In 1906, Robert Parsons, a railroad baron from Pennsylvania, bought 100 acres of land in Summerville and constructed his family's Winter home, known today as Woodlands Mansion. The Parsons Family sold the property in 1939 to Mr. Alain White, a respected botanist and internationally known chess expert. The home served as hospice for his ailing sister, May. During the Second World War, Mr. White felt it was his patriotic duty to entertain servicemen with extremely lavish parties on his estate. Debutantes were invited to these well-chaperoned events to engage in tennis, dancing, singing and even roller skating through the halls and rooms of the mansion. Upon Mr. White's death, the property was bequeathed to Mrs. Ruth Gadsden, who lived in the house until her death.
After extensive restoration under the loving care of Deborah and Antonio Diz, the Gadson Manor Inn opened in 1986, but closed in 1989 and fell from public view. In 1993 the property was sold to Joe Whitmore, of New York and Martha's Vineyard, and underwent 18 months of restoration and reconstruction. In May 1995 Woodlands Resort and Inn opened to the public as a luxury inn and dining room. In June 2006, Sheila C. Johnson, CEO Salamander Hospitality, LLC, based in Middleburg, Virginia, purchased the Woodlands, and set about refurbishing and refreshing all of the guest rooms and public areas of the house, as well as adding modern amenities. A casual dining area called Pines was also added adjacent to the Grand Dining Room.
In September 2012, the property was sold to local businessman, Tom Limehouse.
"This rebirth allows Woodlands to continue its long and storied history of intimate gatherings and grand celebrations."
While many wondered what would become of the historic property, Limehouse chose to reopen with an emphasis on corporate events and weddings. "With Charleston's growing economy and thriving destination wedding industry, the demand for luxury event venues is increasing. The ability to reserve the entire estate for an evening, a weekend or longer makes Woodlands Mansion very attractive to both destination brides and corporate planners. This rebirth allows Woodlands to continue its long and storied history of intimate gatherings and grand celebrations," Limehouse said.
Accommodations are again available for overnight guests provided the estate has not been reserved for a private event. The entire mansion is still furnished as it was when a resort including the eighteen individually decorated bedrooms. Now, however, it combines those luxuries with the tranquility of a bed and breakfast creating what can only be described as a "casually refined elegance."
The Mansion itself is an ideal event space because of its wide variety of venue options, such as the grand dining room, private dining room, private board room, enclosed courtyard and large drawing rooms. Though Limehouse has no plans to reopen the restaurant, catering is available from a select list of Charleston's finest. Additionally, a separate Pavilion building with two adjoining covered porches, adjacent large brick patio and pond view can accommodate functions of 200 guests.
The possibilities are truly endless.