The Windsor Hotel – It Deserves a Blue Ribbon
Article and photos by Kathleen Walls
The Windsor Hotel at night.
One of Georgia's best kept secrets is hidden away in the small town of Americus. While most Americans are not aware of this Victorian hotel's charms, local residents are charmed by the Windsor Hotel. Now, the secret is out, The Windsor is being officially awarded her "Blue Ribbon" on television.
The Windsor originally opened to fanfare and a great ball on June 16, 1892. Over the years, the hotel's popularity declined and the building went on the auction block. In September 5, 1899, Charles A. Fricker bought the Windsor and attempted to rekindle its former glory.. In spite of major renovations, it declined and was finally operated as an apartment house. When even that failed to maintain the huge building, it was destined for the wrecking ball.
The TV crew prepares for the shoot.
The bankrupt hotel came into the possession of the City of Americus and the hotel reopened on September 20, 1991 after considerable restoration to return the elderly dowager to her youthful beauty. Finally, the historic hotel was on its way back to its rightful place, a property that can hold its own among the great hotels of the world.
The original golden oak woodwork in the lobby was refinished, as was the original pink and gray marble floor. The mirror on the back wall of the lobby dates back to before the Civil War. The mahogany phone booth, one of the highlights of the lobby, is authentic although not original to the hotel. The clock on the second-floor lobby is the only original furnishing. It came from the Windsor jewelry shop. It has been restored, and is on permanent loan from the Sumter Historic Trust.
The Roosevelt Boardroom is has been nicknamed the "Lucky Room" because so many successful political campaigns began there. Both President Roosevelt and President Carter used it for their meetings.
Ida and Mary Frances re-enact Ida's experience with the ghost child.
Through the years, the Windsor played host to the famous and the infamous. John L. Sullivan, former heavy-weight boxing champion, Congressman William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic presidential nominee, The Governor of New York and soon-to-be President Franklin D. Roosevelt and even, Al Capone, who posted an armed guard at the foot of the stairs. Lindbergh played pool there. President and Roselyn Carter are frequent visitors and have a suite named for them in the turret. Jessica Tandy, who stayed there during the filming of one of her movies, also has a room named for her.
The Windsor has a few secrets of her own. Her stately halls are roamed by the ghost of a former housekeeper and her daughter. The lady was head housekeeper there in the 1920's and was thrown down a elevator shaft. Both the housekeeper and her daughter still may be glimpsed by the unwary. They are not malevolent. The mother appears to be looking out for "her" guests. The little girl is playful. Ida Robinson can attest to that. She recounted walking down the hall on the third floor around 1AM with a tray in her hands when she spotted the mischievous child pass her in the hallway and then disappear. "It was very scary." Ms. Robinson stated.
Ida also told of "someone" filling up a salad bowl in the kitchen when she left the room to answer a phone call once. She also has seen pots and pans fly across the kitchen.
Roy Parker tells of youthful experiences
at the Windsor.
Finally, the Windsor seems to be getting a little of the attention she so richly deserves. Turner South Television Network is going to feature the hotel on a segment of its" Blue Ribbon Series"
I had the honor of being invited to the taping since my book Georgia's Ghostly Getaways retells the story of the Windsor's ghost.
The owner, Mr. Patel and his Public Relations Manager, Christiane Grune made me welcome and put me in a room near where some of the sighting took place. Unfortunately, I didn't see any ghosts. I did see first hand what tremendous work goes into filming a show like this.
My trip to Americus was fun and work; good and bad.
I was supposed to do my thing at 5pm but since I was staying overnight they asked if I minded being pushed back to 8pm. Okay, that gave me a chance to follow the crew around and see what filming was like.
They filmed lots of people, including Roy Parker, who had been in charge of the heating and cooling installation when it was last renovated. He offered much more than information on the mechanical systems of the hotel.
"I first saw the Windsor with my grandmom," he stated" she would take me into town and we would stop at the Windsor."
Sen. Hooks tells what the Windsor
means to him
Even then he was impressed. Later, in high school, crashing parties at the Windsor was a fun thing to do for his friends and himself..
State Senator George Hooks. also talked of his recollections of the Windsor. He told of having "Ballroom Dancing lessons at the Windsor when I was in about sixth grade. It was the most useless thing I have ever learned. I never used it in later life."
Senator Hooks also encapsulated what most people who have visited the Windsor feel about the grand old hotel. When asked why he is glad the Windsor was not torn down to build a parking lot he responded, "We have lost. too much during the 50's and 60's in the Deep South. The Windsor is a link to our past and a bridge to our future. It represents the best of the south that came out of reconstruction."
One of the cutest things was when they were interviewing Senator Hooks on the second floor balcony. The senator was in the middle of a great sound bite about why he was so glad the hotel had not been torn down when a truck passed below and hit its horn which blasted out Dixie loud and clear. They re-shot that scene. I think they should have left it in.
The scene that they filmed the most was a re-enactment with a little girl, Mary-Francis.Thomas playing the ghost and Ida Robinson as herself.
Mary Francis is a precocious redhead with aspirations of being an actress. Judging by her vivacity and talent she has a good chance at achieving her ambitions. She added to the ghost lore with a few accounts of her own. She has heard stories of two other ghosts at the Windsor Hotel. One was a young woman who was decapitated by her boyfriend at the hotel and still roams the halls.
Ida and Mary Frances get ready for one more take.
The other spirit, a more widely told tale, was one of the original construction workers of the hotel, Floyd, who later worked as an elevator operator there when it first opened. He died by falling down the elevator shaft. The hotel bar is named in his honor, Floyd's.
It was fun watching. You have no idea how many times they shoot to get a few minutes of usable film
Anyway with all the delays, I didn't get to do my thing until the next morning. Picture me at 8am in front of a camera. They asked about the book and even shot some footage of it by itself.
The trip also gave me an idea for a new book, Hosts with Ghosts - Haunted Historic Hotels in the Southeast. Of course, the Windsor will be in that book, too..
Links to other article about the filming of the Blue Ribon Series and ghosts at the Windsor Hotel.
You'll have to go to page 10 for this one.
Contact information for the Windsor Hotel:
125 West Lamar Street
Americus, GA 31709
Toll Free Reservations: 1-888-297-9567