Summerville has always considered itself a healthy place. We’ve had our ups and downs but we always seem to come out on top. Probably the darkest days were during the Civil War her in America. The south lost the war and things were changed all round. The great earthquake of 1886, some 30 years later, was considered bad times.
But Summerville received a present in 1889. A group of physicians, specializing in the field of respiratory problems, met in Paris, France in 1889. Out of that congress came this word; Summerville, South Carolina was one of the two places on the earth best suited for the treatment and care of pulmonary diseases.
Already in Summerville was the Bittersohn Hotel on Magnolia Avenue near the train depot and Dorchester Inn (formerly Brown’s Hotel) on Sumter Avenue. But, we would need more rooms expecting the visitors that would come from the announcement.
In 1891 the Pine Forest Inn would welcome guests eager to enjoy a luxurious and healthy environment. The Inn opened under the private ownership of Captain F.W. Wagner and his bother George A. Wagner. They were determined to make the Inn a show place and no expense was spared. Twenty-two acres were purchased for $9000.00. The building was designed by a New York architect. Construction was handled by the Summerville firm of Mr. Alexander J. Baird. Mr. Baird was also contractor for many fine homes in Summerville including the house for Samuel Lord on Sumter Avenue.
The Pine Forest Inn was four floors high with a center rotunda. The Inn had an artesian well that offered pure and good tasting mineral water. It had a dining room that seated 250 people. The three upper
floors held 150 sleeping apartments, both suites and singes, complete with private baths. The Pine Forest Inn had a “Rocking Chair Room” with over 100 rockers where people could sit and converse. An electric elevator carried guests to and from the upper floors. Telephone and telegraph services were provided. The Pine Forest Inn was indeed a show place. Two of our presidents stayed here, Mr. Theodore Roosevelt and Mr. Howard Taft.
The Pine Forest Inn Golf Course was the second golf course built in South Carolina but one of the earliest built in the U.S.A. The Pine Forest Golf Links were 18 holes, a total distance of 4687 yards.
The Inn also had 60 horses, plus ponies and goats. Every type of buggy and cart was on hand for venturing out. Men used to come to the Inn to go hunting. The hunting grounds were the Ingleside Plantation, six miles from town. They would hunt deer, possum, raccoon, rabbit, fox, quail, dove, and wild turkey. The season lasted from the first of December to the first of April. Champion hunting dogs were provided if you didn’t bring your own.
This Inn played a vital role in the “Golden Age of Summerville.” The Pine Forest Inn no longer exists. It was torn down in the 1940s. The only things still standing are the gates on Marion Street, now the driveway for a private home. You can drive around President’s Circle and see where the Inn was located.
In 1915 the Carolina Inn began to forge the reputation as an Inn of excellent accommodations and cuisine as well. Carolina Inn was the name given the former Dorchester Inn when purchased in 1912 by Mr. T.R. Moore. Prior to that it was known as Brown’s Hotel and a tavern called Moore’s Tavern in 1812. The Inn had sixty-seven rooms, singles and suites. The Carolina Inn was noted for the fine duck and quail they served.
The Pine Forest Inn planned activities for the guests but the Carolina Inn did not. The guests would do their own things. This Inn was located at Sumter and Carolina Avenue.
Besides the more well known Inns, Summerville had smaller Inns of high quality. Founded in 1912 was the Squirrel Inn built by two sisters, Miss Raven and Mrs. Helen Lewis. This Inn was only open during the winter season until 1925. That was the year it changed ownership and began operating year round. In 1941 a Swiss couple, the Eugene Sutters, purchased The Squirrel Inn. Under their management the Inn prospered. In 1957 The Squirrel Inn was acclaimed as one of the top forty rural Inns in the nation and still stands 116 West Fifth South Street.
There were a lot of places catering to tourists in the early 1900s like the HollyInn, the Postern, White Gables, Halcyon Inn and Wisteria Inn. Tourists came in large numbers until the last of the 1930s when people were able to travel to Florida. In the 1940s World War II was on the horizon and Summerville took a back seat.
Today Summerville still has visitors that come to enjoy a small old fashioned town. We still have five Bed and Breakfasts and a large number of great hotels. We even have a Cracker Barrel. Summerville, where people are friendly and they still wear smiles. It’s great to look back on the “Golden Age of Summerville” and see how grand it was.