Just the Facts! The Historic Windsor Hotel, Americus, Georgia
Last weekend my fellow ghost hunting gals spent the night investigating the Historic Windsor Hotel in Americas, Georgia. I couldn’t attend. Seems I may have missed a great investigation. But I’m the history buff, so I still did my research. Apparently, other groups may not have.
I’m amazed at how quickly groups perpetuate urban legends without doing a little legwork. Just like hearsay is not admissible in court, urban legends shrouded as the “truth” should not make it to print. But let me back up.
Americus, Georgia wanted to build a winter destination for snowbirds. Two architects were in the running to design the massive hotel. Ultimately, G.L. (Gottfried Leonard) Norrman (1848-1909) won out. He envisioned a High Victorian themed hotel. The Historic Windsor Hotel opened on June 16, 1892. It cost $150,000 to build. The 5-story Queen Anne castle-like structure takes up a city block. Originally it had 100 rooms. A 3-story atrium is the focal point upon entry. The hotel was named after local businessman John T. Windsor (1847-1930). [Note: Mr. Wilson died on April 20, 1930. This is creepy since April 20th is my birthdate—just not the same year.] The hotel was a mecca for politicians, athletes, and movie stars. However, the appeal wore off by the early 1970s. The Howard Dayton family was the last private owners. They gave—yes, gave—the hotel to the city in 1978. And the pigeons moved in.
The city asked the community what should be done with the hotel: parking deck or remodeled hotel. Surprisingly, the community favored restoration. Good for them! Restoration costs are reported to be between $5 million and $8 million dollars. The hotel re-opened in September of 1991. The Best Western now operates the scaled down 53-room hotel. The 3-story atrium survived the renovations. The fourth floor was not restored and is used primarily for storage.
Stories of hauntings abound. People claim to hear a washing machine in the 5th floor attic. The 3rd floor rooms are most active. Certain rooms are supposedly more haunted; however, the numbers change depending on who you ask. [Note: I would expect the ghosts to roam from room-to-room anyway. I cannot locate any tragic event occurring in any one room. So this fluctuation does not bother me.]
The dining room and board room are also supposedly haunted. There is a gorgeous mirror inside that is also supposed to do something, too. Not sure the link.
The former bellman Floyd Lowery (finally a name!) worked at the hotel for 40 years. He is the namesake for the bar. His ghost is supposedly haunting the establishment. Further, all indications are that he is friendly and helpful, even in the afterlife.
The story that troubles me is the one about a mother and daughter who were murdered sometime in the 1920s. The story goes: Mother was having a tryst. The man was her husband, lover, or her “john.” Rumors are she was the head housekeeper, domestic help, and or prostitute. For some reason she lived at the hotel. The man became upset, reasons vary, and pushed the mother and daughter down the open elevator shaft, killing them upon contact. An online story identifies them as “Emma” and “Abigail.” Jenn and Lisa were given the names “Emily Mae” and “Emma.” I cannot find any of these names in any newspaper. I searched the Americus Times-Recorder, the county organ. Nothing. I would expect a story like this would have been covered by the Atlanta Constitution or the Atlanta Journal (they were 2 separate and distinct newspapers back then). Nope. I’ve searched death certificates. Online obituary listings for Sumter County. Even Find-a-Grave. Still nothing. Deep sigh.
I did, however, find that John T. Windsor’s wife’s name was Emily Amelia. There’s a link. Maybe the names were confused. Still looking.
I also found that Mr. G.L. Norrman committed suicide in 1909 at the age of 61. He designed some amazing buildings in Atlanta and Savannah and was one of the organizers for the Southern Chapter of the American Institute of Architects the same year the Windsor opened. Those, my friends, are facts. The other stuff? Not so sure. But I would expect someone would dust off some microfilm and find out. If you do, please feel free to contact me with it. I promise to share!