Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Vance Hotel - Statesville, N.C.

The Vance Hotel is closed. The six story, 85 room hotel, completed in 1922 quickly became the place to go during the heady days of the 1920's and Statesville was in it's boom.

Located in the heart of downtown Statesville, which is the county seat of Iredell County, the hotel has closed after almost 90 years as the town's principal place of lodging. It was often said that "there are a lot of rooms in Statesville, but only one Hotel."

With a restaurant and a bar on the ground floor, as well as a swimming pool, this building was the height of luxury during the 1920's through the 1970's. Statesville was largely an agricultural place back then, surrounded by the many farms that raised cotton to supply the mills which were still in operation during those years before NAFTA closed them down.

As the character of the town changed, so did the need for a luxury hotel. But the building itself is still a monument to the times in which it thrived. Go a few blocks east, or west, and you will find all of the "cookie cutter" type motels that dot the land from coast to coast. Looking at them, you can see why people wanted to stay here.

Now, the best part of any old building is the legend that may go along with it. This building comes complete with a legend all it's own. The girl pictured in this lithograph, which hung in the Vance Hotel restaurant for many years, is said to have drowned in the swimming pool years ago.

During the 1970's, and on through the filming of "Leatherheads", (thanks L!) with George Clooney a few years ago, there have been numerous accounts of a young girl, who in appearance resembles the girl in the picture, standing in the hallways, dripping water. Shades of the two twins in "The Shining."

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it's a great story. And the starting bid for the picture, at $800, is well worth owning a piece of that story.

The film, "Leathernecks", lent a new perspective to the building. The hotel, which had been closed for some time before the film began shooting, came back to life while the film crew was there. The electricity and water were turned back on, and the swimming pool was filled again. The building is still structurally sound and there are tentative plans to refurbish it and recreate the old elegance which once inhabited the Vance.

And no self respecting hotel would be complete without the tales of the rich and mighty people who have stayed there over the years. The Vance is no exception, and has had it's share of luminaries as guests. Over the years many well known politicians and actors have frequented the place.

Ronald Reagan stayed there during his swing through North Carolina in the 1980 elections. Sue bought this vase, which was a fixture in the room where the future President lodged while visiting the town. It was in the largest room in the hotel, which was often referred to as the "rich folks" room by the hotel staff.

No matter what fate befalls this elegant little building, I am glad to have known it in it's final years. Sitting across from the Statesville Permit Office, as well as the County Planning Board, gave me many an opportunity to observe the place. It's declining years notwithstanding, the simplicity of the building is precisely what gives the Vance it's unique beauty. And no matter what happens, Sue and I will always have the vase.

1 comment:

  1. It was closed it almost 70 or 80 years cause as local resident of Statesville as I was growing up it was out of business and I'm almost 40 years old