January 31, 2013|


Praised for its Southern charm and hospitality, The Willcox has been recognized by the same national publication for a second consecutive year.

The Willcox was included in Travel + Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels worldwide for 2013 with a score of 94.25 out of 100. In 2012, The Willcox was 32 out of 50 on the World’s Best Hotels list.

“It’s just a very humbling award,” said Geoff Ellis, who owns The Willcox along with his wife, Shannon. “It’s just a really wonderful feeling to be named amongst the grandest hotels in the world. We feel this is such a wonderful, grand hotel for our community, and it’s wonderful that other people are recognizing it, as well.”

The Willcox is a 114-year-old hotel with 22 rooms – seven of those are suites.

The Ellises said that, for a small hotel, it has a lot to offer.

The Willcox includes a restaurant serving gourmet meals, and a spa which is open to both overnight or day visitors.

The magazine described The Willcox as a place that “feels more like home than a hotel” with rooms that look as if one has “just stepped into Scarlett O’Hara’s house.”

The Ellises said The Willcox is a place for both Aiken residents and those from far away to enjoy.

Shannon mentioned that, when visiting a new place, meeting those who live there is an exceptional way to get to know that city or town, and those staying at the hotel can mingle with residents who are enjoying a nice meal or glass of wine at the bar.

The couple believes that the publication’s recognition is not only great for them but also for Aiken.

Since the hotel has been featured in the magazine, calls from curious travelers have come in, and more are researching not only the facility but the city itself.

The Ellises said that, when they first bought the hotel several years ago, they noticed that people came to Aiken for a particular reason, whether it was for business or an equestrian event. Now, more people seem to be seeking pleasure in Aiken and taking time to enjoy the city, they said.

“We’re all so proud of Aiken,” Shannon said. “It’s really great to see people coming in and genuinely enjoying our city for what it is.”

Shannon added that it’s wonderful to watch some of the hotel’s guests come back after a day of exploring with multiple shopping bags from downtown Aiken.

“It’s a huge privilege for us and for Aiken to be honored in this way because they (Travel + Leisure) have a large number of people who read that magazine,” Shannon said.

The hotel continues to build memories through the experiences of its guests, and some of those memories were established by well-known, historic figures who stayed there including Winston Churchill, Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden and Harold Vanderbilt, just to name a few.

The hotel’s influence in the community expands pasts its luxuriously-decorated rooms, soothing spa treatments and flavorful meals.

The Willcox holds cooking and cocktail classes, features art exhibits, hosts a variety of events and offers catering.

The Willcox also has a food truck that travels to different events and on Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., they park it at the UPS Corporate Offices near Golds Gym, 2031 S. Centennial Ave., and 10 percent of those gross sales go to the United Way.

The Ellises said they are so grateful for all of their patrons and are always open to suggestions.

“We are 100 percent here to cater to the customer,” Shannon said with a smile.

The Willcox is located at 100 Colleton Ave. S.W.


Actor Bill Murray was in Aiken last fall and made a stop at The Willcox.

Murray didn’t stay the night but took a tour of the hotel and spent some time in the Roosevelt suite. Though it wasn’t clear at the time, it was later determined that Murray was interested in the suite and the hotel’s history because of his role in the new film, “Hyde Park on Hudson” in which he plays 32nd U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The room is named after the president who spent some time at the hotel. Roosevelt would enter through the rear of the hotel from a railcar that pulled up right behind the building.

Murray has been acting since the early 1970s and continues to star in a variety of movies. He is known for being part of the original “Saturday Night Live” cast, as well as acting in a long list of films including “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day.”

Willcox owners Shannon and Geoff Ellis said Murray was a very nice individual and it was a pleasure meeting him.

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