Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia

Date added: August 06, 2023 Categories: Georgia Hotel
North perspective looking south (1980)

The Phoenix Hotel, built circa 1890, is significant for its historic-associations with the growth of Waycross, as well as the railroad industry in Southeast Georgia. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the expanding railroad industry increased the need for hostelry services in Waycross. To help these needs, the Phoenix Hotel was constructed.

Like much of the area, the railroad industry had a direct influence on the history of the Phoenix Hotel. In 1880, the Savannah, Florida and Western Railroad (SF & WRR) acquired a large land holding for expansion purposes near the junction of the Brunswick and Albany Railroad and the Waycross and Florida Railroad. Once the SF & WRR completed the construction of its new lines, the remainder of the land was laid out for future development. This plan, known as New Waycross, was designed to provide streets, residential lots, commercial lots, and parks.

In 1890, the four lots that comprise block ten of the New Waycross plan were purchased by Frank C. Owens. Though the exact date of construction is unknown, evidence indicates it was built about this time, since the earliest known advertisements for the hotel appear in 1892.

When completed, this two-story brick structure not only provided comfortable accommodations for the many travelers passing through Waycross on the daily passenger trains, it also provided space on the first floor for many of Waycross' early business endeavors; such as barbers, banks, cigar stores, and clothing stores. During the next twenty years, the hotel industry in Waycross boomed as the number of daily passenger trains increased. This increase in business prompted the owner of the hotel, the Waycross Savings and Trust Company, to invest approximately $100,000.00 in the expansion and renovation of the building. In 1913, V.C. Parker, a prominent local contractor, was put in charge of the renovation. When the work was completed in 1914, the Phoenix Hotel was second only to the La Grande Hotel, located on the triangular block to the south of the Phoenix. The La Grande burned around 1915 leaving the Phoenix as the most prominent hotel in Waycross. The addition of the third floor during the 1913 renovation doubled the number of rooms available.

For the next thirty years, the popularity of the Phoenix grew. Not only did it provide accommodations for travelers, it provided a fine restaurant and meeting place for local functions. As when it was first built, the first floor was used for commercial purposes. Some of the businesses located in the Phoenix Hotel Block were J.E. Steinkeimer, broker; Youman's Jewelry Co.; and Western Union Telephone Co. During the 1950s, when rail travel began to decline, the hotel's clientele began to decrease. This trend continued until the Phoenix Hotel finally closed its doors in the late 1960s.

Architecturally, the Phoenix Hotel could be described as an interpretation of the Spanish Revival style that was becoming popular during the early twentieth century. This is evidenced by its stylized dormers, window ornamentation and smooth, earthtone stucco exterior. Though the name of the renovation architect is not known, the design was probably influenced by the work of H.J. Klutho, the architect for the La Grande Hotel. Mr. Klutho was a prominent Jacksonville, Florida architect who designed a few buildings in Waycross. The use of this detailing influenced the construction industry in the area for many years. This influence can be seen today in several buildings around Waycross, such as the Wacona Elementary School of which the main facade almost duplicates the dormer design of the Phoenix.

The Phoenix Hotel is a three-story, brick building that covers a 200' x 111' block of the Waycross Central Business District. It has an irregular floor plan and is surmounted with a hip roof. Attic ventilation is provided through stylized dormers that are located around the building. The walls are of brick construction, but have been covered with a smooth, earthtone stucco.

The first floor has been "modernized" over the years, but the second and third floors still retain their original window configuration. For the most part, the windows: are grouped together in threes, two full-length windows: with a short window in between. The full-length windows provide light into rooms while the short window provides. light into the baths, which are shared by two rooms. These window groupings are accented by rusticated stone. along the sides. and extending partially across the top.

The interior has walls and ceilings of smooth plaster throughout. The floors are of pine but are mostly covered with carpet. The hotel restaurant is located on the second floor. With its oversized windows and high coffered ceiling, it has a very light and airy feeling.

This, however, is not how the Phoenix Hotel looked when it was first completed. Originally, it was a two-story, brick structure with a 200' x 111" rectangular floor plan. The roof was screened by a brick parapet wall that was accented by a corbeled brick cornice. Brick flues from the second-floor rooms also added ornamentation to the roofline. A two-story veranda and a small, round tower were located on the south elevation of the building.

While the first-floor storefronts were typical of that period with glass facades and central doors, the second-floor windows featured segmented arches with radiating voussoirs. These were each ornamented with corbeled brick window surrounds.

In 1913, under the direction of V.C. Parker, a local contractor, the Phoenix was transformed into its present appearance.

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia North perspective looking south (1980)
North perspective looking south (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia West perspective looking east (1980)
West perspective looking east (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia Southeast (entrance) looking northwest (1980)
Southeast (entrance) looking northwest (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia South corner looking east (1980)
South corner looking east (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia Inner (court) wall looking east (1980)
Inner (court) wall looking east (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia Second floor (lobby and stairwell) looking south (1980)
Second floor (lobby and stairwell) looking south (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia Second floor (dining room) looking north (1980)
Second floor (dining room) looking north (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia Third-floor hallway (1980)
Third-floor hallway (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia Second-floor room (1980)
Second-floor room (1980)

Phoenix Hotel, Waycross Georgia Third-floor room (1980)
Third-floor room (1980)