Monday, January 16, 2017

Sunset Lodge

Quiet little Georgetown has a few skletons in its closet. 

One big one is the Sunset Lodge where Madam Hazel Weiss, a former school teacher, and her young girls, hand picked by Hazel from the West Virginia mountains, teamed up with wealthy industrialist and Major League Baseball Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey to provide "services" to the men of South Carolina.  
 About three miles south of town, the brothel did business from 1936 to 1969.  

Hazel's girls, as they were called, were an asset to the economy of Georgetown.  They worked at the Lodge for about six months and while they were here they had plenty of cash to shop at Georgetown stores for clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other nice things for themselves and to send back to their poor families in West Virginia.  One department store had a special buyer/clerk whose job it was to handle Hazel's girls' gowns and negligees and other needs.  

Hazel was discreet about her business but in a town of a few thousand, where most people had known one another for generations, I would imagine the girls would be hard to miss.  Hazel didn't allow them to speak to men on the street or go into town or stores unchaperoned.  Often they were just driven to the door, the store owner came out with merchandise, and they shopped from the car.

Operating an illegal business, Hazel did what she could to keep on the good side of people in town.  She gave generously to Little League baseball, Easter Seals, March of Dimes, helped with Thanksgiving baskets for the poor, and some say that she was instrumental in funding the building project of one of the churches in town.  
Hazel's birthday was October 28 and every year everything was free for Georgetown men on that day.  It is said that Georgetown flower shops stocked extra flowers that week because they would always sell out.  She also closed the Lodge to the public for a week in the spring when the state legislature adjourned and reserved the girls for legislators and judges.  The state legislature meets in Columbia, 125 miles away.  

The Post and Courier of Charleston described Sunset Lodge as "perhaps the most widely known site in S.C., with the exception of Fort Sumter."  Sailors just into port in Charleston would catch a bus up Highway 17 to visit Sunset Lodge and river tug pilots would schedule boat repairs in Georgetown so as to spend time--and money--with Hazel's girls.
 


Hazel closed Sunset Lodge in 1969 when her health began to fail.  


The Lodge burned down in 1993 but behind the lodge 
some of the little houses 
where the girls provided 
their services still stand.






 
Since it closed the Sunset Lodge name has been carried on by whatever business occupied the land.  There is now a row of apartments to the right painted bright blue and called Sunset Lodge Apartments.  When we go by I always wonder if the occupants have any idea of the history of the name. 

 


15 comments:

  1. Amazed it was allowed to continue for so long but then if the judiciary are availing themselves of the facilities there is no-one left to take action.

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  2. Sounds like she provided good service, I'll bet she was missed when she closed down.

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  3. She sure minded her business well. Very interesting story. Betsy

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  4. You always do some great research on the history of things. Closed in 1969! She ran a very successful business.

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  5. Most interesting, she certainly provided a service and bought a lot of revenue to the town. I bet the Lodge was missed.

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  6. That is a nice story and she was a clever succesful business woman for those days!

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  7. This is so interesting! I love to read your posts.

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  8. Really fascinating post! I regret I can't come with anything as interesting!

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  9. What a fascinating story, Cynthia! And what an astute businesswoman Hazel was...and philanthropic too by the sound of it.

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  10. Interesting and I doubt if all people that stayed there or passed by would know the history.
    Hazel sounded as if she was a good business women and looked after her girls well.

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  11. Interesting history. Seems like Hazel had a good sense of civic responsibility based on your description of her philanthropy. Legislators and judges, eh? Probably a great business strategy.

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  12. What an interesting story about your city. I do wonder how many would want to know the history of the name if they lived on the property. :-)

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  13. Wow - that's a different post :) It looks like Hazel and her girls were quite a hit with the town!
    Wren x

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