Sandlapper Slept Here. . . .

Fannie Kate's Inn, Charleston

by Dan Harmon

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Sandlapper Slept Here" is a column that appears in each issue of Sandlapper Magazine, featuring bed-and-breakfasts and historic inns throughout the Palmetto State. Here's an example. If you find it interesting, you may want to peruse our back issue listings for information about previous columns.

Fannie Kate's, McCormick Lou Roberts loved McCormick except for one thing, which he quickly discovered when he and his wife Barbara retired here in March 1994. "I became immediately bored with small towns and wanted something to do."

He found something: the old McCormick Hotel. They bought the place and, over an eight-month period, restored it to its original purpose. Known today as Fannie Kate's, it's the pride of McCormick, and rightly so.

It's also a tribute to Fannie Kate McCain, the beloved innkeeper of yesteryear. The McCormick Hotel, built over abandoned gold mine tunnels in the early 1880s to serve the railroad clientele, was known as "Fannie Kate's" by appreciative townfolk during much of this century. Besides running the hotel, she constantly was preparing meals for invalids, the sick and newcomers.

"Everybody said Fannie Kate had money hidden in these walls," Lou says. "We found one penny, 1928. Fannie Kate's wealth was not in money. It was in her service to this town. She was like a saint around here."

Fannie Kate's today is not only a nine-room inn but also a notable new dining venue along the state's Heritage Corridor. Dining fare ranges from eggs and pancakes for breakfast to soups and subs for lunch to chicken picatta and shrimp scampi for dinner by candlelight. The room tariff includes anything you want on the restaurant's breakfast menu.

Located beside the railroad tracks and next door to the town arts center, it's a comfortable, convenient base from which to explore the state's western perimeter. Guests can rock on full-length front porches upstairs or down. Much of the furniture inside belonged to Fannie Kate.

An outbuilding recently was opened as a "hunter's lodge," geared toward the sporting crowd who invade the area for game and fish in season. Equipped with a kitchen and bath, it can accommodate as many as six guests at about $20 per person.

There was much to be done to the historic inn before Lou and Barbara opened it to a 1995 clientele. It had only three bathrooms; the Robertses put in 15. They installed sprinkler and smoke detection systems and provided such courtesies as phones in the rooms, complete with voice mail.

Lou thrived on each task. "Work," he proclaims, "is my hobby." He loves restoring houses and early automobiles and has done it all: plastering, stuccoing, drywalling, plumbing, electrical work.

Lou, a Texas native, and Barbara, a western South Carolina native, met and married in Miami, where they both worked with the Dade County school system. When they attended one of Barbara's family reunions near Owings four years ago, Lou was so impressed by the small-town, family atmosphere that he wanted to retire here. "The things that made America great are here., all the good stuff that kids enjoy - and that I enjoy."

McCormick, in particular, he found to be "a very friendly town with truly nice, genuine people - which we'd forgotten about when we were living in the big city. I couldn't believe the low crime rate here."

The inn/restaurant is an especially lively place when court is in session. Otherwise, typical guests are government and industrial travelers and visitors to nearby Savannah Lakes Village. Happily for the Robertses, when the property tour traffic slows during cold weather months, hunters are out in force. They expect to stay busy year-round.

Some people already make Fannie Kate's a regular part of their lives. A birthday club meets at the restaurant, as does a ministerial association.

Is Lou still bored? Not likely. He and Barbara have learned an innkeeper's work is never done. Besides, he has plans for a gazebo and formal garden in the courtyard. He's found that in McCormick, there's no such thing as retirement after all.

Fannie Kate's Inn (127 S. Main St., McCormick, SC 29835; (864) 465-0061, (800) 965-0061) has nine guest rooms inside, each with private bath, $65-75; a "hunter's lodge" for groups of up to six is available at a special shared rate. No smoking inside. Children okay. Pets doubtful.

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