We applaud the news on today’s front page that the building atop which the city’s clock tower sits is poised to be transformed into a boutique hotel of 45 to 50 rooms, employing 30 to 40 people.
In a roundabout way, this brings the building back to an earlier time in Camden’s history when in-town hotels were the norm and a centerpiece of city life.
The Camden Hotel, Kershaw House, DeKalb Hotel, Hobkirk Inn, Uphton Court (later the Court Inn), and the Kirkwood Hotel are the names of just some of the places that evoke Camden’s grand hotel era through World War II, providing hundreds of guest rooms.
The clock tower building, for lack of a better name, was once Camden’s fourth city hall, pulling double-duty as an opera house up until the 1950s. It has since been a B.C. Moore’s and, later, Peebles department store, followed by a thrift store used for charitable purposes by a Chesterfield County-based group.
For some time now, however, it has sat empty at the corner of Broad and Rutledge streets. With this new project, however, it is now poised to become a hot spot -- a focal point of the city’s tourism efforts. With a new city/county visitors center being built down the road, we can imagine the hotel will often be full, bringing additional visitors to spend money at downtown shops and restaurants.
Along with continued development along U.S. 521 between Black River Road and I-20 Exit 98, this hotel marks another step toward bringing Camden -- and Kershaw County -- “back” to a modern, 21st century version of its historical peak as a major tourism stop in South Carolina.
So, to City Manager Mel Pearson and Tourism/Economic Development Director Suzi Sale; to Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford and council members Joanna Craig, Deborah Davis, Jeffrey Graham and Stephen Smoak; to former mayor Tony Scully who -- along with several current members of council and former council members Walter Long, Laurie Parks and Willard Polk -- initially got the ball rolling and worked toward and authorized the re-purchase of the building in 2014, we say: