Sitting on History…

Dear Reader:

If you are admiring an adorable little white chair in front of my computer desk (instead of my “borrowed” kitchen chair that I’ve been forced to use for over a year now)…you are an excellent observer….I am now sitting on “history” each time  I begin my blog post…a dining chair from the PINE FOREST INN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As Honey was leaving Summerville Saturday morning she called me and said she had a surprise for me…it was a dining chair from the Pine Forest Inn that she and Mike left for me on the porch. Mike also left some crabbing nets for Jake. I was beside myself with excitement and jubilation! (So was Jake when he saw the nets Sunday afternoon!)

THE PINE FOREST INN! I taught South Carolina and American history to my eighth graders but we always made time to do an unit on local history…Summerville History...and no one can do Summerville history without first mentioning the Pine Forest Inn. 

Honey is a direct descendant of one of its owners…her daddy “Mr. Salisbury”…an amazing self-made man!

I was in my car Saturday running errands when Honey called me about the chair…I thought she meant they had dropped it off on my porch…but when I excitedly drove in…there was nothing there. I was practically in tears.

I called Honey half-hysterical and said “I think somebody “done” stole my chair off the porch.” Honey laughed and reassured me it was on her porch. Whew! Relief flooded through me!

I retrieved it and came home to immediately take a picture of the chair in front of the Christmas Tree so I would always remember that out of this challenging Covid Christmas of 2020… I received an amazing piece of local history memorabilia.

Let me refresh the memory of some readers and introduce  new readers to the story behind the construction of the amazing Pine Forest Inn that housed Presidents, dignitaries, actors, musicians….a smorgasbord of the Who’s Who in America at the turn of the 20th century.

The story begins with a very important meeting that took place in Paris in 1889 involving a “Congress of Physicians“… specialists in respiratory disorders. They named Summerville, South Carolina as one of the “two places on the face of the earth” best suited for the treatment and cure of pulmonary disease.

“Overnight the bucolic little town of Summerville was hurled from relative obscurity into the world’s spotlight.” The Pine Forest Inn was originally owned by stockholders of the Summerville Hotel Company…but over the years it took to build this massive “Grande Dame of the Summerville Inns of the Golden Age“…it came under private ownership and was passed down from owner to owner….Honey’s father being the last owner.

The 22 acres surrounding the inn included a golf course, two lawn tennis courts, croquet grounds, an Amusement Hall that contained a bowling alley and billiard tables. There were over a 100 rocking chairs on the huge surrounding porch to enjoy…also there were 60 horses, plus ponies and goats available for children to be pulled in little wagons.

President Roosevelt visits the Pine Forest Inn

Now that it is almost Christmas I can only imagine the smell of fresh pine used in decorations throughout the hotel. Large fireplaces in the lobby and dining room crackled with log fires throughout the winter months. In fact almost every sleeping room contained an open fireplace which glowed with pine knot fires.

The cuisine was unequaled anywhere..first class chefs were hired along with German bakers. Fresh vegetables and salads came from the surrounding gardens, fresh meat and seafood were delivered daily by train from Charleston and New York markets. Dinner music was presented by live professional famous musicians for the dining guests.

I lucked up and found this Christmas dining menu cover from the Pine Forest Inn…unbelievably “grand”!

The menu consisted of…

*** I don’t know about you…but suddenly I am starving! 🙂

Sadly by 1915 the Pine Forest Inn had new competition from other hotels hoping to jump in on Summerville’s drawing card too. Then construction began new roads and interstates that by-passed travelers around our little “ville” and took them faster and more directly to Charleston.

In the mid 1930’s the Inn diminished in popularity and closed. It was reopened by T.W. Salisbury in 1939. During World War II the Inn housed officers and defense workers and after the war the Inn was transformed into the Adventure School- A progressive school before it’s time. The Adventure School had only one graduating class.

Honey still remembers as child (1960) hearing the inn being torn down since her father was afraid a fire would eventually take the empty edifice and he couldn’t bear that thought.

But Mr. Salisbury gave away foliage of every type found in the gardens, along with fireplace mantles and other pieces of furniture…to the local populace at the time…so today one can still find parts of this old inn in people’s homes and gardens.

And now I have a piece too…a planter for my garden and my priceless Christmas surprise…my little white chair. May it bring me wisdom and fill me with more stories to tell from past, present, and future.

Today only the remnants of the entrance to the Pine Forest Inn remain…leading  into Presidents Circle. One beautiful photo caught a rare snow in 2018 making this entrance even lovelier with its gas lights…and last year a new plaque was added to this old historic entrance.

So until tomorrow…

“If history were taught in the form of stories it would never be forgotten” Kipling

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

I have January 10 marked on my calendar…a Sunday to keep Eva Cate and Jake for a few hours while John and Mandy go to Effingham, SC (outside Florence) to  pick up the newest member of the family- a toy poodle named “Winnie” as in Pooh…except she is a little girl…Jake and Eva Cate named her and are so excited!

***Tigger got his name originally from Winnie the Pooh’s character friend too…so our love of Winnie the Pooh will continue! Happiness is…the Turner family has missed another canine family member to make their family whole.

While running errands yesterday I had to stop on Marion Avenue and take this picture of late fall/early winter in Summerville….breathtaking!

In memoriam….Happy Birthday to my mother born December 22, 1919….How fortunate I was to be born to this extraordinary woman who taught me more about courage and staying open to new possibilities than my mother.

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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3 Responses to Sitting on History…

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    What a special gift! Honey and Mike are such nice people. I loved reading about the Pine Forest Inn…knew a little, but learned more about it…wonderful story.


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