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.