Stonewall Inn burns

Published 9:28 am Friday, December 22, 2017

by Clyde Parker

December 21, 1917

Franklin’s handsome hostelry, the Stonewall Inn, was gutted by fire Tuesday morning in one of the most disastrous conflagrations known here since the big Main Street fire of 1881. The Stonewall fire was discovered about 6:15 o’clock in the morning, presumably catching from the furnace; and, although three streams from nearby fire hydrants were soon playing on the building, the entire third story was burned. The rest of the building was badly damaged by water. There were many instances of heroic work done by the volunteer fire-fighters. Mrs. R.H.B. Cobb, wife of the proprietor, who had not left her room for the day, was brought down a ladder from the second-story balcony. The Inn was crowded with guests, some of whom lost parts of their belongings.

The Stonewall Inn is the property of Mr. R.H.B. Cobb, one of the best-known hotel men in Virginia and North Carolina; his place has a reputation along the Atlantic Coast as one of the best hotels in the South. The building, a handsome three-story concrete and stone structure, was constructed in 1909 at the southeastern corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue. The Stonewall represented, with its fittings, an investment of approximately $30,000. It was thoroughly modern in every detail, being heated by steam, with electric lights, hot and cold water and individual telephones in every room. Several suites had private baths.

“Uncle Tode,” as he was familiarly known to his best of friends, was known far and wide for the excellent cuisine maintained by the Inn. Over many years, the Stonewall Inn has been used as a week-end point by many appreciative traveling salesmen. 

Mr. Cobb has spent many years in the hotel business. It is especially regretted that he should have sustained such a heavy loss. The building was insured for only $10,000; and, to make things even worse, there was no insurance on the furniture — all of which was practically ruined.

Mr. and Mrs. Cobb have taken apartments at the nearby Virginia Hotel for the present. While no definite plans have yet been announced as to the re-building of the Stonewall Inn, it is to be hoped that it will be undertaken at an early date.

(NOTE: Following the 1917 fire, the Stonewall was rebuilt. It being of concrete construction, it was restorable. In fact, it was restored. And, it was expanded. In later years, the hotel went through various upgrades and improvements.

At some time during the late 1930s, Mr. T.P. Hylton (not Hilton,) who formerly was employed at the famous Monticello Hotel in Norfolk and who, later, managed the venerable and majestic Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, found out that the Stonewall Inn was for sale. He mustered up enough money to effect a purchase and moved to Franklin to assume its ownership. It was about that time that Mr. Hylton renamed it, calling it the Stonewall Hotel.

At a time during the early 1950s, Mr. Hylton gained ownership of the Rustic Hotel — on the waterfront at Ocean View, Norfolk. He was operating both hotels, concurrently.)

Here, we show what was written on actual postcards, which pictured the Stonewall, mailed from Franklin by guests of the Stonewall: The postcards found there way back to Franklin in a collection assembled by Stanley Rich.)

Stonewall Inn – Franklin, Virginia – August 29, 1918

Miss Mearl Holland

Windsor, Virginia

Dear Mearl, I will go home next Tuesday on No. 5. Be sure and go with me. Will look for you.


Stonewall Hotel – Franklin, Virginia – July 29, 1938

Miss C.A. Breudemuhl

1036 North 12th Street

Fargo, North Dakota

Dear Sister, This is where we are eating our lunch. We hope to make Williamsburg by night. Last night we slept at Durham, 111 miles from Chapel Hill.

With love, G.C.B.

Stonewall Hotel – Franklin, Virginia – October 14, 1941

Miss Dana James Gulley

400 East Walnut Street

Goldsboro, N.C.

Arrived all OK. Had a nice drive but they were working on roads as usual. And at Aunt Janie’s – “Sissie” came to see me. Will go to Uncle Ryland’s for Wednesday night. Lots of love to all. 

“Mother Dear”

The Tidewater News

Monday, July 10, 1972

‘Stonewall’ is being demolished

The Stonewall Hotel, located on the southeastern corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue in Franklin — since the early 1900s, was recently purchased by Virginia National Bank.

On this past Thursday, starting at mid-morning, demolition of the old and iconic Franklin landmark was started.

In addition, a few hours earlier, another old Franklin business, “Buddy’s Lunch,” which was purchased a few weeks ago by the Bank, was demolished. Buddy’s Lunch, a family owned short-order restaurant and tavern, was located on Fourth Avenue directly behind the Stonewall Hotel. Junius T. (“Buddy”) Duck had operated the business since the late 1930s.   

Both properties are being cleared to make way for a parking lot for Virginia National Bank customers. 

At various times over the years, the Stonewall was upgraded and expanded to accommodate ever-growing business due to the popularity and good reputation of the establishment. Especially during those decades that preceded the interstate highway system, it was a well known fact that many North-South as well as East-West travelers, using U. S. Routes 258 and 58 through Franklin, timed their trips so that they could spend the night at the Stonewall. And, the authentic southern cuisine that was put forth in the hotel restaurant was another reason to come through Franklin.

It, too, was a popular place for local people and organizations. The Franklin Rotary Club and the Franklin Lions Club used the hotel dining room as a permanent location for their meetings.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is