Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
Statesboro has had many hotels over the years, but none was ever as grand as the Jaeckel Hotel, which is now being used as Statesboro's City Hall. The Classic Revival style hotel was designed by Austin Franklin and built in 1905 on East Main Street on land formerly owned by the Olliff Investment Company.
It was officially run by the new Statesboro Hotel Corporation; whose president was none other than Gustave Jaeckel. A native Berliner, Jaeckel had for years owned what became known as the Rountree Hotel, which was located right next door.
There were 199 stockholders (all but two of whom were Bulloch County residents) in his venture, which was capitalized at $15,000. It is said that Robert Andrew Smith became the proprietor of the hotel shortly thereafter. The hotel was leased in 1912 to R.L. Pascals of Florida, who operated it until 1917.
In 1918, investor W.H. Sharpe bought up most of the outstanding stock in the corporation from J.A. and Cecil Brannen and took over its operation until 1922, when he leased it to E.C. Rogers. When Rogers backed out in 1926, Sharpe leased it to D.A. Barney until 1930, when he leased it to a third operator, J. Lev Martin of Savannah.
Sharpe took the hotel back in 1934 from Martin, and operated it himself until 1939, when he finally sold the hotel to E.A. and Horace Z. Smith. In the hotel's first 35 years the hotel served more than 150,000 guests, the most famous of whom was undoubtedly the Henry Ford party of nearly one dozen guests that came to visit Statesboro in 1935.
Statesboro's Jaeckel Hotel was also the center of many famous events, including serving as the official center for Southeast Georgia Confederate Veterans Reunion in 1902. This event had attendees from South and North Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
There were 205 veterans, who had served in the Confederate Army (at that time between the ages of 54 and 84) who marched in the parade. The Jaeckel Hotel was also selected to serve as the first overnight stop on the first-ever Great Savannah to Atlanta Endurance Race that took place in 1909.
In addition, the Jaeckel Hotel was one of famous blues singer Blind Willie McTell's favorite hang-outs, where he would sit on the steps and entertain guests and residents alike. In 1960, the hotel became the new Statesboro City Hall, and in 1982 the Jaeckel Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at email@example.com.