Aiken hotel with ties to Pres. FDR named one of ‘world’s best’

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, July 12, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Things are buzzing inside the doors of The Willcox, an historic Aiken hotel.

"We got an e-mail about 3 o'clock in the afternoon last Friday,” said Geoff Ellis.

In that e-mail, hotel owners Geoff and Shannon Ellis found out their hotel was rated by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the fifty best hotels in the world.

"We were obviously incredibly excited and thrilled with the news. It was a real big surprise,” said Geoff.

The Willcox was built back in 1898 for rich northerners seeking warmth during the winter. All the while, they wanted all the amenities and an equestrian influence too.

"It used to be a Winter Colony here in Aiken with a lot of polo, and a lot of well-to-do, the Vanderbilts, and the Whitneys, and the Hitchcocks,” Geoff said.

After World War II the hotel fell into disrepair. It was revived back in the eighties and purchased by Geoff and Shannon in 2009.

"We have 22 rooms, 15 suites, all well appointed, all different, antiques, feather-topped beds,” he said.

But the hotel doesn't simply cater to out-of-towners. Locals are major part of the hotel's lifeblood.

"We have a lobby bar, where people come and enjoy happy hour and cocktails,” said Shannon, as she gave News 12 a tour of the hotel.

They also have world-class dining, plenty of room for events and meetings, and a salon and spa too.

"And we do couples massages as well. We also do massages in the rooms,” she said.

It’s all the southern charm to make it one of the best hotels in the world, and the same charm that attracted Winston Churchill to stay here and President Franklin D. Roosevelt too.

"As the story goes, you know, the train just behind us used to pull up, and the planks went down, and they used to cart him into the hotel, and carry him upstairs, and there's probably a little bit more to the story than that, but that might be for a different day,” said Geoff.

The Travel and Leisure website brags, “Thanks to that special southern hospitality, The Willcox feels more like a home than a hotel. Flanked by grand white pillars and big oak trees, it oozes Southern charm. The rooms look like you’ve just stepped into Scarlett O’Hara’s house—four-poster beds, fireplaces, and stitched floral pillows. The main activity for Willcox guests is typically horse-related; for more than 100 years, Aiken has served as the training-ground for all things equestrian. After steeple chasing or harness racing, dine on applewood smoked bacon creamed corn and locally grown greens at restaurant Aiken. Would we like to stay at the Willcox? Yes ma’am.”