“The glory that was the Poinsett”—Greenville, South Carolina

Westin Poinsett Hotel
120 South Main Street
Greenville, South Carolina

N. B. I first covered the Poinsett in “A Carolina Cornucopia,” published 9 January 2012, and that article was republished under “‘Twas the Night Before Halloween–Recycled Revenants,” 30 October 2017. This article has been revised and expanded.

The Greenville News mourned the loss of the Mansion House hotel in its February 3, 1924 edition. With a headline reading that the “Passing of the Mansion House recalls interesting local history,” the article notes that the hundred-year-old building saw many distinguished visitors pass through its doors. Statesman John C. Calhoun was such a frequent visitor that room 32 was known as the Calhoun Room and generally reserved just for him. The article ends by extolling the virtues of the Mansion House with hope that the million-and-a-half-dollar hotel that replaces it will “acquire the reputation that was enjoyed by its predecessor…and Greenville of another hundred years will look backward to the glory that was the Poinsett.”

advertisement Poinsett Hotel Greenville South Carolina haunted ghost 1925
An advertisement from The Greenville News for an evening of dancing held at the Poinsett Hotel in 1925.

In June 1925, the Poinsett Hotel opened its doors with a reception, dinner, and dance as locals and visitors alike examined the glittering 12-story skyscraper. The hotel’s developers had hired William Lee Stoddart, one of the leading architects at that time, to design the building. Stoddart’s reputation was primarily built on his designs for hotels and offices, many of which were scattered throughout the South. Designs included the Winecoff Hotel (now The Ellis Hotel) in Atlanta, the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore, and the John Sevier Hotel in Johnson City, Tennessee (all of which are known to be haunted). The hotel’s name honored one of the state’s favorite sons, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the Charleston-born statesman, politician, and diplomat.

Poinsett Hotel Greenville South Carolina haunted ghost
Poinsett Hotel, 2017, by Upstateherd. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite its brilliant opening, the hotel struggled to succeed until J. Mason Alexander took over the reins of the business in 1930. During his 30-year tenure, the hotel began to turn a profit becoming a fixture in the city. However, the glory that was the Poinsett had faded by the mid-1970s as business left for motels and chain hotels on the outskirts of the town. The hotel closed its doors in 1975 and sat dormant until it was acquired by a developer and renovated for use as a retirement home. For a decade, the grand dame hosted aging grand dames and gentlemen, though management was plagued with problems including fire code violations. In the January 1, 1987 edition of The Greenville News, the grand dame said farewell in a picture story. For 13 years, the abandoned structure attracted the homeless and thrill seekers.

The hotel reopened in 2000 after a multi-million-dollar restoration and it has now returned to prominence as one of Greenville’s most luxurious hotels.

So far, some guests enjoying the luxurious amenities have encountered other, non-paying guests in the hotel. Jason Profit, in his book, Haunted Greenville, South Carolina, relates stories from two guests. A businessman was awakened during the night by odd sounds from his bathroom. Twice, he discovered the light on after he knew he had shut it off. The second time, the sounds seem to be coming from the hallway and the businessman opened the door. Peering into the empty hallway, he glimpsed an elderly man disappearing around the corner. Upset, he called the front desk to demand that whoever was cleaning at that time of the night needed to be quieter. The desk clerk informed the businessman that no one was cleaning and he was the only guest staying on that floor.

A young woman staying in the hotel had an even scarier experience. After checking in with her boyfriend, the young woman was alone in the room hanging clothes in the closet. Suddenly, something pushed her into the closet and the door shut behind her.

She tried desperately to open it, but the knob felt as though it was being held from the other side (pun intended). Nearly 15 minutes passed while she attempted to escape. When she got out, she called her boyfriend to inform him that she would not be staying any longer in the hotel.

Whether the spirits of former guests, elderly residents or vagrants, the entities stalking the halls are unidentified, though they only add to the luster that is the glory of the Poinsett Hotel.

There are several other haunted places in Greenville that I have covered in this blog. Connolly’s Irish Pub on East Court Square is covered in my “Dining with Spirits” article and Herdklotz Park, the former site of the Greenville Tuberculosis Hospital, is covered in my article, “Feeling Umbrage for the Upstate.”

Sources

  • Morrison, R. F. “Passing of the Mansion House recalls interesting local history.” The Greenville News. 3 February 1924.
  • National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Poinsett Hotel. No date.
  • “Poinsett Hotel opening is affair of much brilliance.” The Greenville News. 23 June 1925.
  • “The Poinsett Hotel: Two grand ladies say farewell.” The Greenville News. 1 January 1987.
  • Profit, Jason. Haunted Greenville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • William Lee Stoddart. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 19 January 2019.
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