HARTSVILLE – Once considered a hub of activity in the African American community of Hartsville, Hough’s Hotel on Jasper Avenue was once again the center of activity on Monday morning as the first of 20 South Carolina Historical markers to be erected in rural communities across the state, funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, was unveiled.
Nearly 75 people attended the ceremony, including S.C. Sen. Gerald Malloy; S.C. Rep. Robert Williams; city of Hartsville Mayor Pro Temp Johnny Andrews; Brian Gandy, the director of Darlington County Historical Commission; Dr. Edwin Breeden, the Historical Markers coordinator, S.C. Department of Archives and History and others.
Hough’s Hotel, located at 315 Jasper Ave., was built in 1946 by Frank Hough and served the African American community as a restaurant, hotel, grocery store and night club until it closed in 1989. It was then converted and served as low-income housing for approximately 20 years.
The two-story, 16-room hotel was “established at a time when Black lodgers often struggled to find safe and convenient accommodations. The hotel was a valuable resource for travelers passing through Hartsville, many along U.S. Highway 15. It was opened and originally operated by Frank Hough (1888-1954). Hough was a former farm laborer who grew up west of Hartsville in the rural section of neighboring Lee County …” the marker reads. “Upon Frank Hough’s death, his wife Tera, son Theodore (“Doc”), and immediate family members ran the hotel. A well-known local institution, Hough’s Hotel stayed in business for several decades before closing c. 1989.”
The building remains but has been significantly altered from the building that featured white siding and striped awnings.
The grandson and granddaughter of the original owner unveiled the marker. They are Frank Hough and Reba Hough Martin, children of “Doc” and Zealouise Hough.
Gandy said in 2016 he was approached for help when the city was contemplating condemning the building that had fallen in disrepair. Gandy said he was asked for a letter of support documenting the rich heritage of the building and its significance to the community, deeming it a historical site.
Gandy said Darlington County is No. 28 in the state for county land mass and No. 4 in the state for number of historical markers in the ground.
He said Darlington County takes its history seriously. Gandy said years of planning and work went into getting this marker.
“Jannie Harriot (chairperson of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission) is tenacious,” he said.
Gandy said she will not stop until she sees the marker in the ground.
Breeden said his agency oversees the program, but the markers are proposed, installed and maintained by other organizations. He said the scope of the program is driven by outside groups such as the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission and its foundation. He said this marker is important to the rich history of the African American communities in South Carolina.
Hough said he looks back at the hotel from the standpoint of a child and as an adult.
“My father gave me my first whipping here,” Hough said. “I was on the roof. … I had to cut my own switch.”
He said he didn’t get hit with the switch because he kept running between his father’s legs.
Hough said as an adult he realized the hotel was born as a result of segregation.
“Black people didn’t have a place to stay,” he said.
Hough said finding a place to eat when traveling through town was also difficult for Blacks back then.
As an adult, he remembers how important the hotel was to the community. He remembers the jukebox “cranked up at night.”
He said it was the center of activity in the community.
The Hough children remembered a barbershop next door and a taxi cab across the street. They said their grandfather and father used their savings to make this vision a reality.
Hough said, “It means a lot for you to come out and help us to commemorate this occasion.”
Martin said her father saw the potential in everyone.
Harriot said, “This was not just a hotel.”
She said a person needing s loaf of bread could come to the hotel and know they would receive one.
“This is a great day for us,” Sen. Malloy said. “History doesn’t belong to us; we belong to it. We can’t stop here.”
“Thank you for being a part of this history today,” Rep. Williams said.
He said a lot of the history of African Americans has been left out and not recorded in the history books.
“Our history is very rich,” Williams said.
Hough said he is very humbled by all the participation and interest in the unveiling ceremony.
“I am proud of the legacy they (grandparents and parents) left the community,” he said.
Hough said it is his hope that the hotel will someday be restored and can once again be at the center of the community.
The South Carolina African American Heritage Commission was created in 1993 by the South Carolina General Assembly for the identification and promotion of the preservation of African American historic sites, structures buildings culture of the African American experience in South Carolina and to enhance the efforts of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
For more information about the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, call Jannie Harriot at 843-332-3589 or visit scdah.sc.gov/historic-preservation/resources/african-american-heritage/south-carolina-african-american-heritage.