something about it, despite the need for a painting touch-up here and there, gave the space a comfortable lived-in feeling with a lot of southern charm. The staff could not have been friendlier and more eager to help. If you choose to take advantage of this charming hotel, don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you need, they are there to help you with whatever you need.

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