Many came to Tryon to stay, dine at Oak Hall Hotel

Published 1:37 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Clara EdwardsIn 1912, additions were made to the hotel, bringing the number of rooms to 66 with three cottages added in the back. Before Edwards purchased the hotel, it served as a summer or winter resort only. Edwards was the first to open the hotel year round.

Several people, both famous and infamous, lived at the hotel or stayed for many months at a time. Copenhaver talked about General George Marshall&squo;s wife, Katherine, living at the hotel for 10 or 12 years.

&dquo;Mrs. Marshall was a beautiful woman,&dquo; Copenhaver said. &dquo;She was just as nice as she was beautiful and talented as well.&dquo;

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General Marshall was with the Army in both World War I and World War II, was named Secretary of State and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

Copenhaver said she never met F. Scott Fitzgerald, but heard Edwards talking about how Fitzgerald frequented Missildine&squo;s Drug Store and would make up poems on napkins and give them to people there. Fitzgerald stayed at Oak Hall Hotel while his wife, Zelda, was in the hospital.

Other famous people who stayed at Oak Hall who Copenhaver remembered were actor David Niven, Henry Ford and Frank McCarthy, an aide of General Marshall&squo;s and later a producer with 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios.

Copenhaver spoke highly of and remembered many people who worked at the hotel, including Frank &dquo;Pick&dquo; Brown, Ted King, Nonie Robinson, Tom Foster, Pearly Booker and Mary Graham.

&dquo;These men and women were very fine and very good at what they did,&dquo; said Copenhaver. &dquo;So professional at what they did.&dquo;

Robinson spent a lot of time playing with Copenhaver&squo;s young daughter, Sally.

Copenhaver told stories about &dquo;Nonie&dquo; and Sally taking walks and picking flowers for the dinner tables every day.

&dquo;Nonie could play dolls better than anybody,&dquo; Copenhaver said.

Graham probably worked at Oak Hall 45 years or so, Copenhaver said, and was one of the funniest women Copenhaver said she ever met in her life.

According to Copenhaver, favorite foods at the Oak Hall Hotel included spoon bread, banana bread, roast beef and, of course, fried chicken.

&dquo;Everybody went on Sunday to have dinner,&dquo; she said.

Copenhaver said you could have an enourmous meal at Oak Hall for $6 or $7 then.

Oak Hall was also famous for holding all the civic organization luncheons, balls and bridge tournaments.

Copenhaver remembers having to sandpaper chairs prior to ladies&squo; bridge tournaments because women would &dquo;throw fits&dquo; if their hose got snagged on the chairs.

&dquo;Clara would say, &squo;I don&squo;t want any fits today,&squo;&dquo; Copenhaver remembered, laughing.

Copenhaver described Edwards, who never married, as the most fun person she&squo;d ever met. She was a teacher and worked at the post office for about 20 years prior to purchasing Oak Hall.

Edwards had traveled all 48 states at the time and had friends everywhere, Copenhaver said. Copenhaver said she ran the hotel so well because she already knew everybody when she opened it.

Edwards&39; health began to decline in the 1970s and doctors advised her to get out of the demanding hotel business. Despite Edwards&39; attempts to sell the building and later to save the structures through historical institutions, the building was torn down.

&dquo;When she decided to sell, she wanted someone to buy it and continue it,&dquo; Copenhaver said. &dquo;She was exhausted.&dquo;

Edwards offered the building to Copenhaver, but Copenhaver said she had too many obligations to run it and didn&squo;t think she could ever run it like Clara did.

&dquo;I think the fact that Clara was there and all the rest of the people that worked there made it unique,&dquo; Copenhaver said.

Copenhaver said she can sometimes still hear in her mind the &dquo;clickety, clack,&dquo; of a huge fan on the second floor. And every time she hears someone say, &dquo;Pick up,&dquo; she can still see Frank Brown or Ted King going into the kitchen.

Edwards continued to live nearby on Melrose Avenue until her death in the early 1990s.

Oak Hall was torn down around 1979-1980.