The seven-story Hotel Eutaw on Russell Street was considered one of the most modern and best-equipped hotels in a community Orangeburg’s size when it opened for business in 1927.
When complete, the $300,000 hotel was a “skyscraper” of seven stories with chandeliers, terrazzo floors, marble, polished carved wood and spacious rooms.
For several years, the hotel operated as part of a chain of hotels on a lease basis, but the operation was unsatisfactory to stockholders.
In 1929, the stock market collapsed, sending the nation into the Great Depression. By 1934, ownership of the hotel had transferred to a group of Orangeburg business people.
For decades, the hotel was renowned for its dining facilities and as a space for wedding receptions and other occasions.
In its earliest days, the hotel was the site of either a suicide pact between a couple successfully carried out or a murder-suicide. Authorities were never able to find out.
The hotel’s busiest time of year was the Orangeburg County Fair week.
Cars gradually replaced trains as the preferred mode of travel and U.S. 301 diverted traffic from Russell Street to John C. Calhoun Drive. Newer motels grew up along the streamlined federal highway route, offering more parking and more first-floor guest rooms than the Hotel Eutaw could provide.
The T&D was published from the hotel’s lobby and dining room for nearly a month in late 1972 following a devastating fire at its physical plant.
In 1984, the hotel was renovated and renamed the Russell Street Inn. A bank foreclosed against the hotel’s then-owner in 1987. New owners took over the hotel in 1990, but it closed again in 1992.
South Carolina State University used the former Hotel Eutaw briefly for student housing in the early 1990s, and real estate agents tried for years to persuade the institution’s foundation to buy the property.
In 1997, Regency Development Associates Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., stepped forward with a $1.3 million plan to divide the building into 32 apartments for senior citizens. City Council endorsed the project and provided $10,000. However, anticipated state grant money was not forthcoming.
Around 2005, the Claflin University Community Development Corp. also looked at purchasing the former hotel. The university did some engineering studies to see if it could be turned into low-income housing, but the project was not deemed feasible.
Columbia attorney Robert Lewis purchased the 28,000-square-foot building in January 2007 with the intention of transforming it into university housing.
The $1.6 million renovation of the building began in June 2008 and included plaster repair and painting, as well as the installation of updated plumbing, electrical, security, air-conditioning, fire suppression and sprinkler systems.
In 2009, Claflin University leased space for students from property management company Red Curb Investments. The university is preparing to open a new dorm on campus, but the company continues to offer off-campus housing to students.
In addition to student housing, the building also has a bridal shop and a men’s clothing store.
A retailer is also being sought for the adjacent, 6,000-square-foot former Goodyear building.