The Windsor Hotel still shines in the memories of many area folks. A 1909 advertisement spoke of the former establishment as the “handsomest furnished hotel between Richmond and Chattanooga.”
A 1913 photo engraved envelope reads, “Hotel Windsor, Up-To-Date Modern, Centrally Located, Harry L. Langel, Proprietor.” A billboard painted on an old barn in the 1920s proudly proclaimed, “Windsor Hotel, Streamline Suites, $1.15 – $2.25 per night, R.A. Preas, Manager.”
The three-story brick Windsor Hotel was all this and much more, catering to passengers traveling on one of three railroads lines operating in the city. The large 11,961 square foot edifice stood along the railroad tracks on Fountain Square opposite the future city bus station on the east and the Piedmont Hotel to the north. A city trolley whisked briskly by the enterprise several times daily, providing convenient transportation for guests.
In 1906, J.A. Dennis owned land along the railroad tracks just south of Main Street. He sold it to H.W. Pardue who built a hotel on it in 1909, bearing his name. The Pardue name was spelled out on the brick along the top north and east sides and remained there even up to the day it was demolished.
Dr. James Preas, a local physician, eventually acquired the facility and changed its designation to Hotel Windsor, eventually leasing it to a Mr. W.W. Westmoreland. The business in time became known as the Windsor Hotel. The popular hostelry became a favorite spot for traveling business personnel, special events, honeymooners, political and social conventions and other gatherings.
The Windsor had 50 rooms, 14-inch thick walls and was the only inn in town with an elevator. The internal (non-face) bricks were fabricated in a shop on Water Street. Standard items in each room included steam heat, hot and cold water, private baths and telephones. Amazingly, the original patterned ceramic tile lobby floor served patrons throughout its 62-year existence. The foyer once even sported a small zoo.
The decorative ballroom and dining room on the second floor became the hub of activities. The newly formed Rotary Club used the facility in 1915 with local furniture dealer, Bert Pouder, serving as its first president. Three years later, the Kiwanis Club came into existence with insurance and real estate businessman, Joe Summers, as its leader. Notables who stayed there included William Jennings Bryan, three time presidential candidate and secretary of state in President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet.
Those were the days of two-way traffic on Main Street. Anyone traveling west would notice the Windsor sign immediately after they passed the old post office (now WJHL building). The unique thing about it was how each letter in the hotel name was lighted one after the other: W – WI – WIN – WIND – WINDS – WINDSO – WINDSOR. After the word was fully lit, all seven lights went off, flashed back on, went off again and then repeated the sequence in like manner. A large white sign with black letters sat on the roof of the hotel facing east until the 1950s.
In the years before its demise, the Windsor offered patrons low budget accommodations. Sadly, the old hotel was razed in the summer of 1971 along with the Arlington Hotel, Fountain Square Hotel and several adjoining structures as part of the city’s urban renewal efforts.