Archive for the ‘motel’ tag
I probably should remember seeing this place more, as we drove past it on the way to the beach innumerable times while I was growing up. However, I always had my nose in a book, so I was only vaguely aware of the name Circus Room and couldn't have told you where it was. Or, for that matter, *what* it was. At this remove, my understanding is that The Circus Room was actually a circus style tent set up on the grounds of the Coronet Inn at the intersection of US-601 & US-378 in Eastover, and that the tent hosted a restaurant and nightclub. Even in these days of the metro area creeping ever outwards, this is a pretty rural area, and back in the day it must have been even stranger to find a well regarded hotspot here.
What was the attraction? Google pulls up this hint from the 2006 cookbook Cookin' with Cocky II: More Than Just a Cookbook:
I first met Bright in the Fall of 1956. Bright owned the Coronet Motel and Circus Room nightclub in Eastover. The Circus Room had the finest food and the only mixed drinks in the Columbia area at that time.
The two ads above are from the Sumter Register in 1974 and 1976 respectively.
Amazingly, both Coronet motels still exist and still are in operation, although under different names and ownership. The Eastover location is currently an Anyday Inn and is now combined with a convenience store run in the old office.
The topic has come up in Have Your Say from time to time, and here is what some people have recalled:
The Circus Room was in the old Coronet Motel near Eastover which I think was somehow related to the motel with the same name on North Main. I know they used to advertise a lot on the radio and had quite a business at one time. I drove out to Eastover a few weeks ago and what was the Circus Room was a seedy convenience store in a no tell motel.
Tom---You are right. One thing about the Circus Room was that it featured USDA "Prime" steaks which is a rarity even for today. You could call in the morning and they'd marinate your steak all day for you. I live in Kansas now which is beef country and know of only one steakhouse type place out here where you can get USDA prime beef. John.
I had forgotten all about the Circus Room. This was one of a few out-in-the-boondocks restaurants where we would eat on occasion when my father felt like driving out into the country (circa 1965-68). I remember the food being pretty good and it having a totally unpretentious atmosphere, but that was when gas was 25¢ a gallon, and it was easy to justify such a long trip for a good steak. I'm sure if the Circus Room had been a couple of miles down Trenholm Road, that would have been where we would have visited most often when we ate out, which at that time was once, maybe twice a month. Ancient and forgotten fond memories, thanks John.
She also said the guy who built the motel back in the fifties still drops into the convenience store every day.
Coronet Motel w/ Circus Room restaurant. Actually, that was out where US 601 intersects Sumter Hwy., but the restaurant was so good that folks used to drive from Columbia all the way out to Eastover to eat there. Bright Stevenson Jr owned it. His dad owned the Coronet Motel up out North Main St., going toward Blythewood.
Looks like Airport Inn in Cayce, where ironically all the rooms are ground-floor, is renovating.
I like the blue, white & yellow color scheme on the signs. The building actually looks to be in pretty good shape, at least from a distance.
UPDATE 10 August 2013: Changed incorrect 935 address in post title to correct 1935.
UPDATE 13 May 2014 --Open again:
As reported by The State this venerable hotel at the corner of Main & Lady Streets will be converted into a upscale condo called The Palms with 54 "resort-style" units. They will also have a view of what is apparently the only pool on Main Street.
Given that the article talks about the developer struggling to find financing for the project for several years, and the fact that the Rodeway Inn is listed in the Feb 2011 phonebook, I can only guess that the developer owned the property and continued to run it as a hotel until things came together. I admit to being surprised how long it lasted as a mid-to-lower-mid market motel in an area that if it gets anyone (after all who in the general population wants to visit Columbia and stay on Main Street?) would get high-roller business and government connected types.
(Hat tip to commenter Tom)
UPDATE 26 May 2012: Here's a State article on the opening of The Palms.
The Heart of Columbia Motel and Sportsman Restaurant
1011 Assembly AStreet Columbia S.C.
Conveniently located in downtown Columbia opposite the State Capital and near University S.C.
100 Spacious Air-Conditioned & Heated Rooms * Free T.V. * High-Fi Music * 24 Hour Phone * Swimming Pool * Ice * Baby Beds * American Express Honored.
Phone AL 2-3393
I'm not sure when the postcards were made. The second one is probably from the early 1960s given the "AL" exchange prefix on the phone number. I'm sure if I knew cars better, I could peg it closer by looking at them. Certainly it would seem that 24 Hour Phone was a motel novelty at the time..
Whatever the exact year, it would be hard to argue that Heart of Columbia did not then describe the location as well name the motel. It would be harder to say that by 1983 which is when the yellow-pages ad appeared in the USC phonebook, but ironically now that the motel is long gone, the area is once again prime, very much in the Vista neighboorhood.
The way I recall The Heart of Columbia when I was growing up, and by the time I left town in 1985, is as slightly seedy and down at the heels. I specifically remember than when a cousin of mine came to town for a teachers' conference at USC, and booked a room based on proximity, she was a little unsettled by what she found, and that my father told her he wished she had called ahead so he could have warned her that he didn't think a woman should stay there by herself.
According to The State archives, the place closed in 1994, but nonetheless had an interesting history thereafter.
FIrst of all the The Thailand Restaurant moved in, presumably to the old Sportsman location.
Then on 4 May 2004, the place caught fire:
FIRE PUTS FOCUS ON BUILDING'S FUTURE
RICK BRUNDRETT, Staff Writer
The downtown site of a restaurant and abandoned motel heavily damaged by fire early Tuesday likely will get new life, Mayor Bob Coble said.
"It is probably the most strategic piece of property for redevelopment in Columbia,"Coble said Tuesday. "I can't imagine it will stay an abandoned hotel."
Coble said the former Heart of Columbia Motel's close proximity to the convention center and center hotel, as well...
After that fire, The Thailand Restaurant moved to 6024 Saint Andrews Road.
Then the building was slated for demolition:
MOTEL'S DAYS NUMBERED
JOHN C. DRAKE, Staff Writer
Eight months after an errant cigarette set the building ablaze, the Heart of Columbia Motel's owners are positioning the building for demolition.
At the same time, they are facing pressure from the city to address long-standing property code violations at the condemned building.
The 40-year-old motel, which has been closed since 1994, is now a boarded-up eyesore just across Assembly Street from the State House. It was declared unsafe and condemned May 5, one day after...
Then the place caught on fire a second time:
ABANDONED DOWNTOWN MOTEL BURNS AGAIN
ADAM BEAM, Staff Writer
Assembly Street building was to be torn down Monday; fire inspector suspects arson
Fire officials say arsonists set fire Wednesday afternoon to an abandoned building on Assembly Street- the second time the building has burned and just five days before it was scheduled to be torn down.
A fire investigator said there was nothing in the building to burn, and something helped "accelerate"the fire, most likely some type of liquid fuel.
Deputy Fire Chief...
NO SUSPECTS IN MOTEL ARSON
Fire officials had no suspects in the arson at the Heart of Columbia motel on Assembly Street, and investigators said they might never know what type of fuel was used to burn it.
Lowell Bernstein, a Columbia lawyer whose family owns the building, said his family had already paid for the demolition and had no insurance on the building except liability.
He said the lot will be a parking lot for at least a few months while his family decides what to do with the property.
Then the place burned a third time:
DOWNTOWN MOTEL BURNS FOR THIRD TIME
ALLYSON BIRD, Staff Writer
The condemned Heart of Columbia Motel, which caught fire earlier this month and in May 2004, burned again Sunday morning.
Deputy Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said 25 firefighters responded to the fire at 8:39 a.m. at Assembly and Pendleton streets after receiving a call from the Columbia Police Department.
"We're going to treat it as an arson because there was no apparent reason for it to catch on fire,"Jenkins said. The building no longer has...
Finally it was torn down, slowly:
ASBESTOS ISSUE SLOWS MOTEL DEMOLITION
RICK BRUNDRETT, Staff Writer
Demolition of the old Heart of Columbia Motel- the site of three fires since last year - has taken longer than expected because of asbestos removal, a spokesman for the property owners said.
Crews began knocking down the building's front facade Monday, a day after the third fire.
Lowell Bernstein, a lawyer whose family owns the building at Assembly and Pendleton streets near the State House, said opening up the building could stop vagrants from taking shelter there -...
As the building was demolished, The State noted a bit of music history I was unaware of:
TEARING OUT OUR ROCK 'N'ROLL HEART
The demolition of the Heart of Columbia Motel is taking away a piece of the city's rock 'n'roll history.
A photo of the motel's sign is on the CD jacket of Hootie &the Blowfish's breakthrough 1994 album, "Cracked Rear View,"which has sold more than 16 million copies. Other Columbia landmarks such as the State House also are pictured.
The motel stood 40 years on Assembly Street in...
(You can see the album picture here: Cracked Rear View)
I'm pretty sure this was the swimming pool seen in the postcards above. I say that based on it being a hole in the ground
and having bits of blue tile mixed in with the debris:
Here is the modern day view towards the Capitol as seen in the post cards:
AND FINALLY, the Heart Of wasn't strictly a Columbia operation. I believe it was part of a loose chain. I know I have seen a number of Heart Ofs over the years, though I can no longer say where. However The Heart of Dillon is still in ongoing operation:
UPDATE 29 July 2010: Commenter Dennis sends the following document indicating that there was an annual General Assembly pool party at HOC into the late 1980s..
"The following was received.
May 26, 1987
The Honorable Samuel R. Foster, Chairman
House Invitations Committee
520 Blatt Office Building
Columbia, S.C. 29201
Dear Mr. Foster:
Gene and Joyce Stoddard cordially invite members of the House and
Senate, clerks and attached to the annual pool party at the Heart of
Columbia Motel, Wednesday, June 3, 6:30 P.M.
I appreciate you conveying this to the membership of the House.
Eugene C. Stoddard
On motion of Rep. FOSTER, with unanimous consent, the invitation was
taken up for immediate consideration and accepted."
"Your Host From Coast-to-Coast"
I went looking for this building on Knox Abbott last year, and as far as I can tell, there is nothing at that address now. The postcard certainly makes what appears to be a rather nondescript building look impressive by adding a sharp car and elegant model, even if there is perhaps a touch too much of "the old South" in the pose chosen.
My experience with Holiday Inns over the years has been mixed. I currently seek out the Holiday Inn Express sites, which seem to be uniformly good. The "regular" HIs can be a mixed bag. The one I used to go to quite often in DC invariably had the freeze/bake thermostat system, and at least once seemed to have gotten the cold and hot water pipes running to my room backwards (though luckily, hot was at best "tepid" in that case).
This isn't a current events blog. I don't feel compelled to do a post on everything that closed this week. Even assuming I knew about all that, I'm just as happy to do a post on something that's been gone thirty years. On the other hand, I don't feel compelled to not do a post on something that happened yesterday, since it's kind of odd, interesting and nearby.
Commenter Jamie pointed out this story on the WLTX site:
Richland County, SC (WLTX) - Some Ramada Inn employees and customers are looking for answers after the hotel on Two Notch Road shut down suddenly.
Employees say they haven't gotten paid and customers have been showing up looking for refunds on their deposits.
"It's sad. Why would they do this? Or how could this happen," said employee Stacey Knight. Knight and her coworkers are without a job and without a paycheck. They say the owners of the Ramada Inn closed for business, padlocking the doors shut.
It's not too uncommon for employees at a restaurant to show up for work and find the place closed, but hotels are not a day-to-day business. People make long term plans involving hotels, and normally, at least for a chain hotel, I would expect some sort of orderly wind-down, with people being rebooked to alternate properties or having up-front money refunded. Apparently not so here:
There was one lady in particular that made a deposit for a family reunion, $1100, and she wanted her money back," said another employee.
I'll wager that's one family that never uses any Ramada again..
Anyway, my first memory of this property is when it was a Holiday Inn. I never stayed there (why would I need a hotel in my hometown?), but I think I did go inside once. If I recall correctly, I went with a group of friends after a wedding, probably in the late 70s or early 80s. At that time, the lounge (now McKenna's) attached to the hotel was called Pawleys (a name calculated to attract my attention), and they catered to the backgammon boomlet (which petered out not long afterwards) by having backgammon sets available in the bar area.
I believe Holiday Inn dropped the property after I-77 came through to move closer to that Interstate. For a while the place was (I think) independant, with a big sack covering up the old Holiday Inn sign.
(Hat tip to commenter Jamie.)
UPDATE 26 July 2010 -- Here are some more pictures:
UPDATE 28 August -- After commenter Matt pointed out goings on at this closed Ramada, I decided to take a look and I'm still a bit puzzled at what is happening. It looks like the whole place is being gutted, but they don't seem to be knocking it down in toto. Perhaps it will be like the old Columbia Athletic Club and Splendid China where they have replaced everything except the actual outer walls..
UPDATE 12 September 2012 -- The whole building has now been fenced off. Driving by, I could still hear the chirps of hundreds of smoke dectectors needing new batteries..
15 June 2013:
Full demolition has started. For a long time it appeared they had only done enough demolotion to "poison-pill" the structure, ie: make sure nobody could buy it and reopen it as a motel. In these pictures, the full knockdown is well underway. Also, note the for-sale sign just off of Trenholm Extension.
14 July 2013:
Not nearly as much "progress" as you might expect, but the demolition goes on.
10 August 2013:
I had never seen a freight train stuck on this stretch of the track by Two Notch, but in this case a long train was stopped for upwards of 45 minutes, blocking off both Dawson Road & Oakway Drive. I had to go all the way down to the Two Notch / Trenholm Extension intersection to get back to the old Ramada. As I finished taking this set, train finally started to move and the railway maintainence pickup truck (fitted with track wheels) came along the tracks behind the train. What a track crew could have been fixing behind a stopped train, I'm not sure.
As you can see, the Ramada is now entirely gone except for a pump building and some incidentals like TVs and silverware.
UPDATE 17 August 2013: Added verbiage and pictures for 15 June 2013, 14 July 2013 and 10 August 2013. Also added complete photosets for those days.
This motel is a landmark which has existed for all of my life, but which I never (in memory) saw until 2006. This motel is on the east side of US-17, just south of Gullie's Shell station, and north of the Georgetown credit union. To say that by 2006 I had driven this stretch of road more than a few times understates it a bit, but I never had the least clue that there were buildings just off the road -- the whole place was so overgrown as to be completely invisible. Apparently the lot was partially cleared late in 2005, and when I was down that winter, I had quite a What the heck did I just drive by? moment as I passed by the first time after that.
Graphitti in a concrete slab at the old office building dates this place to early 1956, and the fixtures all have that mid 50s look as well. In fact, the bathroom tile looks a good bit like what I have at home which is almost exactly the same vintage. I have no idea what happened to the place. It certainly wasn't (and isn't) uncommon for Grand Strand businesses to fail, and the south strand was very isolated and non-commercialized for quite a while. For years the abandoned cabins of another motel sat at the South Causeway of Pawleys Island, more or less where the Food Lion now is. In fact for years, the only motel south of Murrells Inlet was the Quality Inn Seagull -- most people then and now rented houses to vacation in the area.
The whole area is being further cleared now, all the way back to the marsh. I suspect work would have started sooner after the initial clearing of the motel except for the economy. At any rate, I suspect the whole thing will be houses before too long, and I fully expect the motel to be knocked down before the year is out. (I've already got my shower handle, to go with my other one from Douglas.)
If anyone knows what the motel was called, when it closed, or why it closed, sound off!