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New Perry Hotel

Updated: May 19




In 1833, shortly after Perry was established as the seat of Houston County, a hotel known as the Perry Hotel was built on the south side of Courthouse Square at the intersection of two major stagecoach routes. In 1870, a larger two-story hotel with a wide front veranda and twenty guest rooms was built on the site.




In 1924, the owner of the hotel, Mrs. Rochelle Cheves Skellie, demolished the 1870 building and built a larger hotel, known as the New Perry Hotel, the third hotel on the site. Mrs. Skellie believed that her new hotel, described in an advertisement as "Perry's newest and most modern hotel," would attract northern tourists on their way to Florida. In the 1930s, the hotel's dining room, which became known for "good food and Southern hospitality," became the meeting place for local civic groups, such as the Civitan Club and Kiwanis. In 1944, Yates and Nannette Green purchased the hotel, which they operated for over fifty years. In 1947, the Greens added a new kitchen, expanded the dining room, and added a rear lobby and banquet room. Increasing demand for rooms led the Greens in 1955 to build a motel court at the rear of the property. By 1959, the increased the of the New Perry Motel, as it was called, was increased in size from eight rooms to seventeen rooms. The Greens also built a pool and cabana. In 2000, the Greens sold the hotel to group of local investors who plan to restore the hotel to its mid-20th century appearance.


Houston County was formed in 1821, and its county seat, Perry, was incorporated in 1824. As early as 1833, a hotel occupied the Main Street property south of the courthouse square. Deed Book E, Houston County, Georgia 1831-1834, indicates that Phenias Oliver sold The Tavery, also known as The Perry Hotel, to Benjamin Fudge in 1833. In addition to its proximity to the courthouse, the location of the hotel property was also ideal as it was located at a crossroads of the major north-south and east-west stagecoach routes.

According to a local history of Houston County compiled in 1934, another hotel, most likely the second building, was built on the property in 1870. An 1893 photograph of this building, called the “Perry Hotel,” gives an idea of how this building appeared. The book, entitled A Stroll Through Perry Sixty Years Ago, gives a description of the hotel: In 1873, one who some years previously had moved away, returned and was a guest at the Perry Hotel, formerly Cox’s Inn. It was a large two-story frame structure painted white with a wide front veranda from which two low steps led directly to the sidewalk. It was immediately south of the courthouse and occupied the ground between the location whereupon the New Perry Hotel was later built and the street. The old sign, swaying with every wind, on which was painted, “Entertainment for Man and Beast,” had long since been taken down.


Other descriptions of the second hotel come from local newspapers. An 1883 news article in the Houston Home Journal reported “Perry Hotel Improved. Twenty well-furnished rooms available for the use of guests. Mr. and Mrs. James N. Tuttle managers.” Local accounts maintain that the dining room was becoming well known throughout the area for its good food. Like many small-town hotels, the Perry Hotel became a place not only for travelers to stay but also a gathering place for the local population. According to accounts of the period, hotel patrons and townspeople were “called to meals by the old bell-ringer who walked down Main Street clanging his dinner bell.” Shopkeepers would close up their businesses, and the court would take a recess for lunch. Guests would sit at long tables and were served family style.

After the Tuttles, the Perry Hotel was operated by a succession of owners: Mrs. Clifford Burnham Davis, Major Milt Cooper, Tom Anderson, and Rochelle Cheves Skellie. In the early 1920s, mass production of the automobile and the paving of state and federal highways, particularly Highway 41 from Tennessee to Florida, created a new clientele: the automobile traveler and tourist. Mrs. Skellie realized the opportunity to expand her business and resolved to build a new, grander hotel on the site. The 1870 building was demolished in 1924, and the New Perry Hotel was completed the following year. Mrs. Perry hired Davenport Guerry to landscape the property, which was designed to attract Northern tourists en route to Florida.

The formal opening of the New Perry Hotel was celebrated on June 17, 1925, with an opening dance held at 9 p.m. that evening. A full-page advertisement announcing the hotel’s formal opening celebration appeared in that morning’s edition of the Houston Home Journal. The ad featured a drawing of the facade of the hotel and the caption “Perry’s newest and most modern hotel.” The ad proclaimed that the hotel was “established more than 100 years ago” and offered the following description of the new facility: “This exquisite New Hotel is three stories high and is modern in every sense of the word. Everything is new throughout, and the best service will be rendered at all times. It is located on three highways, making it convenient for everyone.”

The following day, the Houston Home Journal reported that “three hundred guests enjoyed a buffet dinner and danced to the music of the Southern Serenaders from Macon.” In 1929, Mrs. Skellie sold the New Perry Hotel to J. J. “Jimpy” Rooney, who refurbished the hotel and added air cooling and floodlights. It was during Rooney’s tenure that the New Perry Hotel began to enjoy a more regional reputation. During the 1930s, Rooney began advertising on billboards between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Jacksonville, Florida, in an effort to attract guests traveling the highways to and from vacation destinations in Florida. The hotel’s growing reputation for “good food and southern hospitality” was rewarded through recommendations from Duncan Hines and the Automobile Association of America (AAA).


It was also during this time that the hotel became a meeting place for local civic groups. Beginning in the early 1930s, the Civitan Club began to hold its meetings at the New Perry Hotel every Thursday night. In 1938, the local chapter of the Kiwanis Club was organized at the New Perry Hotel where they continue to hold their regularly scheduled meetings. The Rooneys continued to run the New Perry Hotel until they sold it to Yates and Nannette Green in 1944.

Yates and Nannette met in c.1935 while working at the Baldwin Hotel in Milledgeville, which was part of the Stiles Hotel Chain. Yates was employed as a hotel clerk, and Nannette was a dining room hostess. After their marriage in 1937, the Greens continued to work for the Stiles Hotel Chain, which was established by John Stiles, Yates’ uncle. Between 1937-1941, the Greens were sent to DeFuniak Springs, Florida, as co-managers of the Walton Hotel and later to Fair Forest Hotel in Union, South Carolina. In 1941, Yates was inducted into the army at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After Yates’ discharge from the army, the Greens worked at the Georgian Hotel in Athens, Georgia. In January 1944, while traveling to Americus, Georgia, to begin new positions at the Windsor Hotel, the Greens stopped at the New Perry Hotel. With assistance from Yates Green’s parents and Uncle Stiles, Yates and Nannette purchased the New Perry Hotel in April 1944.


Working as a team, Yates managed the desk and made business decisions while Nannette operated the kitchen and dining room. In the spring of 1944, with World War II underway, keeping the dining room operating was a challenge. Rationing for the war effort meant that sugar was often hard to come by, and items like chocolate and coffee were often unavailable. Most of the vegetables were fresh, bought from local farmers or from the Victory Garden that Mr. Rooney had planted at the back of the property. During these years, chickens and turkeys were kept in a coop where the cabana is now located and were slaughtered as needed. Cooking was done on wood stoves, but because most of the men were serving in the military, it was difficult to maintain a sufficient supply of wood.

In 1947, the Greens made several major additions to the hotel. The existing one-story brick-veneer wings replaced the columned, one-story porticoes originally located on each end of the hotel (depicted in the June 18, 1925, edition of the Houston Home Journal). The east wing primarily consisted of a one-bedroom apartment for the Greens while the west wing contained a new kitchen. The rear lobby (now the motel office), banquet room



The New Perry Hotel is located on the south side of the courthouse square in downtown Perry, the seat of Houston County. The New Perry Hotel is a complex that includes a three-story hotel, built in 1925, a one-story motel, built in 1955 and enlarged in 1959, a pool and cabana, and historic landscape that includes brick walks and walls, gate posts, and paved drives. Built in 1925, the hotel is a three-story, masonry building designed in the Neoclassical Revival style. Its three-part facade is distinguished by a two-story classical portico and a low-pitched hip roof. The first floor features a central lobby with a dining room on the west side and guest rooms to the east. In 1947, a kitchen and banquet hall were built across the rear. The two upper floors feature guest rooms on each side of a double-loaded corridor. In 1955, an eight-room Colonial Revival-style motel was built at the rear of the property. Guest parking is available in front of the rooms, which open directly to the parking area. By 1959, a pool and cabana were built, and nine rooms were added to the motel. The hotel’s mid-20*" century landscape includes oak, pines, magnolia, and cedar of Lebanon trees. Landscape structures, such as brick walks and walls, gate posts, and paved drives, survive intact.


The hotel is a tile-block, three-story, hip-roof building with a stucco exterior dominated by a monumental, full-height portico. A shed-roofed dormer vent is in the center of the rear elevation. The upper floors feature four-over-four-light windows and paired six-over-six-light windows while the central, first-floor facade (lobby and dining room areas) feature fanlights over French doors that lead out to a concrete terrace. The terrace features stucco masonry piers with cast-iron railings.

Original interior features include hard wood floors, plaster walls and ceilings, molded door and window frames, baseboards, and two-panel doors. The stairwell features wainscoting and plain, wood newel posts and square balusters. The first-floor plan consists of a central lobby flanked by the dining room on the west and a wing of rooms (six rooms) on the east. The lobby area and dining room feature square Tuscan columns while the hall separating the guest rooms on the east side of the building features round Tuscan columns at the entrance. All public spaces on the first floor feature a plain baseboard, chair rail, and molded cornice. The second- and third-floor plans are essentially the same, each with 17 rooms flanked by a central east-west hallway. All guest rooms feature a transom over the doorway.


Several major additions were made to the hotel in 1947. The existing one-story, side-gable, brick veneer wings replaced the columned, one-story wood porticoes originally located on each end of the hotel. The east wing was primarily built as an apartment for the proprietors while the west wing contained a new kitchen. Both additions appear to be of balloon frame construction featuring gable end returns, triangular wood vents, and six-over-six-light windows (although the west wing also features metal casement windows indicative of its function as a commercial kitchen).  Also, during this period, the rear lobby (now the motel office), banquet room, and storage/receiving room were added to the rear and west side of the building, while the dining room was expanded. This addition is characterized as a one-story, flat-roof, brick-veneer ell and wing section featuring metal casement windows and plain cornice. The addition displays International stylistic elements such as smooth, unadorned wall surface and banks of windows meeting at corners. Shortly after the additions were completed, a fire gutted the third floor of the building. As a result, the hotel was completely remodeled and updated (except for the new construction, which was not damaged in the blaze). A new roof was installed, walls and ceilings were re-plastered (particularly the third floor), and a new heating system was installed. Private bathrooms and telephones were also added in each room.  Bathrooms feature ceramic tile floors, tile half walls, porcelain basins and commodes. The addition of bathrooms in each room reduced the size of each room.


Between 1955 and 1959, the rear lobby was converted into a motel office and the card room was built above it. In 1965, the original full-height portico on the facade was altered to its existing condition. The portico originally featured a pedimented gable, plain entablature, and round, full height Tuscan columns. The round Tuscan columns were replaced with the square Tuscan columns and a masonry foyer base. The main hotel entrance is located in the base of the foyer and features Neoclassical Revival-style door surrounds with elliptical fanlights and thin sidelights. A second-floor balcony with cast-iron railing is located on the foyer roof, which is accessed through a doorway that includes a broken pediment surround.


During the 1990s, the Green’s apartment in the east wing was converted into two additional rooms.  During the early 2000s, the former kitchen, sitting room, and living rooms of the apartment were converted into the Tavery Bar and Grill, while the remaining rooms on the east side of the first floor were converted for use as offices.


The motel was constructed at the rear of the hotel in 1955. It began as a linear building with eight rooms. Four more units were added in 1957 with an additional five added in 1959, giving the motel a total of 17 rooms and an overall U shape. The one-story brick-veneer building features Colonial Revival-style elements such as a centered, pedimented portico with square Tuscan columns, decorative cast-iron ornament in the gable ends, and a cupola with a pyramidal roof and a metal weathervane. Each pair of rooms shares a common foyer. All rooms feature sheetrock interior walls and ceiling and ceramic-tile in the bathrooms. The pool and cabana were added in 1959. The cabana features brick piers with brick screen walls and a concave, pyramidal-shaped roof covered with standing-seam sheet metal and topped with an elaborate cupola.

The hotel landscape has evolved from the original circular drive flanked by tall masonry gate posts to include brick sidewalks and footwalls and landscaped parking areas with planted beds and grounds.


The original formal drive featured a grass, semi-circular lawn area. By the 1940s, this grassy area was paved for use as a circular parking lot as indicated in photos from the 1940s. A circular sidewalk replaced the driveway, and the main automobile entrance was established through the center of the masonry gates. Most of the existing landscape scheme was established between 1947 and 1959, when the hotel was remodeled, and the motel court and pool was established. Brick footwalls along the sidewalks on the side streets were probably added in 1947 at the same time the side wings of the hotel were added. The layout of the motel and pool at the rear of the property was established in the late 1950s.




 

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