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‘In the Heart of the Pines’ showcases Camden’s hotel era

New exhibit open at Camden Archives and Museum

Posted: July 17, 2014 4:40 p.m.
Updated: July 18, 2014 5:00 a.m.
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The Kirkwood Hotel, as shown in this postcard, is one of several hotels featured in a new exhibit at the Camden Archives and Museum running through Jan. 9, 2015.

The Camden Archives and Museum is hosting a new exhibit on the Hotel Era in Camden from July 2014 until January 9, 2015. Come explore Camden during the days of the Gay Nineties through the Roaring Twenties and beyond to the days before World War II. It was a magical, new social scene set in the midst of our beautiful, old Southern way of life. Camden’s visitors got the best of both.

On exhibit in the Whitely Room, the new exhibit will feature several aspects of Camden’s history which came together to usher in one of the most interesting of Camden’s historical periods.

The Hotel Era really began with the Eldredge family’s ownership of the Haile Gold Mine and subsequent purchase of Pine Flat from the Shannon family in 1883. Frank W. Eldridge opened their home to Northern engineers and guests visiting the mine and the concept of the Hobkirk Inn, as they named it, was conceived. The first tourist inn in Camden, others were soon to follow as northern tourists began to flock to Camden on the two new train lines established to Camden beginning in 1899.

The opening of Court Inn and, later, the Kirkwood Hotel increased the guest capacity of Camden’s large hotels to 675 beds by 1903. Smaller guest houses and hotels also opened and, later, many of the Northern guests bought their own dwellings in town. The typical “season” was from November to March each year, when the northern states were snowed in and the balmy Southern weather of Camden was at its most alluring.

The Northern guests, here for fun and relaxation, prompted the formal organization of old Southern pastimes like fishing, hunting and horseback riding into tourism services. Camden became an equestrian center as the Camden Jockey Club reorganized, the Camden Polo Club formed, the Camden Hunt was established, and Springdale Race Course built.

At the race course, the Carolina Cup was organized and the first race horse training center established. Golf was another new addition to the sports scene in Camden by 1897, when the first golf course was laid out in the back yard of the Hobkirk Inn.

The Camden Archives and Museum is located at 1314 Broad St., Camden. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information call 803-425-6050.

(Photo and story provided by the city of Camden.)

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