Partridge Inn regular Denise Moore can’t imagine the historic Augusta hotel transforming into anything other than what it is now.
The bright yellow hotel that sits atop the hill at 2110 Walton Way underwent a two-day online auction this week, with the highest of 16 bids coming in at $4.25 million Wednesday. There’s still some red tape before the sale is complete, though.
According to Auction.com, the top bid can be rejected by the seller if it comes in below the undisclosed reserve price. Within the next two days, the highest bidder must also produce a non-refundable deposit that is 10 percent of the purchase price.
All bidder information is confidential, said Andrew David, an agent with Auction.com.
The property’s broker, Lee Hunter, of Atlanta-based Hunter Hotel Advisors, could not be immediately reached after the auction ended Wednesday. In an earlier interview, he didn’t comment on how much his client wanted for the hotel.
“I’m hoping they keep the feel of it but put some money into it and do whatever they need to do to spruce it up,” Moore said of the new owners. “I don’t want it to change its main focus on guests and being a hotel of some kind.”
Many a night, Moore has stopped by the P.I. Bar and Grill to listen to live music or sat outside on the second-floor veranda, having a drink and watching the traffic below. As the former assistant director of continuing education at Augusta State University and then Georgia Regents University, Moore organized meetings at the hotel and poolside conferences on the back patio. She has referred people visiting the college, as well as friends and family, to the hotel, which dates back to 1910.
Moore recalled attending murder mysteries, wine tastings, rooftop get-togethers and penthouse Halloween parties at The Partridge Inn; and has seen the hotel change styles, but always maintain its Southern charm.
“I’ve traveled all over the world and been in a lot of big properties, but this just feels very welcoming,” she said. “I’m from Charleston (S.C.) so it does feel like, to me, a lot like being at home.”
The five-story, 144-room hotel has been placed on the Auction.com site twice before – in 2013 and earlier this year – but didn’t go to sale.
In 2005, ownership of the city landmark changed hands when Walton Way Hotel LLC purchased the property for $8.1 million. The new owners spent about $5.6 million on extensive renovations just a year later. In July 2011, the entity defaulted on a $16 million loan and Walton Way Limited Partnership, the original lender and shell company for the group that owned Walton Way Hotel LLC, purchased the property in a foreclosure sale later that year.
Commercial mortgage special servicer LNR Partners LLC, based in Miami, was brought in after the 2011 foreclosure to return the hotel to a stable footing and prepare the property for the real estate market.
According to city records, the 1.3-acre property, which includes 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space, has a market value of just below $12 million. The Auction.com listing showed the hotel generating more than $3.9 million in total revenue last year.
In 1836, The Partridge Inn was the two-story personal home of Daniel and Elizabeth Meigs. The house, called Three Oaks, was sold in 1892 to New York hotelier Morris Partridge as his home and small hotel.
The original property owner was George Walton, a former Georgia governor and one of three state signers of the Declaration of Independence.
By 1910, Partridge opened The Partridge Inn, a 60-room upscale hotel. After Partridge died in 1947, the property started a spiral into disrepair.
An Augusta businessman, Sam Waller, bought the hotel in an effort to preserve it, but the building was headed for demolition in the 1980s. Community leaders, politicians, investors and residents stepped in to save the property, which was gutted and rebuilt in the late 1980s.
Over the years, the hotel shifted from a seasonal gathering spot for the rich and influential to a year-round boutique lodging destination. Celebrities and famous figures, including singers Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan and Reba McIntyre; actors Marla Gibbs, Danny Glover and Dennis Quaid; and athletes including Gary Player and Herschel Walker reportedly have stayed at the hotel.
Augusta native Charles Bowen recalled the “charm” and “marvelous quaintness” of The Partridge Inn in the 1940s. In the earlier days, the hotel was home to various businesses that included a U.S. post office, drugstore, flower shop, barbershop and hair salon. Augusta’s high society also gathered there for social events.
Bowen tagged along on many trips with his mother and grandmother to the popular beauty parlor, which he fondly remembered as a place to hear all of the gossip in town. His mother, Alice Lombard, also owned a confectionery called The Praline Shop inside the hotel when she was a young woman in the early 1920s.
When Augusta became a big military hub in the 1940s, Bowen said, the hotel would fill up with soldiers on leave.
“It had some low points,” said Bowen, of the property’s later years. “It’s a place that most older Augustans are fond of. The reputation has continued and fortunately, there’s been someone to come in and pick up the pieces, so to speak, and put it back together.”
When ownership changes, Bowen said he’d like to see the hotel component stay a focal point of The Partridge Inn.
“I hope that it will stay there, whether or not it would be all hotel or it might convert into condominiums on one or more floors depending on the hotel demand,” he said. “I think we’re far too quick to cut our umbilical cords to history. There are times when things do need to be replaced and removed, but if something can be adapted to a productive use then I think that maintaining it is a great testimony to the history of that area of the city and to the city at large.”