Now that the
holiday season is over and the new year has begun,
it occurred to me, gentle reader, that many
travelers spent time in transit in hotels. Of
course, it is highly unlikely they spent a night in
anything approaching the Victorian jewel we call The
Windsor. It is, however, not the only hotel before
the modern era with a history. Allow me the pleasure
of sharing with you some of its beginnings and its
On August 22, 1888, a reporter
for the Americus
John Sheffield and Ross Harper measuring off the
courthouse square. Upon inquiring as to their
purpose, young Sheffield responded, "Because Maj.
Speer and Papa told me to."
Realizing he’d best go to the
source, the reporter went to the Bank of
Southwestern Georgia (now the Thomas Block on the
northwest corner of Forsyth and Jackson) to see its
president, Maj. Moses Speer. There, Maj. Speer told
him, "(T)he hotel will be built and in short order.
There is no doubt about that…it will be a building
worthy of the city." Two days later, Maj. Speer sent
John Sheffield’s map to some undisclosed prospective
investors. Such was the Windsor’s genesis, the
little acorn from which a mighty oak would grow to
dominate the city’s skyline.
Fifteen months later, when the
county commissioners were going to sell a portion of
the square, a citizens committee chaired by George
W.N.B. Glover met to effect a deal with the local
government. A second committee, consisting of
chairman Moses Speer, and Merrel Callaway, James
Fricker, Henry R. Johnson, Dr. Erwin J. Eldridge,
John Windsor, and Samuel H. Hawkins, was formed to
outline development proposals. Their recommendation
was to delay the county’s sale until an improvement
company could be formed to finance the $100,000
On February 5, 1890, the
principal stockholders of the Americus Manufacturing
and Improvement Corporation were announced: Samuel
H. Hawkins, Moses Speer, John W. Sheffield, Perry C.
Clegg, George W.N.B. Glover & Frank Lanier, Thornton
Wheatley, Charles M. Wheatley, John Windsor,
Christopher C. Hawkins, and William E. Hawkins. Each
contributed $10,000 (Glover and Lanier shared
theirs) to produce the necessary capital for
construction. A few days later, the county
commissioners sold the old courthouse square for
Within a month, two Atlanta
architects, W.H. Parkins and G.L. Norrman, submitted
proposals and the selection committee of S.H.
Hawkins, John Windsor and C.M. Wheatley opted for
Parkins’ design. It consisted of a four-story,
square wooden edifice with 120 rooms, fronting the
entire length of Jackson, with an additional two
stories on the corner.
Undeterred, G.L. Norrman
proffered his design "of a more fanciful character,
greatly resembling the Hotel Alcazar at St.
Augustine." His brick structure, of three and five
stories in height, with 120 rooms and ten stores on
the street level, was deemed the most attractive by
some members of the AMIC. Consequently, Norrman’s
proposal was adopted at an estimated cost of
On June 21, the AMIC accepted the
bid of James Smith, of Sparta, who had already
successfully bid on the city hall and improvements
to the former Furlow Masonic Female College on
Jackson, the latter then serving as Americus’ public
school for whites. Both projects were also designed
by G.L. Norrman. By the end of that summer,
contractor Smith had secured the use of a brickyard
near Magnolia Dell, just beyond the intersection of
Church and Spring, which produced the bricks for the
The AMIC directors, meanwhile,
were searching for a suitable name for the imposing
structure. Numerous suggestions appeared in the
local papers. A prescient, but anonymous, lady
offered the "Windsor" for its "aristocratic
sound…suggestive of first-class appointments and
However, when the directors met
at Maj. Speer’s office on May 5, 1891, Col. Eugene
A. Hawkins’ "Hotel Alhambra" was unanimously
adopted. The name did not strike a popular chord
and, because of its association with places of
"flash or shady reputations," that name was dropped
and new names solicited from the public. On
September 3, the AMIC board chose "The Windsor,"
based in part on its evocative qualities, but also
commemorating John Windsor’s contribution as one of
About noon on October 22, 1891,
the last brick was laid. Emphasis then shifted to
the interior. The Americus Furniture Co. won the
contract, but that job ultimately fell to M. Rich
and Bros. of Atlanta. Elevators were installed
during the Christmas season. The Windsor was the
only hotel in the state to use individualized
silverware, which was supplied by local jewelers,
James Fricker and Bro. John Windsor, the hotel’s
namesake, also donated a silver service for the
That happy event transpired on
June 16, 1892. Thousands attended the opening, the
electric street railway on the hotel’s west side was
revived for the summer, over a hundred guests
registered the first day, and a grand ball lasted
until well after midnight in the fifth-floor
As to the Windsor’s antecedents,
the following two accounts were supplied by
From the Weekly
March 8, 1907:
"AMERICUS FIRST BIG HOSTELRY.
Hill House an Object of Interest in Olden Days.
"Col. Thornton Wheatley was in a
reminiscent mood yesterday as he stood in the balmy
sunshine watching the workmen on the Allison
""Where these two new business
buildings are going up" said he, "stood the old
Hill’s hotel until probably twenty five or thirty
years ago. When I came to Americus in 1855 the old
hotel was then an infant institution of the city. It
had originally stood at Oglethorpe, where it was
quite a noted hostelry of antebellum days.
""Two things conspired to bring
about its removal to Americus. One was an epidemic
of small pox that swept Oglethorpe, the other was
the fact that Americus was rapidly forging to the
front and was recognized as the assured metropolis
of this section of the State.
""The old hotel was a two story
structure of frame, well remembered by our older
folks. It was torn down and brought over to Americus
and re-erected in substantial shape and then
withstood the wear of over thirty years.
""It was a famous rendezvous in
my younger days. Americus then had a famous stage
coach line to Tallahassee, via Albany and
Thomasville. It was a gloriously inspiring sight to
see the coach swing around the corners, drawn by
four magnificent horses, and up to the hotel front.
It was frequently crowded with passengers.
""Americus was a small place in
those days, but it was a lively town, nevertheless,
a feature that has never been lost. At nights the
bar and sitting rooms of the old hotel were often
filled with guests a half century ago, and it was
the gathering place of the Americus men. There one
could meet the traveling public, the business men of
the other towns of this State and of Florida, swap
hunting yarns, hear the political gossip, and learn
the drift of trade in all lines.
""It was a hostelry known to
thousands in the old days. It has been but a memory
now for years, and soon it will cease to be even
South Georgia Progress of
January 12, 1912:
"NOTE. - Editor South Georgia
Progress: I see in your paper that you are printing
some of the early history of Americus. I have been
very much interested in them. Those that I have read
were practically correct. I have two or three that I
want you to print, and if I do say so, every word of
them is true so far as I can remember. One of them
is like this:
"I was born in Tennessee in 1820
and my father moved to Georgia in 1835; and to
Sumter county in 1842. I have chased the deer in the
forests of this county many years ago, even running
them through your public square. I have seen this
town grow from a village to what is it today.
"When we first came here there
was but one small hotel and that was located on the
corner of Lee and Forsyth streets where the Byne
Block is. It was headquarters for the Independent
Stage Coach line. Their relay of teams was about
four miles south out Lee street.
"On the corner of Jackson and
Lamar streets was the hotel of the town owned by the
Hill brothers, Bob Hill and his brother, Dave. The
hotel was run by Mr. [Newnan] McBain. The Hill
brothers owned a stage coach line also that came
from Macon with its terminus at Bainbridge. The
Independent line came in by the way of Bumphead
church, while the Hill line came in on the upper
river or the stage [coach] road. The post office was
near where it is now [the Municipal Bldg.] and each
stage coach brought the mail to town.
"This McBain hotel was as
enormous affair. It reached from the corner of the
alley on Lamar street [Theo Baldwin Park] west to
Holliday’s Book Store corner, thence south to about
where the steam laundry is. It was two and a half
stories high, with a spacious verandah in front both
up stairs and down stairs, with about twenty feet
back and about two hundred feet long. It was the
shelter for everybody. Nothing like it here now. It
was a great big hotel, well ventilated and shaded by
beautiful water oaks and locust trees.
"On the south end of this hotel
it was two stories high. The upper floor used for
bed rooms, the lower floor for the dining room and
kitchen. The basement was used for a bar and
billiard room. They didn’t know what a pool room
was, although they played pin pool, and that’s where
you can lose your money, too.
"Just in the rear of this portion
of the hotel was the livery stables of the Hill
brothers, about in front of the Presbyterian church.
They ran a bus to and from the trains besides being
a relay for their stage line.
"I have heard that Uncle Jimmie
Stewart backed up these people and was the real
owner of the hotel and tables. How true that is, I
never could learn.
"Now on the west side of Jackson
street stood still another hotel not as pretentious
as the McBain-Hill-Stewart property, but a little
better than the one on the corner of Lee and Forsyth
"This hostelry was owned and run
by the Shaw brothers, Harvey and Bill Shaw. It also
had a barroom attached.
"One morning a well-dressed,
good-looking fellow stopped at the Shaw house. They
never had what you call a register in those days, so
he just stopped there and was given a room up
stairs. Just after dinner he called one of the Shaws
to one side and asked him if he could place a sum of
money in a safe place and, at the same time stated
that he was addicted to drinking and when he drank
he wanted to gamble. He told Mr. Shaw if he did get
to drinking and called for any amount of his money
not to give it to him, as the money was to be paid
for a plantation he had purchased in Stewart county,
the amount being in the neighborhood of $5,000.00.
"The young man had to wait over
for the Macon train which passed Americus about ten
o’clock next day. In the afternoon he began drinking
and was soon fully under the influence of the poison
that had been dealt out to him. He called for some
of his money. He got it. The gambling hell was
located in the hotel. He lost of course. He called
for more and got it. And so on until his last penny
had gone across the green cloth.
"He begged for more money. He
tried to borrow money to retrieve that which he had
lost. But no. He had not a friend on earth. His
"Soon he retired to his room and
called for a basin of water to bathe. It was sent up
to his room and the young man soon forgotten. Next
morning a servant called to awake him and no answer
came. The door was forced open and there on the bed
lay the gentleman - cold in death. His spirit had
long since winged its flight to the great beyond,
alone and unattended.
"After returning to his room and
obtaining the basin of water he carefully undressed,
placed the basin in a chair by the bedside just low
enough to allow his right hand to dangle on the
surface of the water and with a pen knife he severed
the arteries and veins across his wrist and lay
there a silent witness of the flowing of life’s
blood that would end his life. How long it took no
one knows, but certain it was that in this condition
he was found.
"There was great rivalry between
the McBain hotel and the Shaw house. It was a morsel
that could be rolled under the tongue of the other
hotels and right well they used it.
"The Sumter Republican came out
on the following Friday with a sensational double
head denouncing the Shaw house, no doubt influenced
by the McBain contingency. To this the Shaw brothers
took exception and a whole big town fight commenced.
"The Shaw brothers jumped on the
editor and mauled him almost to a pulp, which the
McBains objected to. Pistols and guns were freely
used from the little hotel on the corner clean
across the courthouse square to the livery stables
of the Hill brothers. Fast and furious the fight
held out until Mr. Harvey Shaw fell dead in his own
doorway pierced through the heart by a cartridge
from an unknown source. His wife, who was near him,
grabbed his smoking revolver and continued the fight
until every man had left the square.
"It was not known for several
years who fired the bullet that killed Mr. Shaw.
There was a young fellow working in the barroom of
the McBain hotel in the basement [who] soon left
Americus and went West. After a long time he
committed suicide and left a confession stating how
he had killed Mr. Shaw and had never seen a moment’s
peace since. His confession was accepted as the
truth, for it was the only solution of the end of
this great pistol duel. I think that this occurred
in or about 1857. Col. A.S. Cutts, I believe, was
sheriff of the county at this time.
"If you will take the trouble to
cast your eyes over this battle field and view the
Progress that has been made since that time. See the
elegant library building, the handsome Windsor, the
new post office, the Allison building, the Byne
block, the opera house, the courthouse, the Planters
bank building and others.
""Progress is the Word" and
Progress it will be."
The man who shot and killed
Harvey Shaw was later identified as Tom Durham.
You may be surprised to learn,
gentle reader, that there has been a hotel elsewhere
that is named in honor of our fair city.
From the Times-Recorder of
October 5, 1946:
"Pennsylvania Hotel Is Named
After Americus, Ga.
"Mayor H.O. Jones came into The
Times-Recorder office this week with a letter on
AMERICUS HOTEL, Allentown, Pennsylvania stationery.
"The letter recalled to the mayor
that one day several years ago a stranger approached
him on the post office steps and asked what town he
was in. The mayor replied, "Americus." The man
related that he was on his way to Florida.
"It now appears that this same
gentleman has erected a two-million dollar hotel in
Allentown and has named it after the South Georgia
town that impressed him so favorably.
"Another letter this morning from
J.H. Free from Webster county also on Americus Hotel
paper written from Allentown stated that the
beautiful, new hotel was named after Americus after
the same visit as described by the mayor. Mr. Free
stated that the hotel owner "fell in love with
Americus and Cotton Avenue especially."
So, gentle reader, the next time
you find yourself on the road in a nondescript
motel, consider the possibilities if you had been
around in an earlier time period.