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Longstreet Society kicks off fundraising drive
Group seeks sponsors for Piedmont Hotel mortgage
The Wilson room where President Woodrow Wilson once slept inside the Piedmont Hotel in Gainesville.

After 12 years, the title of the Piedmont Hotel in Gainesville has changed hands to The Longstreet Society.

The group began the process of working with the Gainesville-Hall Trust for Historic Preservation earlier this year to own the historic hotel at 827 Maple St.

“We had a board meeting of the Gainesville-Hall Trust for Historic Preservation and that board agreed that it would be appropriate (to transfer the title) because The Longstreet Society is the holder of everything (in) the building and we occupy the building and provide all the services,” said Peter Claymore, president of The Longstreet Society.

Now with the title, The Longstreet Society is kicking off a fundraising drive to pay off the about $48,000 loan on the building, which was opened in 1876 by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. The organization is asking donors for a $500 mortgage payment.

“There’s a couple of thinkings behind the fundraiser,” Claymore said. “One is that it costs us money on a monthly basis to pay the loan so we’re trying to pay down, pay off whatever we can do to shorten the loan. The second is to give us freedom to use money that we get in.”

The Longstreet Society has been working with the Gainesville-Hall Trust for Historic Preservation on the restoration of the hotel. The society began restoring the building in 1995, and the hotel now contains a museum room and library dedicated to Longstreet, as well as the room where President Woodrow Wilson’s daughter was born.

Claymore said the group gets most of its funds through membership dues and donations, and a lot of that is “eaten up” with maintenance of the loan and hotel.

“The goal of the fundraiser would be to pay off all of (the loan),” Claymore said.

“The secondary goal is to get what we can. What we are asking people for is $500; now if somebody wrote us a check for $48,000 we wouldn’t refuse it.”

At $500 the group would need 96 donors to cover $48,000.

“Frankly, I don’t expect that, but we want to see what we can get,” Claymore said.

The Longstreet Society is working on numerous projects at the hotel, which also acts as the group’s offices. The installation of a sprinkler system and landscaping are two of the projects planned.

“Right now we do have an alarm system for fires, but there is no fire suppression system,” Claymore said. “It would be to our advantage and to the advantage of the society to have it.”

Garden clubs are also helping The Longstreet Society plan on how best to improve the grounds of the Piedmont Hotel.

“There’s numerous trees on the property, some are a hazard and some just need work to spruce up the general appearance,” Claymore said. “The garden clubs also have some ideas on how to improve the path between Main Street and (the) back gate to the hotel.”

Claymore said there are lots of things the society is working on for the future, but a major part of that is getting information out about the hotel.

“We’re open five days a week and we get a number of visitors from Gainesville,” he said. “Sometimes people come in saying ‘I’ve lived in Gainesville for X number of years and never knew this place existed.’

“Any time we can get information out to people, to get them information on history on Gainesville, the history of this area in general, is a good thing.”

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