The Mystery of Altamont Hotel

23 thoughts on “The Mystery of Altamont Hotel”

  1. Tom,
    Is N. J. Holmes related to Zelotes Holmes who built the Octagon House in Laurens? He was a Presbyterian minister, if I remember correctly.

    1. Yes. Zelotes was his father. NJ was also a Presbyterian minister, and founded 2nd Presbyterian in Greenville. He and my grandfather were asked to leave the Presbyterian church when they embraced Pentecostalism.

      My grandfather was going to be a lawyer. He and NJ were close friends. NJ married Lucy Simpson, whose father, William Dunlap Simpson, was a governor of SC as well as Chief Justice of the SC Supreme Court. My grandfather was going to “read law” with Simpson until Holmes convinced him to go into the ministry.

  2. I’ve been waiting for your writeup since I saw your photos of the steps on Flickr a few days ago. And thanks for the link to my trip!

    I went back over my deed research from 2012 and property records from the summit do prove the hotel was there.

    Here’s the chain of deeds I found at the Greenville County Register of Deeds website:
    book EE, page 190 [Paris Mountain Hotel Company -> N. J. Holmes]
    book 32, page 183 [N. J. Holmes -> Altamont Bible and Missionary Institute]
    book 33, pages 540 and 541 [Altamont Bible and Missionary Institue -> A. M. Hayes]
    book 110, page 426 [A. M Hayes (estate) -> H. R. Stephenson]

    This brings us up to 1943, where H. R. Stephenson began subdividing the property:
    book 253, page 285 [H. R. Stephenson -> S.C. Forestry Commission
    book 275, page 275 [H. R. Stephenson -> Textile Broadcasting Company]

    I could keep on by listing more recent transactions, and I just might on my own blog, but the property transfers to the SC Forestry Commission and a broadcasting company should be enough to show the hotel was indeed at the summit.

    I also found a plat (book P, page 157) that shows a concrete reservoir that could possibly have been the hotel’s water source.

    1. Mark, I think that’s pretty conclusive evidence. I may share this with the person asking the question on Facebook.

    2. Oops! I meant plat book P, page 137 not 157. Sorry about that!

      Also, while I presented the deeds going forward in time, I actually researched backwards in time. It’s usually much easier that way for this type of mystery.

  3. Found one more proof.
    From “Life Sketches and Sermons” by N. J. & Lucy Holmes, page 94:

    we had an opportunity to purchase the Altamont Hotel property on the highest point of Paris Mountain

    Can’t get more definitive than that.

  4. I’ve been reading with interest the search for the location of the old hotel. I’ve seen the steps in the bend on Tower Rd, but not explored the area on foot. In a book I read ( Mann Batson about the Swamp Rabbit RR), he quotes a guy who stayed at the old hotel. The guy went back after it burned but said he could not find any trace of the hotel. I hope I’m recalling this correctly because I loaned the book to a friend who has yet to return it πŸ™‚

    I looked at the old 1921 Greenville County Soil map which Mark provides a link to on one of his posting sites.
    ( I know it’s after the hotel burned but hear me out. The hotel burned in 1920 and the map is from 1921. Back then it took them a long time to create such a detailed map so I’m thinking that the hotel might be shown on the map even though by the time of publication it had burned. If you look at the map, you will see Paris Mountain. Zoom in and take a close look. There are two things I noticed. 1) a building is marked along the main road but there is a spur going off that loops back with another building at the end of the spur. This is located right in the middle of the orange colored area. 2) Some folks said the hotel was located further down the mountain. Well, if you look in the gray area of the map where it changes from light blue to gray, you’ll see a building and a oval. Could the oval be the pond/lake that some folks have mentioned? It’s the only oval I see on the mountain. Could this be the site? It’s difficult to tell from the map.

    I wonder if anyone has taken a metal detector up there and tried to locate old nails and other things which might signify where the building was. Since it was rather large, there should be a lot of old mostly rusted nails. The old water pipes are probably buried there still and those would certainly turn up. I’m sure there would be a lot of false readings around the tower area but perhaps if the other spot could be located, it might prove more useful.

  5. This is a change of subject, but has to do with the Altamont Hotel. My mother was born in 1911. She told me this story her whole life. She said when she was a child her and her parents rode in a wagon pulled by a horse to the site where the hotel had burned. Her mother picked up a black iron wash pot and put it in their wagon. My mother still had it. Some years before she died she gave the pot to me. I still have it. I keep it inside of my house. It is in my diningroom and I see it everyday. I am 69 years and this story and wash pot has always been part of my life. If anyone ever does a display on the hotel
    I will gladly let them borrow the pot. Thanks for the information on the hotel.

  6. I have a black iron wash pot that came from the Altamont Hotel after it burned. My mother was a child when she and her parents rode up the mountain and got the pot at the burn site. My mother was born in 1911. I still have the pot. Rode in horse and wagon to burn site.

  7. I have a large black wash pot that came from the Altamont Hotel burn site. My mother and her parents rode in a horse and wagon. My mom was born in 1911. I still have it. Let me know if you would like a picture of the pot.

    1. Yes I did. That’s interesting. I was wondering if there were any signs of the old hotel left. I’d read in a history book about Greenville, and the hotel, that pretty much all traces of the old hotel were gone. I would imagine that a few items, like the black wash pot, have been kept and saved.

  8. This discussion intrigues me because of my personal involvement and relationship with the institution which has developed from Altamont Bible and Missionary Institute. As a very youth high school student, I enrolled in the “Academy,” or high school, in October, 1060.

    When I enrolled at Holmes, there were three people involved in the College who had been students when it was located on Paris Mountain. Dr. Paul F. Beacham had succeeded Rev. Holmes as President. He remained as President until his death in 1978. Mrs. Nina Cotton Holmes had married Rev. Holmes’ nephew, Zelotes Holmes–names for Rev. Holmes’ father. He had died about two years after their marriage, and Mrs. Nina had remained with the College in some capacity over the years. During my student years she served as librarian. She was a skilled music conductor as well. The third person was Mr. William Dell Reynolds, who had served as Dean of Men and work supervisor until his retirement.

    I knew two other people who were eyewitnesses of the original school on the mountain. Rev. I. H. Presley who had been a student, and I believe he had helped to move the college to its downtown location around 1915, and Rev. James H. Taylor, whose father, I believe, had been a member of the faculty. I remember discussing the beginnings of the college, and its location, with Rev. Taylor in the 1980’s. I had hoped to have Rev. Presley go with me to the original site before his death, but decided to wait for warmer weather because of his health limitations. Alas, He died before this plan could be carried out..

    A different location than that at the top of the mountain would in no way negate the history of Altamont Hotel, nor that of what is now known as Holmes Bible College. However, I have never heard any of these eyewitnesses to the beginning of the College say that the location was anywhere other than at the top of Paris Mountain.

    These other ideas are interesting, but the “lore” is overwhelming that Altamont Hotel, and Altamont Bible and Missionary Institute was at the top of Paris Mountain.

    Donald E. Watson
    Grateful Alumni, 1967

    1. Don, James H. Taylor was my uncle. My grandfather was Oscar E. Taylor. He grew up in Laurens with NJ Holmes and conducted tent revivals with him, as well as teaching at the college.

      1. Tom, who was your father? I may have known him too. I was wondering as you discussed your family’s relation to Holmes. These stories are dear to my heart!

        1. Don, I’m absolutely sure you know my family. My father was Houston Taylor. My uncles on my mother’s side were Vernon, Vinson, and Bill Ellenberg.

        2. Maybe I assume too much. you may be related through your mother. I was thinking of a Brother Taylor who pastored a church at Laurens (or Clinton?).


          1. I knew them all! I was thinking of Houston, but could not think of his name. I’m going to sign off for now–I’m a hospital chaplain, and need to be at the hospital early. I appreciate all you have shared!


  9. These comments and the research are most interesting. Would some exploration of the wooded area near the steps be possible? I heard they have or will close Tower road so that might not allow any parking room, depending on where the gate is/will be. It sure would be fun to explore the area and see if the pipes which were mentioned can be found, and if any foundations could be found.

  10. Hi. As part of an estate sale box of old photographs… i have multiple pictures of the Altamont…i’m not sure of the date but they were taken during the time period of use as a summer vacation spot. The pictures do seem to show the hotel being high in elavation with no higher acreage in sight…unfortunately no interior shots were taken, probably due to lighting issues. As the result of the pics i found this blog…very interesting!

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