The Partridge Inn celebrates 100 years today

The Partridge Inn was the center of William Lanier Jr.'s life when he was growing up during the 1950s.

 

The drugstore on the lower level of the hotel was the hangout for him and his friends. They ate ice cream, read comic books and talked to semipro baseball players.

"It was a fun place to hang around. The South Atlantic League baseball teams used to stay in The Partridge Inn when they played the Augusta Tigers. We'd go in there and talk to the ballplayers. They'd come in there in the afternoon before the game," said Mr. Lanier, who grew up across the street at 936 Hickman Road.

Like thousands of Augustans, Mr. Lanier remembers the P.I. fondly.

The inn turns 100 today and will mark the occasion with a party reminiscent of its past glory, though maybe not quite as swanky as the one on April 6, 1923, when President Harding was feted at a gala banquet.

The Augusta Chronicle dubbed that one "the greatest banquet in (Augusta's) history."

The Partridge Inn, at 2110 Walton Way, began as a two-story house. Built in 1836, it was the home of Daniel and Elizabeth Meigs, who came to Augusta from Connecticut. The property originally belonged to George Walton, the governor of Georgia and one of the state's three signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1892, after Augusta had become one of the South's top resort cities, New York hotelier Morris Partridge bought the Meigs home, then called Three Oaks, as his personal home and a small hotel. The business venture proved successful, and he opened The Partridge Inn as a 60-room upscale hotel Jan. 8, 1910.

In the years since, it has played host to presidents, celebrities, athletes, rich Northerners escaping the cold and Augusta's youth partying the night away.

At the start of World War II, The Partridge Inn changed from a seasonal to year-round commercial hotel. The building now has five stories with 144 rooms and a quarter-mile of porches and balconies.

In its early days, The Partridge Inn housed several businesses, including a U.S. post office, drugstore, flower shop, barbershop and hair salon. The ballroom was the gathering area for many of Augusta's high society events.

With Mr. Partridge's death in 1947, the inn entered a period of decline. Augusta businessman Sam Waller purchased the hotel, vowing to preserve the historic landmark. In the 1980s, the building was scheduled for demolition, but community leaders, citizens, politicians and investors saved it.

Martha Balk, of Augusta, remembers the days of disrepair at The Partridge Inn.

"It was an eyesore. It was a pitiful-looking place. It was tired," Mrs. Balk said.

In 1983, the property underwent a certified restoration. It was gutted and rebuilt from bottom to top, reopening in 1987.

In 2005, it was sold to Atlanta investment company Walton Way LLC, and a multimillion-dollar renovation was completed a year later.

Today's event is by invitation only, but The Partridge Inn will have a fall gala that is open to the public, said senior sales director Tijuana Jenkins. At today's luncheon, area businesses will donate items for a time capsule that will remain on display through the fall. It will be buried on-site after the fall gala, she said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

Augustans reflect on the Partridge Inn

- "I like the nostalgia. It's really quaint. The atmosphere was really nice. They have a little bit of something for everybody. The rooms are huge. It gives you that atmosphere of old-world charm." -- Alethia Hudson, who celebrated her 10th wedding anniversary at the hotel in November 2000

- "The last time I ate at The Partridge Inn, we went there for one of the girls' birthdays. We stayed there overnight and had brunch. We all live in Augusta, but it was so much fun for all of us to be in that one place and have that togetherness time. That's my favorite memory at The Partridge Inn." -- Debbie Anderson, who celebrated a friend's 50th birthday at the inn five years ago and held her daughter's high school graduation party in the penthouse area in 2000

- "I remember it way back in the early '60s when it was called the P.I. I don't think they even used the upstairs back then." -- Martha Balk

WANT TO SHARE YOUR MEMORIES of The Partridge Inn? E-mail LaTina Emerson at latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com .

Celebrity Guests

According to hotel workers pop star Michael Jackson stayed at The Partridge Inn while he was in Augusta for James Brown's funeral in 2006. Other notable guests include:

- Singers Bob Dylan, Crystal Gayle, Robert Goulet, R. Kelly and Reba McIntyre

- Actors Marla Gibbs, Danny Glover, Charlton Heston and Dennis Quaid

- Golfers Paul Azinger, Gary Player and Curtis Strange

- Tennis player Boris Becker

- Former University of Georgia football player Herschel Walker

Correction - July 15, 2011

In a story published in January 8, 2008's editions of The Augusta Chronicle, years were incorrectly listed twice. The house was built in 1836, not 1816, and the hotel was aquired by Morris Partridge in 1892, not 1908.

The Chronicle regrets the error.