The Division of Student Affairs is very excited about the 14th Annual Student Affairs Gala, which will be held Sept. 14. 2012 at the historic Westin Poinsett. In previous years, the Gala took place in various Clemson venues on campus. This year, however, we moved the Gala to downtown Greenville — as a reflection of Clemson’s ever-increasing presence there. Greenville, like Clemson University, has a rich history that it draws upon for future progress. Similarly, Clemson has developed a flourishing and diverse environment through renovation projects and is committed to preserving the old while welcoming new and innovative opportunities. Through the Clemson at the Falls campus, Project ONE on Main Street (graduate business school/small business institute) and the possibility of other Greenville graduate programs, Greenville serves as a perfect complement to Clemson.
Greenville is also an excellent location for quickly accessing Family Weekend events. Just 45 minutes away from Clemson, Greenville is home to over 90 restaurants and cultural centers, such as the Peace Center and Children’s Museum of the Upstate, numerous local shops and outdoor recreation spots.
The Westin Poinsett, built in 1925, is a historical landmark in the Upstate that will serve as an elegant backdrop for our 14th annual Gala. Located in the heart of downtown, the historic Poinsett hotel is one of Greenville’s original skyscrapers and to this day is a symbol of Greenville’s 1920s era of growth and prosperity. Built originally to provide lodging for visitors to the Southern Textile Exposition, the 200-room hotel has had several owners who each contributed to its historical significance. After a 13-year vacancy, the hotel was reopened in 2000 after an extensive $19-million renovation.
For 100 years, the Mansion House Hotel stood on South Main Street in Greenville. In 1924, the hotel was demolished to make room for the construction of the Poinsett Hotel, named after prominent Greenville citizen Joel Poinsett. Responsible for bringing the poinsettia flower to the United States, Poinsett is to South Carolina what the hotel is to Greenville: an integral part of history. The price tag for the new hotel was $1.5 million, and when it opened on June 20, 1925, it was one of the most beautifully furnished hotels in the country. The hotel fell however during the Great Depression and repeatedly lost money from year to year.
In 1930 the hotel was under the new management of Mr. J. Mason Alexander known as Old Admiral Spit and Polish, the best hotel manager in the business. Mr. Alexander had a formula for success known as "The four C's: Cleanliness, cooking, competence and courtesy." Local residents filled the hotel's dining room for family dinners and ballrooms for formal dances. The hotel quickly became known as "Carolina's Finest," and by 1940 it was making money.
Mason Alexander was labeled "the man who gave you clean money" because he made sure no guest left the Poinsett Hotel with anything but clean money in his pocket. The employees who handled money were required to polish all coins before putting them in the cash register for change. He considered hotel patrons as honored guests who should receive a warm reception, fine dining and a peaceful sleep. Notable guests at the Poinsett included Amelia Earhart, John Barrymore, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Bobby Kennedy, Liberace and most recently, George Clooney.
Until early 1990, the Poinsett Hotel was considered one of the 11 most endangered historical sites in South Carolina. With the grand opening of the Westin Poinsett Hotel, the hotel's future is no longer jeopardized and once again the City of Greenville is home to "Carolina's Finest."