Like a ‘lady of the night’ I am here to lure you into the world of hotels, hoping to catch your imagination. If I could take money from you for the pleasure of these ramblings, I would. You see, I have become a little obsessed about a small, boutique hotel in the Central Historic District of Rocky Mount. I have even picked out the Masonic Lodge Building figuring I could sweet talk the owner, who I haven’t met yet, into becoming a hotel magnate. I fantasize that he will say YES to my simple request to get involved and turn his building into a hotel, a reasonable decision, don’t you think? This ‘lady of the night’ business all started after reading how important the renovation of the Hotel Poinsett was to the revitalization of Greenville, SC. (I keep telling you how one thing leads to another in my research; I got interested in historic hotel architecture and architects.)
I had no idea there was a Ricks Hotel or The Cambridge or The Alton in Rocky Mount until I thought to ask John Jesso if there had ever been a fine hotel here. The post card photograph above brought tears to my eyes. “You mean it is gone, as in GONE?” I am getting ahead of myself….first, buy me a glass of sweet tea at the Poinsett which has become a center piece in the revitalization of downtown Greenville, SC. This will warm you up to the subject of remembering The Ricks Hotel and the need we have today.
The Westin Poinsett Hotel is a twelve-story, landmark hotel in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Built in1925 by architect, William Lee Stoddart, the architectural style is Beaux-Arts; Skyscraper. It was built at the end of an era during which small Southern cities demanded quality hotels to attract business travelers and symbolize their new urban status. In the 1950s, city hotels lost business to motels, which were located on major highways rather than in the urban core. The city closed the hotel in January 1987. The hotel was considered one of the most endangered historic structures in South Carolina. In November 1997, Steve Dopp and Greg Lenox, developers of the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston (also designed by William Stoddart), purchased the Poinsett and acquired a franchise from Westin Hotels. The project received about $4 million in tax dollars, and Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits were awarded as part of an approximately $20 million restoration. The rest of the story about The Westin Poinsett, which reopened on October 22, 2000, is fascinating, and proves how important it is for Rocky Mount to have a version of the Ricks Hotel. Meet me tomorrow for Part 2 as we honor the past and think of the future.
PS: Charles Dunn is posting wonderful hotel pictures mentioned in this post on Way Back When Facebook page. Adding link.
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