Mounted on a weather vane, a bronze eagle once spread his majestic wings from high atop the cupola of the old Rosland Hotel.
The edifice, also known as the "Rosalind" or "Eagle Hotel," with its distinctive architectural styling and wraparound porch, was a Grovetown landmark for many decades.
In the beginning, it was built as the palatial and commodious home of Prof. George O. Robinson, who hailed originally from New Hampshire. He was the proprietor of a music store in downtown Augusta in the 1880s known as the "Music House of the South." His company catalog indicated he shipped items to most of the Southern states.
The future homeowner had grand ideas for his new residence among the pines in Grovetown. But during the abode's construction late the same year, Robinson fell ill and died at age 60. He was buried in Augusta.
Shortly after Robinson's death, Joseph Hatton and J.N. Fiske, on behalf of the Grovetown city government, issued a proclamation in 1886 naming the principal thoroughfare in the village Robinson Avenue in honor of George Robinson, and it is still called that today. Previous to this it was known as Timberlake Avenue and Augusta Road.
Robinson's wife soon opened the house as a hotel, but shortly thereafter the title passed to Jesse Thompson and company in 1887. The tan-colored hotel was a popular gathering place for wealthy Augustans and Northerners alike during its heyday, usually during the warm summer months from June until September.
This was also the time many people came to escape the fevers of the low areas of Augusta. They commuted the 15 miles or so on the old local picayune passenger train on the Georgia Railroad, until its demise in 1930.
Though the purported "miracles" from the drinking water of nearby springs drew some to the adjoining grove and picnic ground, many visitors came simply for rest and relaxation at the spacious inn on the main street of Grovetown.
The hotel consisted of 20 large rooms with a balcony that looked down on a ballroom, high above which stood the dome of the rotunda. Additionally, it had a large basement.
The easily recognized building from afar was sturdily constructed and played host to numerous functions of the day. The rotunda was often the scene of church gatherings, suppers, parties and dances.
Across the way it overlooked the prominent summer homes of Augustans, including the Phinizys, Tobins, Barretts and Walkers, as well as the ornate train depot for arriving and departing guests.
Jesse Thompson Sr., the primary overseer of the hotel at that time, was a South Carolinian and former businessman from Augusta who died while living at Swainsboro, Ga., in 1926. It was in the vicinity of Emanuel County that he had moved his building supply enterprise after fire destroyed his Augusta firm. A special train brought his body back to Augusta for burial in Magnolia Cemetery, where the original owner, George Robinson, had been interred a little more than 40 years earlier. Thompson's family inherited the hotel and rented rooms to occupants for a period of time.
In later years, ownership of the Grovetown establishment has included the Rays, Fergusons and Ingletts, who continued to lease "apartments" to tenants at the hotel.
Legend has it that children frequently were allowed to use an area of the mezzanine floor as an improvised skating rink.
The aged wooden hotel caught fire and burned on a cool November night in 1979. The blaze consumed many priceless antiques. After the terrible inferno had subsided, an outside gas lamp post remained standing for a while near the scorched ruins of the memorable Grovetown fixture as a relic to a bygone era. The structure's lifetime spanned about 93 years, even though the building's hull was brought to ashes in the end.
Today, the new Christ Church of Grovetown and the Cornerstone Apostolic Church are situated on the lots where the Rosland Hotel and other adjoining buildings once stood.
Few of the new wave of residents who have succumbed to Grovetown's small-town allure know of Grovetown's former image as a resort at the turn of the century, before and after the 1900s. Hopefully they, too, will come to enjoy the serenity of the little growing municipality by the railroad, that still has a whisper of a country atmosphere.
Charles Lord is a Columbia County historian.
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