The Finest Hotel in Fuquay Springs: The Blanchard Hotel

Hotels became important in Fuquay Springs when people “came to take the waters” of the Mineral Spring. What was the finest hotel? From the record, the Blanchard Hotel with its turret and spire standing tall above the spring clearly stands out. Then what happened to the Blanchard?

That is where the answers become harder. Research in the Independent has yielded nothing, although it is possible that the year 1940, which is one of our “missing” years, would provide that information. To date the News and Observer files have also yielded nothing. So what do we know?

“A North Carolina Postcard Album” published by the Division of Archives and History of North Carolina includes the first post card of the new hotel. Postmarked Aug 5, 1908, a year before the town was incorporated, a visitor to Fuquay Springs wrote to say “the hotel would open next Sunday.”

There is a color post card version of the hotel, mailed on June 10, 1910 from Fuquay Springs to a Charles Derhart in Beaver Falls, Pa. The writer identified himself as Isaac Griffis, 18 years old, a machinist, who plans to stay one or two more nights.

While color postcards of the spring give fanciful views with ladies in frilly dresses and parasols and gentlemen sporting their finest suits and top hats, this postcard does seem to be an actual photographic rendering, on the top of which Griffis has scrawled “The Knox”. The U. S. Census of 1910 lists Wilton A. Knox as hotel keeper. Knox is recorded as having wife, Penny, daughters, Mary and Lucille and a son, Wilton.

Finally, an early post card taken from the southern side of the creek, behind the old pavilion where dances were held, is clearly a photographic image. Note the scrawny trees, the old store hiding just behind the pavilion, and the Blanchard sitting high up on the hill with nothing growing around her. Comprised of two stories with a turret and attic and something of a basement under the back side, her porch overlooked the mineral spring. Skinny Ashworth says he can remember seeing people sitting on the porch looking toward the spring sometime during the 1930’s.

The site was originally Fuquay family land. Part of the 93 acres inherited by Alrich Partin Fuquay from his father David Crockett Fuquay on the west side of what is now Main Street, it included the spring, joined the Jones land at the depot, and worked its way up the hill to above Academy Street today. A. P. Fuquay mortgaged his land to pay for his education at UNC Chapel Hill, then returned to town to teach in the Squire Ballentine School House located above the spring. When the school closed about 1892, he left town and moved to Georgia. His property was handled by his brother and acquired by Dr. J. A. Sexton in 1898.

Maps show Sexton’s plan for lots on Spring Heights and up Main Street. Lots # 5, 6, & 7 of his platt were sold to A. G. Blanchard and his wife Maggie. Henceforth, these three lots are identified in the records as the “hotel property.” Blanchard built and named this fine structure.

Arthur Gibson Blanchard was a son of Dr. A. J. Blanchard and Harriett Rowland Blanchard who lived on what is now Highway # 55 or Broad Street across from Windsor Point. Maggie was the daughter of B. G. Ennis who owned the property along what became Broad Street. They had no children; however, there were other Blanchard descendants in Fuquay-Varina. and a nephew called “Gib” who was named for him.

Whatever the financial success of the Blanchard Hotel may have been, the Blanchards mortgaged this property and others to the Trustees of Wake Forest College September 25, 1911. Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory lists the Blanchard hotel each year; however, in 1915 it is identified as the Myatt Hotel. Again an inn keeper’s name is associated in this photograph showing more landscaping of the grounds around the hotel. To date we have no identification of the Myatt innkeeper’s name although there were many Myatt’s in the Willow Springs area.

In any event, the hotel ownership remained with the Blanchards. The Treasurer of Wake Forest College, Talcott Brewer, acknowledged by affidavit in 1923 that the $900 note on the Blanchard Hotel was still unpaid. Finally, the Trustees of Wake Forest officially sold the property to Hattie Hill Williams and husband Joseph Speed Williams in 1935. The Hills were from Louisburg and the Williams from Warren County. Their intention was to restore the hotel as a tourist attraction according to their grandson.

To date, we have located no clarity on whether the hotel was then open or was closed. These were depression years across our nation. The Ben-Wiley Hotel across the street was opened in 1925 by the Cozart family and the Barham-Bullock Hotel still operated.

In 1937, Mrs. Williams conveyed the hotel property to her daughter, Elizabeth Williams Rowland. Elizabeth, at 18 years of age and a student at Woman’s College in Greensboro, met and married handsome Walter Elton Rowland, son of Walter Lee Rowland of Fuquay Springs. Grandmother Williams died of cancer in 1938, according to Walter Speed Rowland, son of Elizabeth. Walter Speed (of Delaware) has visited the museums and was himself delivered by Dr. Cozart.

The Williams family attempted to sell the hotel to a Mecklenburg couple and then bought it back. When the mortgage on the hotel defaulted and the property reverted to the Trustees of Wake Forest College, the college auctioned the property at the courthouse in Raleigh in March of 1940. E. P. Hough purchased the hotel property for $1200.

Mrs. Pauline Holt Cozart and her husband Dr. W. S. Cozart acquired the property from Hough on October 17, 1940.

What happened to the hotel building? Walter Speed Rowland assumed the hotel burned but cannot verify this. Rupert Weathers ( a descendant of the Blanchard family) remembers playing in the closets of the abandoned hotel building as a boy. Sara Fish Ragan and her good friend Patsy Cozart Patrick both told us in separate interviews in 2019 that they seem to recall the building being demolished around the late 1940’s.

At this juncture it does appear that the hotel property was cleared for individual building sites which remained under Mrs. Cozart’s ownership until 1984-85. Since that time there have been a number of owners of these properties. If you want to locate the hotel property today, the first of these houses is scheduled to open as Piedmont Pottery, the second building is rented and occupied by Loving Loft, and the third, still a rental dwelling, is owned by Patty and John Byrne.

The Masonic Hall is not located on hotel property but rather was the site of the older store which shows in the pictures between the mineral spring and the Blanchard.