Georgia Travel Articles
Where New South Meets the Old South
by Kathleen Walls
Few hotels in Augusta can match the gracious Partridge Inn for history and ambiance. A stay at the historic inn has the feel of visiting an Antebellum home. That could be because it was just that. Although the Partridge Inn did not become a hotel until the 1900s, it does had an interesting Civil War legend surrounding the gracious old hotel. Partridge Inn began life in 1816 as the two-story home of Daniel and Elizabeth Meigs. It was at some point before the home passed into public use that the event creating the legend is believed to have occurred.
Emily, reputedly the prettiest girl in Augusta, was in what is now the bridal suite dressing for her wedding. The lavish wedding reception was prepared, and the guests were in place. All that was missing was the groom. He had recently returned from the war and was scheduled to arrive at the Partridge Inn at any moment. However, as the young soldier rode into town, some locals mistook him for a man wanted for treason. They informed the sheriff who shot him. He fell from his horse and died in the street. Emily was devastated. She refused to take off her wedding dress for weeks. She never married and died at the age of 86, but those who knew her say she never recovered from the loss of her groom. Many guests and employees at the Partridge Inn claim to have seen a beautiful girl with long chestnut hair in white wedding gown roaming the hall. Kelly Johnson, Marketing Manager for the hotel, confirmed the legend but said she had not seen anything unusual herself. Perhaps it is only a legend but a hotel as gracious as the Partridge Inn deserves its own special spirit.
It would have been shortly after Emily's terminated wedding celebration that Northerners once again began vacationing in the South seeking a warmer climate during harsh winters.
By 1908 Augusta had become a hot resort city, and New York hotelier Morris Partridge bought the home, which he then called Three Oaks, for his personal residence and a small hotel. From then on it was unstoppable. Yankees once again invaded Georgia. this time they were met wiht a gracious Southern welcome. The New South had learned "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
After Partridge's death in 1947, the inn began to decay until another entrepreneur, Sam Waller, purchased the historic landmark and began restoration, but by the 1980s the building was so bad it was awaiting the wrecking ball. Once again fate intervened. The community rose up in its defense and found investors to salvage the historic treasure.
By 1983 it was renovated and reopened in 1987. The next owners, Atlanta investment company Walton Way LLC, poured even more into a multimillion-dollar renovation that was completed a year later.
Today, it combines the modern touches needed to make a hotel stay comfortable with the historic ambience that cannot be duplicated in stark modern buildings. Each room is different here. The architecture is unique. This hotel is not something that could be duplicated to turn out cookie cutter rooms in chain hotels. This place cries out "If only my walls could talk, what stories they could tell."
The rooms range from single rooms to the lavish penthouse, popular for weddings. It can accommodate up to 80 guests and has 4 bedrooms, 41/2 baths, commercial kitchen, living room and an amazing rooftop deck that offers a view of downtown Augusta.
It recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. That alone tells it is doing something right. It plans to be around for a long time to come. Inside the lobby, there is a time capsule so future guests one day will marvel at the artifacts from 2010. Pictures scattered around the lobby tell the history of the building. It played host to notables ranging from President Harding to modern day names like Charlton Heston, Dennis Quaid, Bob Dylan, Crystal Gayle, Reba McIntyre and others. There are pictures and menu from an event attended by President Harding at the hotel.
Partridge Inn is so much more that a hotel. Take the food for example. The Sunday brunch is unbeatable. There are more choices than any one person could sample in one visit. Dining there is as close as you will ever come to visiting a southern plantation. The difference being no one plantation could offer these choices. Naturally there are all the foods you expect to see at a southern buffet: eggs of all kinds, grits, oatmeal, bacon, sausage and the like but there are the more exotic choices. A serving bowl is overflowing with boiled shrimp; cold cuts of every type await your pleasure; the cheese bar is a work of art almost too pretty to disturb. Almost, but I couldn't resist the lure. The dessert bar is another place that sent out a siren song to me. There are so many other goodies but I was too busy gorging on all the special treats, I couldn't remember all of the largess. You will just have to go sample it for yourself. GO THERE HUNGRY! You will waddle out.
It is not just out-of-towners that enjoy the Partridge Inn's charms. The veranda is a perfect place to sip a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the view while you visit with a friend.
The Partridge Inn is one of those rare places with more layers than an onion. The more you discover about this fascinating inn, the more you want to linger and explore instead of rushing away.
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