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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.[1]  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.[2] 

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.”[3]

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.[4]  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.”[5]

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.[6]  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.[7]  The City of Charlotte purchased the then-vacant building in June 1978, and now it is used as public housing for the elderly.[8]  The Barringer and the nearby Mayfair Manor are the only extant buildings in uptown Charlotte that served as hotels before World War Two.

    



[1] Charlotte Observer, 16 November,  14 December, 1940; 13 November, 1961; 18 September, 1971; 21 April, 1976.

[2] “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, Ga.

[3] “Hotels.  Barringer” (part of the manuscript collection of the Spangler Robinson Room of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library).  Hereinafter cited as Hotel.

[4] Charlotte Observer, 5 February, 1975.

[5] Hotel.

[6] Barringer.

[7] Charlotte Observer, 13 November, 1961.

[8] The Weekly Uptown, 13 June, 1978.