A Tradition Rich in History
For one hundred years, the Mansion House Hotel stood on South Main Street in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1924, the hotel was demolished to make room for the construction of the Poinsett Hotel. The price tag for the new hotel was 1.5 million dollars, and when it opened on June 20, 1925, it was one of the most beautifully furnished hotels in the country. However, during the first year of business, the hotel lost $30,000 and continued to lose money through the years of the Great Depression.
In 1930, Mr. J. Mason Alexander was hired as General Manager Director. Mr. Alexander was known as Old Admiral Spit and Polish, the best hotel manager in the business. Mr. Alexander had a formula for success known as "The four C's: Cleanliness, cooking, competence and courtesy." Local residents filled the hotel's dining room for family dinners and ballrooms for formal dances. The hotel quickly became known as "Carolina's Finest," and by 1940 it was making money.
Also known as "Mr. Poinsett," Mason Alexander was labeled "the man who gave you clean money" because he made sure that no guest left the Poinsett Hotel with anything but clean money in his pocket. Thus, the people who handled money were required to polish all coins before putting them in the cash register for change. Mr. Alexander kept the hotel like "a good housekeeper would keep a house." He considered hotel patrons as honored guests who should receive a warm reception, fine dining, and a peaceful sleep. Some notable guests at the Poinsett included Amelia Earhardt, John Barrymore, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Bobby Kennedy and the flamboyant Liberace.
Due to increased business during 1941, the hotel added 60 rooms bringing the total to 248 rooms. By the mid 1950's the motel industry boomed and city hotels became obsolete. In 1959 the hotel was sold to Jack Tarr hotel chain. From 1971 until December 1986, the hotel was foreclosed, and by the end of that year, the last residents of the retirement home moved out. The hotel remained empty until November 1997 when Steve Dopp and Greg Lenox, owners/developer of the historic Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, purchased it and the extensive-and expensive renovation process began.
In June 2000, the owners, former employees and friends of the Poinsett Hotel celebrated the 75th anniversary of its original grand opening with an exhibit of historic memorabilia in City Hall and a reception in the Gold Ballroom of the hotel. Many memories of the grand days of the hotel were recalled and shared.
Until early 1990, the Poinsett Hotel was considered one of the eleven most endangered historical sites in South Carolina. With the grand opening of the Westin Poinsett Hotel, the hotel's future is no longer in jeopardy and once again the City of Greenville will be home to "Carolina's Finest."