Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Woodlands Inn


The fellow coming down the steps is about to ask what this automobile is doing by itself with no one checking in at the desk. He is probably wondering why this is not a Bentley, Rolls or better. An overnight stay at this very nice inn would cost more than the typical monthly payment on a modestly priced domestic vehicle such as confounds the gentleman on the stairs.

This is the Woodlands Inn, a gem of place and far more enchanting than it appears in the photo. We decided to check it out before it checks out itself.

In 1906 Pennsylvania Railroad baron Robert Parsons commissioned the building of what would become The Woodlands Inn as a winter home. It was built in something approximating a Neo-Georgian style. Summerville had become popular with wealthy Northern executives and industrialists as a wintering spot. There was, of course, no air conditioning in those days so even the very wealthy were at the mercy of climate.

The Parsons family sold the property in 1939 to Alain White, a botanist. There developed some theory that Summerville was one of the two best places in the world for victims of pulmonary diseases such as tuberculosis to recover. That theory was promulgated at a Paris medical convention around 1888. Today we'd spot such a claim as garden variety hype, but in the early 1900's it was certainly just another medical misconception. There was some fantasy about the quality of the air which wafted through the pine trees. Perhaps it was thought that folks were breathing airborne turpentine, the thought of which just makes you feel good all over.

People have forever sought relief from human ailments by going somewhere else. Many of the destinations were as bogus as the imaginary illnesses they were intended to cure. One indisposition which was not imagined was malaria from which Summerville had been seen as a refuge.

Upon Mr. White's death, the property was bequeathed to Mrs. Ruth Gadsden, who lived in the house for the rest of her life.

In 1986, the house became the Gadsden Manor Inn. In 1993, the property was sold to Joe Whitmore, of New York and underwent 18 months of renovation. In 1995 it became the Woodlands Inn. It had 19 guest rooms and 42 acres of wooded grounds.

In 2006, Woodlands Estates LTD., sold tracts A-C,121 Parsons Road, Summerville, SC, to Woodlands Village LLC for $5.25 million. Heaven only knows what's ahead for The Woodlands, but the term " village " gives one a chill. Perhaps it takes five and one quarter million US dollars to make a " village " in this day and time. This grand old building and its grounds may not long endure, but the five hundred dollar a night room will certainly survive.


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