I was recently asked about the history of Hotel Upson, so I figured why not share it here?
During the 1st February meeting of the Thomaston Kiwanis Club, in the year 1927, a proposal was made to build a grand hotel for Thomaston.
Shortly thereafter, the Thomaston Hotel Company was formed, composed of R.E. Hightower Sr., then President of Thomaston Cotton Mills, along with his sons, W.H. Hightower, R.E. Hightower, Jr., and Julian Hightower.
Hightower agreed to finance the building of a modern hotel if the City of Thomaston would sell $25,000 worth of bonds. By November of the same year, the public had purchased over $30,000 in bonds, in support of the project. Construction began on the site of the old Baptist Church. The building was to be constructed in a Georgian Revival design, and would tower as the tallest structure in downtown.
Within just 6 months, the hotel was complete! A “Brilliant” opening was held on October 10th, 1928, in which over 400 people attended. The $150,000 hotel was touted to have “every modern convenience and refinement. Its fifty-four rooms all have lavatories with hot and cold water and circulating ice water, telephones, ceiling fans, fully carpeted, and furnished with the most pleasing and comfortable appointments. 33 rooms have a private bath.” Thomaston Times, October 12, 1928.
For decades, the hotel remained a critical commercial and community hub for downtown. A number of businesses were housed there, including a barber shop (possibly Harold Storey’s?), a beauty parlor, and Day Realty. Community events were often held in the ballroom, including hairstyling competitions (pictured), retirement parties, club meetings, local dances, and so much more.
As a nod to our WWII exhibit, it’s notable to mention that soldiers were bivouacked at the hotel, serving as their temporary quarters during the war. Mrs. Charlotte McDonald Hancock would dress up as Shirley Temple and perform for the soldiers on the rooftop across from the hotel. (Today’s Up on the Square) Additionally, the hotel showed community spirit in planting a Victory Garden in the hotel’s courtyard.
The hotel also hosted a number of distinguished guests throughout the years, including President Jimmy Carter along with his wife Rosalynn, college coaches Bear Bryant, Vince Dooley, Bobby Dodd, Pat Dye, Hugh Durham, and Erk Russell. Another notable “occupant” was a white boxer bulldog named “Happy” who took up at the hotel in 1959 and stayed + greeted the people of Thomaston for over 11 years.
Though Hotel Upson changed ownership a number of times, it was the Andrews Family who owned and cared for the place the longest. In 1953 John and Hilda Andrews (whose family was originally from Thomaston) moved here from LaGrange to lease and manage the business. In 1957, John purchased the hotel from Howard Dayton for $150,000. Together, the Andrews family ran for Hotel Upson for many years, cementing its status as a crucial mainstay of local history. Unfortunately, on October 1st, 1991, their son Bill had to close the hotel.
Ownership changed several more times. In 2005, investors eyed rehabilitating the property to turn the upper levels into condominiums and the lower level into retail spaces.
With the building sitting vacant for almost 20 years, the building was deemed to be in disrepair by the Thomaston Historical Preservation Commission. It was demolished in mid-2010, marking the end of a legacy.