South Boston over the years has had many fires but the one in December 1925 was one of the worst on record.
The temperature stood that night at a low 8 degrees and a cold high wind was blowing.
On Dec. 27, 1925, the fire was discovered at 2:30, and it threatened to wipe out the entire business district of the town of South Boston.
The fire had originated in Ehrlich’s Department Store and had gained great headway before it was discovered as reported by the Richmond Times on Monday, Dec. 28, 1925.
On the south side of Main, those who lost their businesses were Henry Berman, dry goods; Patterson’s Dry Goods Company; Palace Pool Parlor, Ed Norman, proprietor; Ehrlich Department Store; G. Higger dry goods; and Isriel Clayborn, grocer.
Ed Norman, who was asleep over his Pool Parlor barely had time to get out of the building before it collapsed.
On the other side of Main Street businesses lost were the Garland Hotel, owner Mrs. G.E. Faulkner; L. O. Crenshaw, City Shoe Store; Edmondson Tobacco Warehouse; City Barber Shop; First National Bank; Gilliland’s Department Store; and Ream’s Furniture Company.
Western Union, the telegraph company, was located in the Garland Hotel and was destroyed that night.
By the newspaper dated Dec. 29, 1925, Carrington Waddell, a local capitalist of South Boston, announced that a modern hotel would be built and located on the same site of the old Garland Hotel, which was destroyed by fire. The new hotel would be located on the old Carrington homestead property at Main and Broad Streets in South Boston.
Waddell was a grandson of John Mettauer Carrington, a mayor of South Boston for eight years.
I had always heard from my father-in-law that Carrington Waddell’s grandfather, Mr. Carrington, had to do with the railroad being put through the town of South Boston. It was told that he made a fortune with the railroad and never had to work again. I believe he had stock in this railroad.
In the Richmond Times Dispatch on Saturday, Oct. 18, 1902, John M. Carrington had a visitor, Horatio Jones of Rochester, New York. In 1865 when Horatio Jones was a boy of 16, he was at the head of Sheridan’s Cavalry when it entered the village known then as Halifax Court House. Horatio desired to carry souvenir to his home, so he entered the Odd Fellows Hall and “captured” the Tiler’s Sword and some paraphernalia belonging to the order. He stated that his conscience had been hurting him for many years for his wrongdoing.
Jones came to the Grand Reunion in Washington and then came to South Boston where he met Mayor John M. Carrington, who was also a boy of 16 in 1865 and witnessed the entrance of the calvary into his native village of Halifax Court House. Jones returned the sword and other articles belonging to the Odd Fellows toW.D. Hill of South Boston, who was the grandmaster of the Lodge of Virginia at that time. Jones made many acquaintances while in South Boston and the old soldiers enjoyed hearing him talk of his hair breadth escapes during the war.
Carrington died in 1922 and it was stated that 50 years ago, Carrington owned a large circus, which was widely known throughout the country and considered in those days as one of the largest road shows.
Carrington was born circa 1848 and married Fannie Toot. He was the son of Dr. Cabell Carrington of Halifax Court House and the grandson of Patrick Henry. In 1922 at his death, he left one daughter, Minnie Waddell of Clover, Halifax County. Minnie was the mother of Carrington Waddell.
On February 1926, Carrington Waddell sold his interest in the new hotel to contractors J. B. Jones and J. C. Wheat of Richmond. On May 4, 1928, work began on the John Randolph Hotel in South Boston on Main Street and Charles Street.
The promoters of the new John Randolph Hotel were known as the South Boston Hotel Corporation, which placed stock on the market for sale in the town of South Boston.
On Aug. 8, 1929, the John Randolph Hotel was under construction and the walls were standing and “the roof should be put on this week.”
Carrington Waddell had retained property at the rear of the hotel, on which he would erect a garage and filling station. The enterprise would be located at the corner of Broad and Charles Streets.
By Sept. 26, 1928, the John Randolph Hotel was progressing rapidly and with favorable weather, conditions would soon be ready for occupancy.
The plasterers were putting on the plastering while the floors, with the exception of the dining room floor, were all laid. The windows were all in.
The main entrance was on Charles Street as was the dining room and a small barber shop.
On Nov. 23, 1928, the management of the John Randolph Hotel had issued invitations to a good many citizens to their opening on Saturday, Nov. 24, 1928.
The new hotel, John Randolph, stands on part of the lot formerly occupied by the Garland Hotel.
In November 2028, the John Randolph Hotel will be 100 years old.