The Barringer Hotel
The 12-story William R. Barringer Hotel opened on
December 15, 1940, and continued to house patrons until February 1975 when
it closed under the name Cavalier Inn.
The initial owner and operator of the Barringer was the Barringer Hotel
Company, which was headed by Laurence S. Barringer as president. A
resident of Columbia, S.C., Barringer named the hotel for his father,
William Rufus Barringer, who had lived in Charlotte briefly as a
young man in the 1890s and who had gone on to own and operate hotels in
several other Southern cities, including Columbia, Greenville, S.C., and
Augusta, Ga. The architects of the Barringer Hotel, Bobbie Dial and
Albert Thomas, also lived in Columbia.
The Barringer Hotel as it
appeared in December 1940
A cocktail party and banquet were held in the hotel on the evening of
December 14, 1940, where several local dignitaries paid tribute to the
owners. Dr. Luther Little, minister of First Baptist Church, gave the
invocation; and Mayor Ben Douglas proclaimed the official welcome.
Clarence “Booster” Kuester, the manager of the Charlotte Chamber of
Commerce, “praised the Barringers for their faith in Charlotte to come
here and build a magnificent hotel without asking for help from the people
of Charlotte.” No doubt Kuester’s enthusiasm was due in part to the
fact that the Barringer Hotel was the first high rise building erected
locally in more than a decade. Mayor Douglas, a prototypical New South
enthusiast, stated that the Barringer Hotel “turned out to be a
testimonial to the progressive and pioneering spirit of the Barringers in
the southern hotel field.”
Laurence S. Barringer,
president of the Barringer Hotel Company
The Barringer Hotel was marketed as a modern, convenient, and, above all
else, elegant place to stay. Movie stars, including Judy Garland, Tyrone
Power, Joan Crawford, and Gloria Swanson, were among its guests. “It
used to be the most formal, elegant place in the world,” remembered one
resident in 1975.
Laurence Barringer hired a Swiss chef to oversee the cuisine and called
upon his sister, Flora Barringer, also of Columbia, to select the décor
for the company’s grand new hotel. She selected “French period
furnishings” for some rooms, including the coffee shop, and hepplewhite
for others. “All rooms,” reported the Charlotte Observer,
“have running ice water, beautiful sun-tan tiled bathrooms with bath tub
and shower, specious closets and other equipment to add to the comfort of
the occupants.” Each floor had a slot to allow mail to fall down to a
collection bin in the basement, and oriental rugs covered the floors in
the main public rooms of the Barringer. All in all, the Barringer
Hotel was “up-to-date.”
A rendering of the original
coffee shop in the Barringer Hotel
The Barringer Hotel initially had 200 bedrooms. Indicative of the
Barringer’s success was the construction of 125 additional bedrooms in
1950. Finally, in 1959, the Barringer Hotel Company bought the
adjacent lot on North Tryon St. from St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and
constructed a 100-room motor court and convention hall.
Despite his best efforts, however, Laurence Barringer could not overcome
forces that were working against the success of center city hotels by the
early 1960s, when wealthy patrons increasingly began to prefer motels or
outlying hotels as places to stay. The Barringer Hotel Company sold the
Barringer Hotel in November 1961.
The City of Charlotte purchased the then-vacant building in June 1978, and
now it is used as public housing for the elderly.
The Barringer and the nearby Mayfair Manor are the only extant buildings
in uptown Charlotte that served as hotels before World War Two.
Charlotte Observer, 16 November, 14 December, 1940; 13
November, 1961; 18 September, 1971; 21 April, 1976.
“Letter from Laurence S. Barringer to Charles R. Brockmann,” March 5,
1959 (part of the manuscript collection of the Spangler Robinson Room of
the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library). Hereinafter cited
as Barringer. The Barringer Hotel Company operated
the Hotel Columbia in Columbia, S.C., and the Hotel Richmond in Augusta,
“Hotels. Barringer” (part of the manuscript collection of the
Spangler Robinson Room of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library).
Hereinafter cited as Hotel.
Charlotte Observer, 5 February, 1975.
Charlotte Observer, 13 November, 1961.
The Weekly Uptown, 13 June, 1978.