I was invited by a friend for a private tour of The Willcox hotel while visiting my family in Aiken, SC for the holidays. Upon my arrival, with camera in hand, I entered this historic old hostelry not really knowing what to expect inside. I’ve driven by the regal, white-columned building hundreds of times (it was my old hometown) sometimes pondering the interior architectural detail, et cetera. One of the very first things I noticed when I stepped into the well-appointed lobby was the unusual looking, while beautiful, wood paneling on the walls.
After taking a few minutes to take a few choice photos, I was greeted by my friend at the desk. One of the first questions out of my mouth was about the wood paneling, specifically, what type of wood since I didn’t recognize any type of wood with that amount of burls in such close proximity to one another. The burled grain and the richness of color found on its surface is highly unusual. She informs me that it is original to the building and that it is a type of wood called curly pine. It was so popular at the time it was built that, unfortunately, it is now thought to be extinct.
I’ve got a few more photos later on in the read, including some photos of the hand-hewn oak timber ceiling and the (twin) opposing fieldstone fireplaces.
Curly pine? What’s that?
Curly pine is actually not a variety of pine tree, instead it is a disease, or condition, that affects the growth pattern of the tree. Or is it? Some sources would have you believe that it is a species of yellow pine* while others would say it is the result of an anomaly of growth that occasionally occurs in trees*. Both of those answers happen to be from the same source. This source mentions that it is also called Rosemary pine, better known as the loblolly pine.
I have read from a couple of other sources that talk about these really old logs being pulled from the bottoms of rivers, on occasion, from when they sunk before they made it to the sawmill back at the turn of the century. I am inclined to believe that it is a "condition" that occurs in trees rather than a species since I am unable to locate a source stating that fact. Enough about all of that business. All I know is that the wood paneling in the lobby is magnificent looking. That’s certain!
The ceiling is very appealing due in large part to the hand-hewn oak timber joists. They are original to the lobby.
Luxurious furnishings abound in the lobby. There’s even a nice backgammon table to pass the time between two friends.
No…you’re not seeing double. There are two huge fieldstone fireplaces on opposing sides of the lobby.
So this isn’t the largest lobby you’ve ever seen. It isn’t meant to be. It simply envelopes you in this sense that you’re someplace pretty special and invites you to take a load off and enjoy your stay.
More on The Willcox
A few great photos of a homemade oyster knife made from curly pine. Yes…an oyster knife!
A nice photo of curly pine in use in the dining room in a Queen Anne home in the Historic District in Houston, TX – the Old Sixth Ward. Photo credit: Keller Williams Realty