Surveying the selections, the Pine Forest Inn was the recognizable grand dame, but around this year another name was emerging in popularity as an inn with exceptional accommodations and tasty cuisine.
The inn's address - the crossroads at W Carolina and Sumter Ave. But on this day of November 21, 2013, standing at the street sign marking the location, no traces of the graceful 67-room lodging with a swimming pool remained.
Unmercifully, in the 1960's, it suffered the same irreversibly regrettable fate that also awaited the Pine Forest Inn, total destruction. So, with some imagination and preserved photos, I gazed out over the heavily treed landscape and visually reconstructed the old inn.
Unlike the structured offerings of the Pine Forest Inn, there were no activities organized by management. Patrons were left to their own devices. One of the favorite pastimes of the guests was competing in bridge tournaments and competitions. Somewhat similar to tourism today, other diversions included historical tours, garden tours, maybe a silent movie at the Arcade Theatre, or shopping and sightseeing excursions into Charleston on the Southern Railway out of Summerville.
Looking down Sumter Ave toward W Carolina today.
Looking down Sumter Ave toward W Carolina in the early 1900's.
There was about ten years age difference between Sarah and her husband, Harry Woodruff, a station master in Charleston. Mr. Woodruff had an infamous reputation as a gambler and according to a family story he once gambled away downtown Houston in a card game in Texas. Concerned about her husband's history and the family's monetary future, Sarah formed a plan to secure it. She always admired the White Gables property and after observing the large number of people coming from Charleston to stay at the Carolina Inn, saw a potential in the house and its servant cottages as a source of income and proceeded to boldly put the wheels in motion to purchase it.
One particular day Sarah's husband arrived at the Summerville train station from railroad business and as usual was met by the family retainer with his horse and carriage to take him home. Upon noticing a change in route, Mr. Woodruff asked the driver, "Charlie, where are you taking me?" As he pulled into the driveway, Charlie answered, "Mrs. Woodruff bought this house and this is where you live now." Sarah had no qualms about purchasing the property without her husband's knowledge. In addition, a man by the name of Henry Clay lived on the third floor for almost four years without Mr. Woodruff ever knowing. Mr. Clay was sent to Summerville by his doctor for health reasons and while looking for a place to board met Sarah and arrangements were contracted.
For nearly 26 years, White Gables was famous for Southern hospitality under Sarah's ownership. After the Woodruffs, eventually White gables became a private residence. It has survived the winds of change in Summerville. Today, it looks much like it did in the early 1900's, except some of the trees may be naturally bigger. It is presently up for sale. Would you be interested in owning a beautiful piece of Summerville history?
White Gables November 21, 2013
(Pictures taken from "Images of America-Summerville" by Jerry Crotty and Margaret Ann Michels and Porch Rocker Collections.)