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  • McDonald House Hotel, by R. Ward Harrison

  • McDonald House Hotel, by Lois Barefoot Mays.

  • Further Notes, by Lois Barefoot Mays

McDonald House Hotel

Charlton County Herald, Editor R. Ward Harrison

Nov. 11, 1949

Established in 1914 the McDonald House is one of Folkston’s oldest business enterprises in continuous operation under the original management. The modern hotel building with a large store room on the ground floor in which a general mercantile business was carried on was built in that year by the late Benjamin Griffin McDonald.

The hotel and general mercantile business was then operated under the management of Mr. and Mrs. McDonald until the death of Mr. McDonald in 1932, being regarded as among the city’s leading and most successful establishments. Following the death of Mr. McDonald the mercantile business has been gradually liquidated but the McDonald House, Folkston’s only hotel, has continued in active operation by Mrs. McDonald, assisted by Miss Rachel Wainwright, who has been with the family for many years. The McDonald House continues to be one of the leading hotels of this area, well patronized by the traveling public.

Benjamin Griffin McDonald and Lucy Bernice Lang (McDonald) were among the very early settlers  of Folkston, coming here to make their home soon after the town was established in the early 1880s. A native of Ware County, he came here in 1885 when he was nineteen years old from what is now Grady County, Ga. Soon after coming here he entered the mercantile business, in 1887, in partnership with L.M. Bedell, Henry Renfroe and Dr. A.P. English, being the active manager of the business.

In a few years Mr. McDonald bought out the partnership and became sole owner of the business. His first store a wooden structure, was located on the corner just east of where the McDonald House now stands. He was for many years one of the city’s leading merchants.

He was the first mayor of the city of Folkston and also served several terms on the Board of Aldermen. He served several consecutive terms as a member of the Board of County Commissioners. He was also Ordinary of Charlton County from 1896-1900 and from 1904-1908. During the last years of his life he served on the Board of Trustees of the Folkston Consolidated School District, most of the time as chairman of the board. He always took an active interest in the education of the youth of the county, and in all movements and betterment of this section.

He was connected with the Citizens Bank from its organization in 1911 and served as its vice president. He was also chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee for many years.

In April of the year 1895 Mr. McDonald was married to Lucy Bernice Lang, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Felder Lang. A native of Camden County, Mr. Lang moved to Charlton County in 1869 from Grady County. He was then a young married man, having united in marriage with Miss Martha Mizell, a sister of the late William Mizell, Sr.

Mrs. McDonald was born in 1873 at the Lang family home six miles east of Folkston. She has made her home in this city since her marriage in 1895. Although they had no children of their own, Mr. and Mrs. McDonald reared a foster daughter, Martha Grace Lang, a niece of Mrs. McDonald, now Mrs. R.H. Bragg.

Throughout the many years of her active life Mrs. McDonald has been highly regarded as one of the city’s most useful citizens. Although now in declining health she has always been most generous and helpful to those who were unfortunate or ill. She is well known and loved throughout the entire community for her many acts of kindness and charity.

She has been a devoted member of the Methodist Church since her early girlhood days. She has three sisters, Mrs. C.A. Howell, deceased; Mrs. W.G. Meggs and Mrs. Kate Dane, both of Miami and two brothers, Louis E. Lang, who died several years ago and Guy C. Lang of Branford, Fla.


McDonald House Hotel

By Lois Barefoot Mays

B.G. McDonald was definitely unhappy about the size of his small store on Courthouse Street. He had been in the general mercantile business since 1887 and had bought out his partners L.M. Bedell, Henry Renfroe and Dr. A.P. English in order to run the store the way he wanted to. But Mr. McDonald knew the building wasn’t big enough to handle the amount of merchandise the people of Folkston expected to find in a store that sold everything from pine coffins to tin whistles.

Growing tired of living for nearly ten years in the rear section of the store building that was once the home of the Tracy Stewart family, and which faced what is now known as West Main Street, Mr. McDonald and his wife, Miss Bernice, decided to construct an establishment that the town could be proud of. So in the spring of 1914 several small buildings were moved from the corner of McDonald Street and Main, making way for a new two-story brick building 67 feet long facing the railroad square and 57 feet along the north edge of West Main. By the end of the summer Mr. McDonald had moved his stock of merchandise into the new building.

The store was an impressive sight. Built of white brick with a steel and glass front trimmed in green and a balcony extending over the sidewalk along the upper story, it gave Mr. McDonald plenty of room to place his merchandise, leaving space near the front of the largest room for Miss Bernice’s specialty - ladies’ fancy hats. Another smaller storeroom downstairs was soon filled with iron beds, bureaus, springs and mattresses, and it became Folkston’s first furniture store.

Upstairs, Mrs. McDonald had the space arranged for the convenience of a family home. It had “big airy rooms, compact closets, bath and toilet rooms, and kitchen with hot and cold water” said the editor of the county paper the week the McDonalds moved into their new home. Part of the top floor was reserved for overnight tourists, many of whom came to be repeat customers through the years.

By day customers cheerfully strolled in to purchase lace or buttons, food or tools, many times charging them until they could sell the backyard chickens, that were nearing fryer-size, to Mr. McDonald. The evening sounds in this large building were those of the road-weary tourists seeking comfortable beds for the night from the accommodating McDonald House staff.

For several years, beginning in 1918, ladies specializing in producing ornate, extravagant women’s hats, were hired to assist Miss Bernice in the creation of this very fashionable part of ladies wear. According to the late Mrs. Pearl Wright Davis, the Folkston women just didn’t think they looked nice at all if they weren’t wearing one of Miss Bernice’s hats.

When the building was about fifteen years old, 1929, the county paper reported that the McDonald House had been undergoing repairs. “The reception room has been made larger, a new flue built and heater installed, adding to the comfort of that already cozy abiding place.”

1932 brought an abrupt change to the lives revolving about the McDonald House. Benjamin Griffin McDonald died unexpectedly, probably from a heart attack. He had been one of the most influential men of the county - Folkston’s first mayor, City Councilman, County Commissioner, County Ordinary, School Trustee, Vice President of the bank and chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, to name just a few of his accomplishments. Immediately Miss Bernice began to take care of the business affairs and saw that within a year a new fence was built around the property, the vacant lot was plowed and planted with oats and rye so it would look nice during the winter and the building received a new dress of white trimmed with gray.

Three women took loving care of this big structure after the death of Mr. McDonald. Miss Bernice, Martha Grace Lang, Mrs. McDonald’s niece and Miss Rachel Wainwright, a special friend who lived with them and worked for Mrs. McDonald. The women moved downstairs and rented all the upper rooms. The mercantile business was gradually liquidated but the McDonald House, as a hotel, has continued in active operation.

One of Folkston’s oldest business enterprises, the hotel has been in continuous operation since 1914. Several businesses through the years have used the first floor of the building and most of them have been diligent about preserving its historical integrity. The sale this week to new owners begins a brand new chapter in the life of this historic Charlton County landmark.


McDonald House Hotel, Further Notes

Bauman and Martin are being congratulated on moving the McDonald buildings and many are wondering how they were slipped between the trees.

The McDonald white brick building is now underway. Several brick mason s have arrived and are putting in full time while the balance of the force are carrying out their part.

The McDonald building is rapidly nearing completion.

8-20-14 B.G. McDonald has moved his stock of merchandise into the new building

Fronting 57 feet on Courthouse Street and 67 feet on the square and rising two stories toward the airships, it is an impressive sight. Built of white pressed brick with a steel and glass front trimmed in green and with a knobby balcony extending along the upper story on Courthouse Street, it is in real city style. Double store rooms on the lower floor have shelves and counters. The upper rooms are arranged for convenience of a family home. Big airy rooms, compact closets, bath and toilet rooms, kitchenette with hot and cold water.

On the left side of the store was bolts of material and other goods in that line and on the right side was shoes, etc.

6-25-15 The addition of a furniture store where iron beds, bureaus, springs and mattresses can be had is on of Folkstons newest ventures. B.G. McDonald has added this line to his business using the vacant storeroom.

9-20-18 Miss Lucy Fordham the milliner at Mcdonalds mercantile establishment arrived in Folkston last week.

2-28-19 Mrs. McDonald is spending this week in Atlanta buying her stock of spring and summer millinery.

2-28-19 AD…. Latest styles in millinery. New goods arriving daily Large line of laces and ribbons. B.G. McDonald

9-17-20 Miss Gray of Lyons, Ga is a new trimmer in the millinery dept of McDonalds store.

5-13-27 McDonald is having a deep well sunk in the rear of the MH and will install a complete water system in the hotel. J.B. May has contracted to install the pump and machinery

11-15-29 The MH under the skillful touch of WH Robinson and EL Martin has been undergoing repairs the last ten days The reception room has been made larger, a new flue built and heater installed adding to the comfort of that already cozy abiding place.

9-18-31 Workmen are doing repair work on roof of the MH preparatory to wintry weather.

7-22-32 Lights in MH building.

5-27-32 Shocked and Grieved Folkston Benjamin G. McDonald had died..


The MH is receiving a new spring dress of white trimmed with grey.

The MH has installed a very attractive neon electric sign adding much to the colorful electric lighting displays on Folkston’s Main St.

McDonald first came here as clerk in the L M Bedell Mercantile business, then established a business for himself in 1895. This structure was completed in 1914 replacing the former store which was moved back facing the railroad park.

After death of McDonald in ……….. the family which consisted of Mrs. McDonald, her niece, Martha Grace Lang and family friend, Rachel Wainwright, moved downstairs and began renting rooms in the upper floor to tourists.

7-26-77 Mrs. Davis said: Mrs. McD was a milliner Sshe was an artist when it came to making hats.

D.L. Stewart’s father had a home where McDonald House is now

from DeBrahm's Report
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