The Willcox ‘The living room of the community’

  • Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013 9:27 a.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, March 3, 2013 11:51 a.m.
Staff Photos by Rob Novit
The Willcox is an award-winning part of Aiken’s historic district.
Staff Photos by Rob Novit The Willcox is an award-winning part of Aiken’s historic district.

When the white wooden doors of The Willcox open, jazz music trickles out in greeting from the overhead speakers, as the concierges await you at the front desk.

This year, this grand establishment was again listed as one of Travel + Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels worldwide for 2013.

It made this list in 2012 and has been deemed one of “1,000 places to see before you die,” via Patricia Schultz’s book of that title.

The Willcox, tucked quietly in Aiken’s beautiful historic district on Colleton Avenue, has 15 guestrooms and seven suites yet has so much more to offer.

Let The Willcox entertain you ...

On Tuesday and Friday nights and for Sunday brunches, a local artist plays the grand piano in the lobby. John Vaughn, who performed regularly at the hotel at the start of his career, started playing back at The Willcox late last year.

On Thursdays, guests and community members can sit back with jazz nights – a group known to play is 4 Cats in the Doghouse.

A Fiberglass cat draped in colors and designs stands in attention by the hotel’s front desk. Named “Destiny: A Living History,” the figure is by Pamela McAllister and is one of the 28 Gaston Livery Stable barn cats out until the April auction.

Every year, an art exhibit comes through the building. Right now, Cross Gate Gallery from Lexington, Ky., is exhibiting its sport art-themed exhibit until the end of March, and, “to keep things fresh,” a gallery worker changes out the paintings every few weeks, according to Tina McCarthy, general manager.

The hotel also extends the offer to cozy up with a book. A trip to the right on the bottom floor will lead to the unofficial library/multipurpose room.

Feed you ...

Sitting in the art ambience, people can also come to dine and catch up in the restaurant and bar areas.

The restaurant and lobby bar is for the public and guests and open Mondays to Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A full-scale catering service is available on-site. However, The Willcox’s Food Truck allows the catering service to move off-base. It is able to travel all over the Southeast and work for up to several hundred people, according to its website. A place to always catch it is on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the UPS Corporate Offices on 2031 S. Centennial Ave.

However, “a well-kept secret,” as McCarthy puts it, lies back with the hotel. A brick-lined terrace, set by a pool, is available for those who wish to dine outside.

Also, for those who want to bring a bit of The Willcox expertise brought home, the hotel offers cocktail and cooking classes.

Relax you ...

Art and nourishments can allow some to escape, but spa and salon services is sure to relieve all of all troubles.

Each of the three rooms is set against a steady-going fireplace.

Clients can choose to soak in the hydro-tub or be exposed to full body therapies, different forms of massages and, even, acupuncture. Manicures and pedicures and hair stylings, colorings and waxings are also available.

For couples, treatment room two is the place to be for that is where the bigger hydro-tub and two massage tables are set.

And, most importantly, take you away ...

When it comes down to it, The Willcox tends to draw all types in.

“We have a mixture of corporate clients, a mixture of leisure clients. We have people come in to look at the area. We have groups from small conventions … We have people come in to play golf or ride. It’s a very good, good mix all the way around,” McCarthy said. “We’ll have local people come and have birthdays or anniversaries. We have people as well from Augusta, sort of a little ‘stay-cation.’”

Continental breakfast and a complimentary newspaper welcomes guests in the morning, while beds turned

down, music playing, filled water cups, freshly baked cookies and weather cards awaits guests in the evening.

All guests will, at least, be welcomed with a stuffed featherbed encompassed in cotton sheets, a night stand with a refrigerator tucked inside, a deep soaking tub, an iHome clock, a wide-screen TV and Wi-Fi service.

And everyone can even bring their furry family members and friends along, as a pet service is available. All visitors are allowed to bring pets into the hotel; however, only service animals are allowed into the dining areas.

General hotel merchandise is available by the front desk. The Gate Gallery’s paintings, and, even, the bedding is for sell. For more information, call the hotel.

A bit of background

Frederick Willcox, a caterer at the Old Highland Park Hotel before it burned down, opened The Willcox in 1900 and expanded it just six years afterward. Priding itself on “impeccable service and excellent cuisine,” the hotel have seen notable guests like Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Arden and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who has the widespread Roosevelt Suite on the third floor named in his honor, and few shifts in management.

In November 2000, The Garrett Hotel Group bought The Willcox and made immediate plans as toward its renovation; the hotel reopened a little over two years later.

Currently, Geoffrey and Shannon Ellis own the Willcox and have so since 2009.

“The Willcox is a very special place, and Geoff and I are very proud to be a small part of her history,” Shannon Ellis said. “We work with an incredible team of people who share our pride and respect for The Willcox. The Willcox belongs to the people of Aiken. It’s our privilege to welcome people in and give them the best experience we can. We like to call The Willcox ‘the living room of the community’ and will do whatever we can to ensure it survives another 114 years.”

For more ...

The Willcox is located at 100 Colleton Ave. S.W.

For more information, call 648-1898 or visit www.thewillcox.com.

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