So long, Charter House

Published 3:10 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2020

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You’ve got to stay on the go to stay up with what’s happening. Out on the Tallahassee highway, there are a few stores that I visit regularly. I like fried chicken; after all, I am a preacher. So, for a long time, those little chicken fingers at Zaxbys would keep me going that way.

Someone figured I needed a few more fried chicken places to visit so they built a Chick-Fil-A out there. That’s wasn’t enough, so Popeye’s moved into the neighborhood. The only problem I have now is trying to figure just what brand of chicken I want!

There are more places I like out on that highway, like Wally-World (Walmart) and Home Depot. And a couple of Mexican food places, but for some reason, I didn’t drive that way for a couple of weeks.

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Imagine my surprise when I drove under the bypass and looked to the left and I missed something. Where there once was a Bainbridge landmark by the name of The Charter House, there was nary a thing. Not even one brick was left. I thought, “I ought to get out more often.”

I could say, how quickly things change, but that wouldn’t be the exact truth. It didn’t happen overnight. I guess everything has its “shelf-life,” but seeing what might have been Bainbridge’s overnight-stay calling card missing in action was surprising, to say the least.

I think I read that The Charter House had opened as a Holiday Inn in the mid-sixties. For a motel, it was big. It had many rooms, a restaurant and lounge, and was probably the “cat’s meow” for a long time. Wonder how many Lake Seminole fishing tournaments had used The Charter House as its headquarters? How many Lions and Rotary Clubs luncheons had been hosted? How many hundreds of thousands overnighters?

I have been in Bainbridge for only twenty years, but had eaten The Landing’s Sunday buffet many times and have been there as the guest singer/program a few times. Still, The Charter House couldn’t pay the bills because of my few visits.

Local business man, Mike Harrell, had thought so much of its value to Bainbridge he bought it many years ago and tried to “make it work,” but a property with that many rooms and that age can be a deep hole to fill. There comes a time when the old saying about when you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging is the right direction. Another saying is “Don’t throw good money after bad.”

Kudos to Mr. Harrell for giving it the good try, but in the end, there were too many new rooms in the area and, for that situation, the mountain was too steep. Now the mountain has been leveled and it will be interesting to see what the new thing will be for that valuable piece of property.

There is one aspect of demolition that I appreciate. Many times, when properties are no longer profitable, they linger too long and become eyesores. Although it is an emotional loss for an iconic business to close, and The Charter House was one of those businesses, I’m thankful that it will be remembered fondly and not as an eyesore.

I think, in its day, it made money for its owners and was something the city could point to as a place of quality. The Stonewall Jackson song, Waterloo, comes to mind. “Every puppy has its day, everybody has to pay. Everybody has to meet his Waterloo.”

Thanks to The Charter House for, in its day, it was good for us. Now, its day is over, and as sad as that can be, let’s make the most of our opportunity to make a new day!