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Reflections by Sammy Way: Visitors found lodging in grand Sumter hotels

By SAMMY WAY
Sumter Item archivist and historian
Posted 4/26/20

This is the second article in a two-part series about how hotels in Sumter helped contribute to the city's growth in the 1800s and early 1900s. Part one was published in the April 18-19 weekend edition of The Sumter Item and can be read at …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: Visitors found lodging in grand Sumter hotels

Posted

This is the second article in a two-part series about how hotels in Sumter helped contribute to the city's growth in the 1800s and early 1900s. Part one was published in the April 18-19 weekend edition of The Sumter Item and can be read at www.theitem.com. This article used data from The Sumter Item archives and information obtained from the writings of Dr. Anne King Gregorie and Miss Cassie Nicholes.

The Sumter News ran an advertisement in 1867 which offered "to permanent boarders, passing strangers and to the citizens of Sumter and surrounding districts the best cheer and entertainment. All that lies in my power shall be done for the satisfaction of my guests, my stables are in good order, and good care will be given to horses left in my charge." These promises were made to all who chose to stay at Hotel Sumter, which was managed at that time by Mr. and Mrs. Allnut, "whose Great Dane was said to ornament the lobby."

With the arrival of the 20th century, Sumter experienced its "golden era" of hotel expansion. The Jackson Hotel opened to the public with Mr. A.J. Moses serving as proprietor. The building was 85 feet in length and located on Main Street. The building stood three stories tall and had an imposing Mansard roof (a roof with two slopes on each of the four sides, the lower steeper than the upper). The structure had a wide balcony that extended across the pavement at the entrance of the lobby; the open balconies on the second floor and the smaller balcony on the third floor added much to the appearance of the building as well as to the comfort of the rooms. The Jackson Hotel took the place of the Nixon Hotel, which had served as one of Sumter's oldest and most popular stopping points.

The Sumter Daily Item posted this notice on April 30, 1913: "A handsome structure constructed by Andrew L. Jackson at a cost of $70,000 is now ready to serve visitors to Sumter - 55 guest rooms in a three-story building which is fitted with modern appointments." This article announced the opening of the Imperial Hotel, noted as one of the most attractive buildings in Sumter. "It was built in the shape of an 'H' consisting of tapestry brick on a base of granite, up to the second floor where gray brick gave way to a dark Flemish finish. The trimmings were of terra cotta, and the interior was considered to be the finest ever viewed in the Sumter community." This beautiful edifice was later sold to Fladger family and became known as the Fladger Hotel.

In 1914, the citizens of Sumter witnessed the opening of the largest hotel to be constructed in the community to date. The Claremont Hotel was a modern, four-story brick structure "containing 80 well-lighted, steam-heated rooms, the best of beds and room equipment. The hotel is well supplied with hot and cold water. All modern hotel accommodations are supplied, excellent baths, first-class maid and bell hop service, elevator service, etc. Each room has an electric fan and telephone." The building was located on Main Street close to the post office, movie theaters and the finest stores and shops in the community. In 1951, J. C. Long Co. from Charleston opened the seven-story Raffield Arms apartment hotel on the corner of Magnolia and East Liberty streets. This apartment hotel ceased operation as a hotel in 1956 and is known today as Orchard Circle.

The construction of downtown hotels has decreased in many communities as Americans have become more dependent on the automobile as the primary means of transportation. Many of the hotels and boarding houses were torn down to create room for additional commercial buildings, and several of these historic structures were destroyed by fire. As a part of Sumter's downtown revitalization, the Thompson Construction Group recently built the Hyatt Place Sumter/Downtown hotel across from the Opera House. This four-story structure adds not only to the beauty of downtown, but also provides visitors to our community a splendid headquarters during their stay.

The rapid increase in the usage of automobiles necessitated the creation of a new term, "motel," defined as "a hotel designed for motorists, typically having rooms adjacent to an outside parking area." The majority of lodging facilities can now be found near major thoroughfares, amusement centers or in large metropolitan cities.

The early hotels played an important role in the development of the city of Sumter. It is sad that these majestic structures have all disappeared, but the effect of their contributions to our history is still evident.