The final wall of a motel demolition project came down recently on a South Main Street property next to, and owned by, Statesboro First United Methodist Church, paving the way for future development by the church and simultaneously contributing to the ongoing South Main improvement project.
First United Methodist Church purchased the property housing Aldred’s Trellis Garden Inn, along with two houses, in 1997 when the church bought the site from South Main back to College Street. The church set up a corporation to run the hotel at that time.
As the economy and hotel landscape changed in Statesboro, the business became a losing proposition. Pastor Jimmy Cason said of the venture, “The church had to decide if it was our mission to run a hotel. The answer was ‘no.’”
Bill Mathis Sr., the chairman of the FUMC Board of Trustees, said the church spent more than five years studying possible uses for the hotel in its current state, but that the hotel was deteriorating such that the cost of renovating it and bringing it up to code was not feasible.
A local company, Ellis Wood Contracting, is in charge of the demolition project.
No firm plans are currently established for the property, but many ideas are being considered.
“The Building Committee is looking into plans for a new addition,” Cason said. “Somewhere in the next two to three years, we will add on to these facilities. We’re in the stage of what that will look like and what direction that will go.”
Mathis added, “A priority may be building an addition for a new, self-contained preschool.”
The First United Methodist Preschool, directed by Ann Haskins, has a waiting list of children each year.
Statesboro First United Methodist Church has quite a history in downtown Statesboro. Some sort of church structure has stood on the corner of South Main and West Cherry streets since the late 1800s.
The hotel also has longtime roots in Bulloch County. Walter Harmon Aldred Jr. bought the property from the Captain J.P. Williams Estate in 1943. According to Walt Aldred, grandson of the original hotel owner, Williams was one of many wealthy industrialists from the North who purchased land in various Southern states during that time.
Williams built a mansion on the site. It was that Colonial-style mansion that Walter Aldred Jr. renovated and added buildings on the side of to become first the Aldred Hotel in 1951 and later the Aldred Downtown Court. Upon his father’s health issues and retirement, Walter Harmon “Skip” Aldred III renovated the hotel in 1981 to become Aldred’s Trellis Garden Inn.
Fortunately for history buffs and sentimentalists, parts of the former hotel will remain visible in Statesboro. An old fireplace from the house is now part of The Belle House, a popular event venue for weddings and gatherings, owned by another Aldred grandchild, Vivian Scott.
The door and side windows of the inn were purchased for use by the currently under-construction Statesboro Visitors and Convention Bureau, farther down South Main Street in the former Shoney’s Restaurant building.
The church also donated some of the items from the hotel to Open Hearts Community Mission.